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Stories that quilts tell make a veritable library

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Stories that quilts tell make a veritable library

The cloth book commemorating the Manteca Quilters' 30th anniversary, with the page showing the first president, Marie Strait, and current president Janet Dyk.

ROSE ALBANO RISSO/The Bulletin/


POSTED March 9, 2009 4:20 a.m.
Like books, quilts have plenty of stories to tell. I’ve been fortunate to have seen, and even touched, many of these fabric books. I’ve enjoyed “reading” the many stories interwoven in the delicately and painstakingly hand-sewn patterns, as well as in the other rich tales that each work embodied but were left to the viewer’s imagination to “read” which, to me, is always the better part of the experience.

I left the Manteca Quilters’ 30th anniversary show Saturday with the same feeling. Each of the more than 200 quilts displayed had its own unique story - even stories - to share.

One that I enjoyed “reading” was Alex Anderson’s “Door County.” The style of the art work reminded me of Grandma Moses’ nostalgic paintings of rich Americana. The pictures depicted in Anderson’s quilt were like chapters in a book, with the embroidered phrases accompanying each taking on the form of a chapter theme. “Howling at the moon.” “Jumping from trees.” “Stuff that dreams are made of.” “Chop-chop Pop-pop” embroidered next to a grandfather figure chopping wood. “Friends Forever.” “Manhattans at Five.”

Anderson, who was the featured artist at this quilt show, gave a synoptic history of the quilt in the little note attached to it which was quite entertaining to read especially the part about her grandmother.

“This is perhaps one of my top favorite quilts,” she wrote. “From the age of 0, every summer my family would make a pilgrimage to Door County, Wisconsin, where my Mom was raised and both families resided. The tradition carried on with our children. This quilt is a snap shot memory of one week prior to Halloween when we made the trip once again. This quilt is filled with many memories that tell the story of that week. Perhaps, the funniest was that Grandma had passed away, but we felt her presence anyway.The thing you need to know about Grandma is that she took 5:00 p.m. fairly seriously.”

This piece made me feel like I just read a Louisa May Alcott “Little House on a Prairie” book.

In Lynn Drennen’s “Ancient Memories Wedding Quilt,” you had to supply the words in your imagination. “A picture paints a thousand words,” so goes the saying. With the plethora of “pictures of our 29 years” Drennen incorporated in her fabric creation, this would be easily equivalent to a heavy tome. The predominant image in her quilt was an elephant, with the giant image staring at you on the side that was exposed to the viewers. On the back side, which a Quilter member wearing protective gloves showed to visitors, were highlights of the Drennens’ 29 years of wedded bliss. She completed this gift to her husband in 2008.

Scripture inspires Van Till’s quilt design

Another quilt that gave me a heart-warming story was Charlotte Van Till’s “Heaven” whose pattern was her own design.

“I created this quilt in response to a challenge using my talent to depict heaven,” she explained about the work she completed last year. Above the picture of her Dad & Mom was the scripture quotation she titled “JOY!” John 14: 2 & 3. “I am going there to prepare a place for you. I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am.” The Lamb’s Book of Life with a picture of a lamb was accompanied by a passage from Revelations 5:2. “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, To receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength, And honor and glory and praise!”

Quilter Lisa Van Groningen’s exhibit with the title explaining the pattern she used, “Blooms for a Basket,” was another piece that evoked warm, bitter-sweet feelings. She explained how the piece came to be in the short note attached to her original work: “I loved this pattern the first time I saw it. I made it for my Mom, who passed away before I completed it.” You could almost touch the smiles, joys, and tears that were contained in the brevity of that statement and in the poverty of the words.

One of my favorites at the show was not even a complete work. It was a fragment of a pillow top made by a 13-year-old girl named Bertie Belle Brooks Miller. The pattern is called “Cathedral Window.”

The exihibitor of the work was Barbara Almelo. Bertie Belle was her grandmother. According to the note Almelo attached to the delicate quilt displayed in a shadow-box frame, her grandmother completed it in 1889.

“When my mother passed away at age 95, I found this quilt with a note that this was a pillow top, made by my Grandmother at the age of 13, she was born in 1876,” Almelo explained.

Because of its fragility due to its age and the delicate nature of the fabrics, the quilt was framed as a preservation measure.
Some clubs document their organization’s history by filing the information in ring binders or scrapbooks. The Manteca Quilters have theirs quilted - of course. I’m sure they have paper trails documenting their business meetings and reports. But at the quilt show, their “history” was displayed as a cloth book for guests to read.

One page was titled “Presidents” and was illustrated with a fabric picture of the guild’s first president, Marie Strait, and the current president, Janet Dyk. The accompanying paragraph below the picture contained the names of everyone who has served as guild president from 1979 when the group was established with Strait as president, and Dyk who leads the group today. Their names are stitched together in paragraph format: Jeanine Wyman, Judy Mullen, Sherry Harmon, Sue Parnham, Mary Mirasole, Pegi Staiano, Jan Truscott, Sandra Mollon, Lelani Vaughn, Sandra Newcomb, Lynn Hawley, Jan Borders, Sherry Harmon, Jean Heacox, Carolee Loewen, Fran Nielsen, Betty Nichols, Gretchen Way, and Mary Wood.

This Manteca Quilters’ cloth book was a perfect book-end to their successful 30th anniversary show.
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