The Oregon Book Report - Book News from Oregon

Bend women create storybook quilts

May 6, 2013

By Michal Ann McArthur, Bend
Author of Choking on a Camel

“You’ve GOT to see this,” said my good friend. And she was so right.

Last December, the Deschutes Public Library announced that they had selected The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey for the 2013 A Novel Idea community read program. Soon after, many Bend women went to work, combining their love of reading with their love of quilting.

Over the next four months, the women created quilts to illustrate scenes from the story. The results were stunning. The sixty-three quilts and textile creations were put on display in early April as part of the community’s three weeks of free events that celebrated the novel.

Project Director Chantal Strobel commented on the Deschutes Public Library website, “A Novel Idea . . . Read Together continues to be the most successful community read and discussion program in the state of Oregon.” Each year more than 5,500 Deschutes County residents participate.

In addition to the quilt display, also available this year were exhibits of art and photography inspired by the novel, a film screening of Alone in the Wilderness, a display of period artifacts, a cooking class featuring authentic frontier dishes, and an exploration the life and work of Alaska’s former Poet Laureate, John Haines.qlt2013

The Snow Child is based on a folktale. As Ivey tells it, a childless couple comes to Alaska to homestead in the 1920s. After the first snowfall, the lonely couple builds a little girl out of snow. The next day, the snow child has vanished, but the couple sees a young girl with golden hair running through the woods, a fox at her side. She’s dressed in the red scarf and mittens the couple had placed on the snow child. She calls herself Faina, and the reader isn’t ever sure whether or not she’s real.

When the quilts went on display, vehicles crowded the QuiltWorks parking lot and spilled over into the neighboring church’s parking lot. Marilyn Ulrich, the co-owner of the QuiltWorks and organizer of the quilting show, said with a twinkle, “The church put up a sign that read, ‘Parking lot trespassers will be baptized.’”

The quilts were created by women ranging in age from their mid-20s to mid-80s, some who were total beginners and some who have been quilting for decades. “When you read a novel looking for quilting ideas, you read it differently,” said Ulrich.

The quilts were exquisite pieces of art created by women with a passion for the hunt for just the right fabric to create the scenes in their minds. One gal even drove to Portland to find what she needed. “Quilters are crazy,” said Ulrich. “Some of us don’t have another life.”

I’m so glad my friend called me and told me to take a look. I hope you enjoy these quilts as much as I did.

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Discuss this article

Penny J May 6, 2013

In telling the story we become part of the story.

Andrea Parunak May 6, 2013

That is so great! I love that all those women used one kind of art to respond to another kind of art. And I love that the whole county comes together to read together. I would love to come visit for the celebration some year!

Terisa May 6, 2013

This is so cool! I’m impressed with the creative minds out there. Will be very interested to see and/or participate.

Yvonne May 6, 2013

Wow – makes me proud to be from Bend! Thank you for sharing the story Michal Ann! The quilts you pictured were exquisite; sorry I missed seeing the whole exhibit.

Jan May 6, 2013

Such variety in the display! The novel was so descriptive it spoke to different people in different ways. I was glad to read about the event.

Sue Gaston May 6, 2013

What a wonderful way to bond the community! I have seen some of the masterpieces these ladies create! Absolutely fabulous! What a creative way to enjoy a good winter read! Thanks for sharing!

Mirago May 6, 2013

What a marvelous pairing – reading and quilting. I’ve heard about this in Bend, but have never participated. Your article, Michal Ann has motivated me to take part next year. Thanks for your beautiful description of a very special community activity.

Claryce Parker May 7, 2013

Absolutely Beautiful – What an interesting story and beautiful pictures. I would love to see that.

Kathi May 7, 2013

My mother-in-law used to sponsor a quilting bee once a week in their home. The women had SO MUCH fun and sent the quilts to missionaries. Dad used to tease them that if they’d sell their quilts, they could probably earn 0.5 cents per hour for all their hard work, but it was about the joy of the moment, the fellowship, and the beautiful works of art that made those who received the quilts feel loved. Quilting is awesome! Thanks for sharing!

Samantha Quinn May 7, 2013

Quilts are a story all within themselves.

T. Taylor May 7, 2013

This was my second year participating in the Deschutes County Novel Idea. I had no idea it was the largest in the state until I read Ann’s article. It’s rather exciting to know I contributed to that stat in my own small way.
I also have to agree with Ann, the quilts are “exquisite pieces of art”. When I was invited to take the tour I wasn’t all that interested but boy am I glad I went. It was such a unique experience that I’m planning to view the quilts that will be created for next year’s Novel Idea. It’s my impression that the quilt tour was not well publicized. What a shame that so many missed a wonderful opportunity to enjoy art of such caliber. I’m hoping that Ann’s article will help to increase its visibility.

Nancy Ward May 7, 2013

Fabulous! I will be visiting Bend next year and would love to see the quilts and must now read the folktale.

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