Bend women create storybook quilts

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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.