Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Red and Green - An Evening with the Northwest Quilters

Yesterday morning at 10am, I got a phone call from Tony Haas, President of the Northwest Quilters in Portland. Tony was in a bit of a bind. The surprise presentation planned for the evening meeting had fallen through when the presenter was hospitalized for an emergency back surgery, and he needed someone to step in at the last minute and do a presentation for the group. He was calling to ask if I could help.  

I was honored, glad that he thought of me, and happy to help. I'm a member of the Northwest Quilters, and since I'm not a quilt maker I've tried to find other ways to offer something to the organization. Over the years, I'd spoken to the group several times, most recently in January when I presented six masterpiece quilts. Lately, I've been trying to attend the meetings, bringing quilts from my collection for show and tell. Since I'd planned to attend the meeting anyway, I was more than happy to help out.

In the holiday spirit, the theme for the talk was red and green quilts. So, I selected some quilts, pulled out a few books for reference, and thought about what I would say. When I arrived at the Immanuel Lutheran Church in Sellwood, I thought I'd be early, but there must've been over 100 people already there. The large meeting space was full of quilters and buzzing with activity. Charity quilts and challenge blocks covered the walls, people were milling about visiting with friends and sharing holiday greetings. There was barely a seat to be found. 

Before my talk, the committee chairs presented reports. One after the other, the officers had such wonderful news to report about their activities. Thousands of raffle tickets had been sold, thousands of dollars had been raised, and over a thousand quilts had been made for families in need. The fire department would soon be arriving at the meeting to pick up some of the charity quilts, and we prepared by practicing singing a verse of "Here Comes Santa Claus", which we sang to the firemen when they arrived.

During the break, I set up a quilt stand with the Sprigs of Laurel Medallion quilt, one of my absolute favorite quilts. To me, this quilt feels like the quintessential Christmas holiday quilt, and I knew the group would enjoy the wonderful quilting in it. I left it up for the duration of the meeting because I wanted to give people an opportunity to see it close-up. All of the other quilts were held up, show and tell style, by Tony and the husband of one of the quilters, who we referred to as Mr. Maureen Orr-Eldred.

When I got to the podium, I said I'd been looking forward to the surprise presentation ever since I'd received the newsletter, but I didn't realize the surprise was that I was the one giving the presentation. There were smiles and laughter, and we were off to a good start. I spent a few minutes talking about the Oregon Quilt Project, which will be documenting quilts at the Northwest Quilters show in March, and then talked about the red and green quilts. 

The group of quilts included examples from 1830 to 1940, and I was happy with how the talk went. Even though it was a last-minute thing, I felt prepared. Over the last year, I've immersed myself in quilts, quilt study, research, and documentation. Sharing quilts and their stories, I also looked back to the first time I spoke to the group about 9 years ago, when I had less than a dozen quilts in my collection. Since then, my collection has grown significantly, and I've learned so much. I was thankful to be present, and although I was there to inspire the audience with old quilts, it was the Northwest Quilters who inspired me.


  1. I bet you did a great job. I am sure you have plenty of talents to give back to the guild. Does the Sprigs of Laurel Medallion quilt have only white or red and white hand quilting thread? Thanks for sharing your quilts with all of us.

  2. Wish I could have been there, Sounds like you did a great job and everyone one was in festive mood with all the red and green quilts.
    You have a lovely collection.

  3. It was fun!

    Meredith, the Sprigs of Laurel has two colors of quilting thread, white in the white areas and red and white in the red areas. One of the quilters last night noticed both colors in the red areas, which is something I hadn't picked up on before. In the grid diamonds quilting, white thread was used in one direction, while red thread was used in the other direction. Interesting detail.

  4. Gorgeous quilts. I'm quite envious of the members from Northwest Quilters. What a great resource to have you and your collection "on tap"!

  5. Great show! I love red and green quilts any time of the year. Thanks.

  6. Bill- your presentation was wonderful! We always love to have you share with us! I am so envious of your wonderful collection on quilts. I only dream of having such wonderful examples of quilting heritage. Thanks again for a fantastic evening.

  7. Bill, I'm sure it was wonderful!! It sounds like a huge active group. That is a good thing to be a part of!!

  8. I have very positive things to say about the Northwest Quilters. The group has always been very impressive to me, and particularly at this time of the year. During the officer reports, I felt myself getting a little misty-eyed and emotional. Their community outreach efforts are truly extraordinary, and when the fireman came and spoke, he aptly summed up the effect of the group's extraordinary benevolence toward the community. The Northwest Quilters embody the holiday spirit, and they do it year-round.