Life’s Patchwork

By Beacon Staff

Four years old, part Dachshund and part black Lab; that had been the best guess of the guy at the shelter. But details didn’t matter. Barney was Karen’s dog, she loved him, and she had loved him from the moment she adopted him 12 years earlier. But now, for a dog, he was really old. Really, really old. And it was his time.

The sun shone that last day as Barney, with Karen’s help, said goodbye to the old neighborhood, a final visit with all his friends both human and canine. That evening Barney rested his head on the edge of the quilt Karen had been making, a quilt symbolizing aspects of his life, a quilt commemorating a lifelong friendship. He watched, through tired eyes, as Karen put in the final stitches. And then he was gone.

I met Karen Crowe and her friends from the Bigfork Piecemakers Quilt Guild at Harvest Foods last week. They were selling raffle tickets for one of their quilts and stirring up awareness for their upcoming show. I’d never met either Karen or Barney before, but looking at the quilt, I felt both an instant affinity for Barney and an understanding of what he had meant to Karen. Odd, how a quilt can do that.

Sometimes when I do an interview, I have to ask questions. With this enthusiastic group, I was too busy jotting down answers. For these women, quilting isn’t just a pastime, it isn’t even just a passion; quilting is life, one patch at a time.

I did ask some of the basics though. What is quilting? “Quilting,” I was told, “is where you buy a bunch of material, cut it up into pieces, and then sew it back together.” I like simple answers.

I casually asked if they ever felt it was an addiction. One of them piped up. “Perhaps,” she offered, “but we don’t get addicted to drink or anything else. After quilting, we have neither the time nor the money for it.”

“Some people think that because we’re called a guild,” noted another, “that you have to have some skill to join. But nothing could be further from the truth. I didn’t know anything about quilting when I joined. The whole purpose of the group is to learn and have fun.”

And they like to challenge themselves. As quilter Linda Stewart explained to me, “We meet once a month and sometimes we quilt together. Other times, we start quilt games, like the Round Robin or the Mystery Quilt games.” Both, as she further explained, are collaborative projects. I saw the products of two Round Robin games. I wish my collaborations could produce such attractive results.

Of course, quilts aren’t just art; they’re meant to be used. And guild members are generous with their products. “We just made over 100 pillowcases,” Linda told me, “that we shipped off to our soldiers overseas. We just wanted these young men and women to have that feeling of home, wherever they might be.”

Judy Hamilton added to that, “We often give quilts and pillowcases to children and veterans. Many of the quilts go directly to the Intermountain Children’s Home. Others go to local families in need. And proceeds from our raffle quilt will help fund a scholarship for a Bigfork graduate.”

The scholarship program is an annual project for the guild. This year’s raffle is for a queen size patterned patchwork quilt with a variety of wildlife designs sewn into the quilting pattern: Warmth in a homey Montana style.

The guild meets the third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. at Swan River School. It is hosting its 2013 quilt show June 8-9 at the Masonic Temple in Bigfork, located across the highway from Harvest Foods. Running 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, admission to the show is free. Proceeds from the quilt raffle will fund scholarships and various community projects. Raffle tickets are $1 each or six for $5. But don’t feel like you have to participate. I bought six raffle tickets myself and I’d really like to win that quilt.

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