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Common Thread

04/02/2014 09:54AM ● Published by Claudia Mosby

By Claudia Mosby
Photo by Betsy Erickson

Quilters' Sew-Ciety of Redding

With a membership that reflects both experience and youth, both male and female perspectives, the Quilters’ Sew-ciety of Redding disproves the notion that quilting is only for Grandma. In fact, the tradition is drawing increasing interest from younger generations.

“Boys ask more questions and are often more enthusiastic than girls,” says Karen Flynn, education chair and point of contact between the Sew-ciety and local schools and youth organizations. “They are really inquisitive.”

This surprises neither Robyn Embree nor quilt artist/author Don Linn, both longtime Sew-ciety members. “Color is important to women,” says Embree, the organization’s publicity chair, “but men are often looking at how they can work with design. It is an engineering mindset.”

Linn, who has been quilting since a layoff set him on a new track in the mid-1990s, says, “There’s a stereotype that (quilting) is women’s work, but really you’re dealing with machines.”

Flynn, who is currently working with fifth graders at Black Butte Elementary School in Shingletown, sees quilting as a wonderfully artistic medium but a dying art. “We want to keep the tradition alive and growing and one of the ways to do this is by reaching young quilters,” she says.  

The experience comes with additional benefit: students at Black Butte just finished a quilt for raffle, the proceeds of which will help pay for their annual trip to Whiskeytown Environmental School.

“We try to fit the presentation to the age of the kids,” she says. “With really young children, we use copies of block patterns they can color. With older students we go a bit more into the textile industry and the recycled clothing used to make quilts in the early days.” Additionally, Flynn has been asked to show the Underground Railroad quilt when students reach that topic in their history unit.

Last month, students in the after school program began a sewing class that teaches them how to thread and use a machine. “The guild provides the fabric and the notions. There is no cost to the students,” says Flynn.

Across the county, guild member Gayle Billings mentors girls between the ages of 8 and 15 who are part of the Positively Girls Club at the Martin Luther King Center in Redding.

“We go in and give a talk on what a quilt is, its parts and the sewing machine,” says Billings. “The girls are learning how to sew squares together from available material to make their own 'scrap' quilt (one that uses a non-repeating pattern).”

At the end of this month Billings, Embree and Linn (the featured artist at the Sew-ciety’s 2012 quilt show) will join other area quilters for the show’s 19th installment. Entitled "Quilting in the Golden State," this year’s design challenge honors the 150th anniversary of the California state parks. Of the anticipated 350 entries, up to 60 will showcase a state park. 

The 2012 challenge, "A River of Quilts," depicted the Sacramento River flowing from its headwaters in Siskiyou County south to Red Bluff, says Embree. It is still being displayed on quilting websites and at prominent quilt shows nationally.

Hosted in even-numbered years, the show usually draws about 1,000 visitors, which organizers estimate will double this year due to the Kool April Nites event the same weekend.

The Quilters’ Sew-ciety meets monthly and welcomes quilters of all skill levels, as well as non-quilters interested in the art. Guest presenters, workshops, social activities and a lending library (“with just about every quilting book available,” says Embree) represent only a few of the many perks available to members.

So grab Grandpa, round up all the kids and get ready for the quilters in the far northern part of the Golden State to inspire you. 

Quilting in the Golden State
April 25-27
Shasta District Fairgrounds
www.quilterssewciety.org

In Print, Life+Leisure quilting karen flynn quilters' sewciety of redding
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