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By DANELLE LANDIS
Daily News Staff Writer
The Rainy Day Quilters Guild will hold its 28th annual “Quilting in the Rain” exhibition on Feb. 16 and 17 at the Ted Ferry Civic Center.
The group holds the event to showcase the broad array of quilts of many sizes, patterns, styles and colors that the members have created.
To be classified as a quilt, Rainy Day Quilters member Stacy Brainard said the item must be constructed of three parts: two layers of fabric with a soft filling sandwiched between.
Twice each year, the group’s members create a quilt to be raffled to the community — one during the exhibition and one during the Blueberry Festival in August. This year’s raffle quilt for the exhibition is a queen-size piece blazing with warm colors and swirling geometric shapes. It was displayed at the JK Paints storefront in The Plaza mall on Jan. 25, where Brainard and 20-year guild member Dawn Teune met to talk to the Daily News about the upcoming exhibition.
Brainard, who has been a guild member for the three years she’s lived in Ketchikan, said members share the work of stitching the many blocks that make up the quilts.
“Many hands make light work,” Brainard said.
Teamwork is the fuel that allows the guild to accomplish an impressive array of community service projects.
The guild creates quilts for many people in the community. The donations they make include those to long-term patients at the PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center; for Women in Safe Homes clients; to patients receiving infusion treatments at KMC; fire quilts to families who have suffered a home catastrophe; bibs for Pioneer Home residents; and “fidget” quilts for people who can benefit from having a warm blanket with sewn-in parts they can manipulate, such as a zipper or a tie.
The quilters also donate quilts to local veterans through the national Quilts of Valor program. Those red, white and blue quilts are created for veterans who have been nominated by community members. On Sunday afternoon, at this year’s show, they plan to hold a ceremony to honor the nominated veterans and give each of them their handmade quilt. The guild members also distribute Quilts of Valor on Veterans Day.
Brainard said the feedback they have received from veterans about receiving the quilts has been very positive.
“A lot of them have said that the handmade quilt they get means more to them than medals they’ve won,” Brainard said.
Teune added that one year, a Vietnam War veteran told her that the ceremony and quilt was the first “thank you” he’d gotten since returning home from his deployment.
Guild members also work to gather and donate non-quilt items, such as for food drives or bedding and towel drives.
Charter member Jean Mackie, while sewing on her project at a “Freeloader Friday” quilting gathering in the lower level of Holy Name Catholic Church on the afternoon of Jan. 25, explained her view of why the members work so hard to help those in need.
“It’s a tangible way of showing somebody that you care,” she said. “We do comfort quilts for our own members when they’re touched by cancer or a death in the family or some major trauma.”
The guild also offers a $1,000 scholarship each year to a high school student planning to enter an arts or crafts college program.
The strong community service heart of the Rainy Day Quilters Guild seems to be fueled by the sense of community and friendship within the group.
Mackie explained a couple of reasons why she still is a dedicated member,
“I just love quilting,” she said. “And, you know, it’s the camaraderie — it’s really gratifying.”
Member Jeanne Sande, who was sewing a “twiddler and fiddler” quilt block at the Friday gathering, said one joy she gets out of quilting is working with colors, with the weather that is grey so often. She added that she also enjoys the fellowship of the guild.
Barbara Massenburg, also a charter member, reminisced about the guild’s beginnings. She said that at first, it was difficult for her and Barb Ferguson, who owned a knit store at The Plaza, to attract any quilters to their small gatherings at their homes.
When they finally began meeting at one of the schools, and advertised in the newspaper, more people began to attend. When the group moved to the Lutheran church, the guild really took off, she said.
Teune said there are about 75 members now, and there have been more than 100 members during some periods.
The guild offers not only many chances to quilt together each week, but members also organize weekend quilting retreats at George Inlet Lodge, as well as seminars led by quilting instructors from other locations that the guild hires.
At the upcoming Quilting in the Rain show, there will be a dazzling array of quilts and activities for attendees, according to Teune and Brainard.
There are more than 15 categories that quilts can be entered under, including miniature quilts — which Teune says are her specialty — wall hangings, lap quilts, hand applique, first quilt, wearable art, youth made and heirloom.
The judging process is a two-step process. First, guild members choose the first- and second-place quilts by ballot, with the artists’ names hidden from view. Then, non-quilting judges chosen from the community are invited to choose their top two from each category — usually from the first-place winners chosen by the guild members — but not necessarily. They also choose a best-in-show quilt.
There also is a quilt-shop award, chosen by an owner of a local quilt supply store, Teune said.
Visitors to the exhibition will be given the opportunity to vote for their favorite quilt for the “people’s choice” award, as well.
One quilt show activity to be offered will be a make-and-take project, where attendees can try their hand at sewing a simple quilting project. Another activity planned is an “ISpy” challenge. Visitors to the show can pick up a sheet with a list of quilt details, then can peruse the quilts, searching for those details treasure-hunt style.
There also is a “Yogi Bear” setup planned, with a picnic table and tree, to showcase the guild members’ “jelly roll” quilt pieces created. Each year, the guild sets up a challenge for quilters to make any type of quilted piece, using fabric from a “jelly roll,” which is a chubby roll of 40 fabric strips.
Another display will feature quilts created in something called the “Something Dicey” challenge, which quilters began earlier this year by rolling dice five times each. The numbers that they rolled corresponded to some specific feature that they then were required to incorporate into their quilt, such as an airplane image, a log-cabin pattern or a certain percentage of a specific color.
There also will be a display of miniature toy sewing machines. At the “90-10” table there will be quilted items created for the show’s silent auction, but people also can choose the “buy it now” option, Teune said. With those purchases, the guild receives 10 percent of each receipt, which goes toward funding their many programs.
At this year’s exhibition, as always, visitors will be offered a comprehensive guide to the quilts. Organized by category, the guide offers a numbered listing of every piece in the exhibition, with the artist’s name and a description of their quilt. Some of the quilters write not only a description, but some personal history around the quilt’s creation.
“You can use this book to go, ‘Oh my gosh, now I see a whole different side of this quilt because I understand what it is,” Brainard said.
In the Quilts of Valor section of the guidebook, this year’s recipients are listed.
The Quilting in the Rain exhibition will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17 at the Ted Ferry Civic Center. The Quilts of Valor presentation is scheduled for 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 17.
For more information about the exhibition, or about the Rainy Day Quilters Guild, look the organization up on Facebook, or visit its website at rainydayquilters.online.