The Tongass Historical Museum is hosting an exhibit showcasing the quilted and needlework art created by Ketchikan artists that were entered in the Southeast Alaska State Fair that ran from July 27 through July 30.
Walking into the bright room at the museum, one feels enveloped by the dynamic colors, patterns and warm folds of the quilts and knitted pieces. As one looks closer, the precision and craftsmanship in each piece is striking.
Dawn Teune’s large quilt immediately catches the eye, with an eight-pointed star spreading across its face that offers a near optical illusion, making the quilt almost look like it’s vibrating. Surrounding the star are whimsical flower designs and a dynamic, zig-zagging border pieced with colors complementing the whole design.
That quilt, titled, “Flea Market Treasure” won the Department Champion, Division Champion, Best of Adult and first place awards.
In a telephone interview Thursday, Teune said the pattern she chose, as well as the quilt’s title, was based on a pattern created by Edyta Sitar.
“I kind of love her stuff,” Teune said.
She said that she has been quilting for about 40 years.
She explained that she is drawn to complicated quilt patterns that will take a significant amount of time to finish. She said she also enjoys the hand applique technique, which demands a lot of fine hand work.
“I kind of lean toward things that are just not what everybody else will do,” (she) Teune said.
The biggest challenge of finishing the “Flea Market Treasure” quilt, Teune said, was getting the star to lie flat. It was the requirement of having to inset the small pieces after sections were partially finished, rather than more mechanically sewing blocks step-by-step that gave the extra level of difficulty, Teune explained.
When asked how she solved the problem when sections would start buckling during the inset process, Teune’s answer reflected the tenacity that seems to be part of every successful quilter’s mindset.
“Take it apart and do it again,” she said, chuckling.
That tenacity also showed up when Teune was asked what the most fun part of creating the quilt was.
“The challenge,” she answered.
She also spoke of how each quilt begins for her.
“Getting a vision, making all your pieces — yes, there are tough parts and you’re ready to pull your hair out — but then just seeing it all come together is so rewarding for me. I love the challenge of trying to figure it out because you want to cry at some places and then you’re just like, ‘Nope, I’ll figure this out,’ and then you start all over again,” Teune said.
About quilting, Teune said, “I love how I can do the colors, and you can play with the fabric, and there’s so many beautiful fabrics.”
Teune said she has sent quilted works to both the Southeast Alaska fair and the Alaska State Fair in Palmer over the years.
To send items to the Haines fair, Teune said the process is simple, as a local coordinator collects them and sends them north through Alaska Marine Lines at no cost. To enter items into the Palmer fair, Teune said it’s simply a matter of contacting fair organizers and mailing the works to them.
“Both of them are very positive experiences,” she said.
Teune also spoke of how important Ketchikan’s Rainy Day Quilters Guild is to her as well as to the community.
“We have an amazing group of quilters who always really encourage and inspire each other, and it’s just a good group of women,” she said.
Quilter Barbara Bailey has four pieces in the Tongass Historical Museum exhibit. All four were entered in the Haines fair, and a fifth is now on display at the fair in Palmer.
In a phone interview on Friday, Bailey said that one of her quilts, titled “Kathy’s Feathered Star,” has special meaning in that she received the quilt’s center “feathered star” block in the guild’s Christmas block exchange years ago.
Kathy, a fellow guild member who has since passed away, had helped Bailey to pick out the fabrics that were used to create the final quilted wall hanging with the feathered star block.
“It’s something kind of fun to see her work still showing up after all these years,” Bailey said.
That quilt earned a first-place ribbon, and is pieced in a “log cabin” pattern, which Bailey said has for years been her favorite piecing method.
Bailey earned several awards for her quilts: “Island Sunrise Bargello,” which is at the Alaska State Fair now, earned a first place and people’s choice award; “Paper Pieced Patchwork of the Crosses” earned a division champion and first place award; “Posh Penelope” earned a second place and a “Ripinsky Rippers” choice award — named after the Haines quilting and sewing group; and her “Stack N Whack” quilt earned a second place ribbon.
Bailey said she’s been quilting since the 1970s, when she first moved to Ketchikan.
“I just love playing with fabric and color,” she said, adding, “it was my stress release from work. You work in a job for 32 years, and I always called it my stress release. I could just kind of tune out everything and quilting — it’s a passion. You either love it or hate it, and I love it.”
She also spoke of her “Paper Pieced Patchwork of the Crosses” quilt, saying it took her a full year to complete.
“It was an obsession, I worked on it all the time. Every stitch is by hand, except for the quilting” she said. “It was all pieced by hand, every stitch.”
She said that quilt traveled across the U.S. with her as she worked on it, stitching together more than 5,000 pieces. She said it is only the second large quilt she’s made using the “English paper piecing” method.
Bailey also is a Rainy Day Quilters Guild member, and she said it was due to their urging that she branched out from her favorite log cabin style quilting to other approaches. She spoke of bargello designs as another one of her new favorites that allows her to explore creating with color.
Bailey said she values sending her quilts to the fairs for several reasons, but the feedback given on her entered pieces has been especially valuable. She spoke of how she was able to improve her binding, for instance, through feedback she’d been given one year.
“It’s a passion, and something I love doing,” Bailey said of quilting. She added that flowers and gardening are a second passion.
Bailey said she now is working on a king-sized bargello quilt, for which she is using 24 fabrics, with a color range of green and blue, from the deepest to the lightest of values. She noted that she has made 30 quilts over the past two years.
She urged community members to visit the museum exhibit.
She also spoke of the Rainy Day Quilters Guild’s community service work, through donating quilts to many people via charity organizations that support women and children, to the hospital, to children in foster care, to veterans and to families who lose their homes to fire.
The local guild has nearly 70 members, Bailey said.
Guild member Judy Madden and her daughter Traci Madden also have quilts in the museum exhibit.
Both women entered COVID-19 pandemic-inspired quilts into the fair, which are displayed at the museum.
Judy Madden’s quilt, “Covid Houses,” won first place at the fair. Traci Madden’s “Shelter in Place” quilt won a first-place ribbon as well.
Judy Madden’s quilt, “Alaska” won a second-place award, and Traci Madden’s quilt, “Seaglass,” won a third-place award.
In a phone call Friday, Judy Madden spoke about her experience with the Haines fair and about her love of quilting.
She said she has been entering works in the Southeast Alaska fair in Haines or about 25 years, and at least 12 or 15 years to the fair in Palmer.
Madden described the story behind the two COVID-related quilts, which feature colorful rows of little houses, some of which have tiny images in the doorways or windows, such as a black cat, a Christmas tree or whales.
“They’re called temperature quilts,” she said. “Each of our quilts has 365 houses, so one house for every day, and before we started them we came up with a color code — basically, assigning a color for each five degrees of temperature.”
She said the color of each house and each roof signifies the high or low temperature for each day of the year. The little figures in the doors and windows signify things that she and Traci Madden had done on those days.
Judy Madden also noted how interesting it was to see the resulting color differences between her quilt and her daughter’s, as Traci Madden was tracking weather at her home near Seattle. To see the higher number of hot days in Washington compared to Ketchikan displayed in graphic form was interesting, Judy Madden said.
Judy Madden also spoke about the sea glass quilt made by Traci Madden. She said they’d taken a class together where they learned the technique, and each made a sea glass quilt. Judy Madden entered her sea glass piece in the Haines fair during 2021.
Madden said she is grateful that the Tongass Historical Museum has been creating a local exhibit of the Haines fair entries each year, as most locals cannot make it to the fair in person.
Madden said of her “Alaska” quilt that she was inspired by the pattern immediately. She, like Teune and Bailey, said she loves to work with colors and new patterns.
“There’s so many different options out there that I’ll never get tired of challenging myself, I don’t think,” she said.
Madden also spoke highly of the benefit of belonging to a guild to get the inspiration and support that is so valuable to artists. Guild members are eager to help newcomers, she said, and warmly welcome beginners.
Madden said she taught herself to quilt when she lived in Thorne Bay years ago when her daughter was born, and she simply wanted a quilt for her. She and her family moved to Ketchikan in 1978, and she finally joined the quilt guild in about 1990 where she said she ended up gaining skills and great friendships.
“It was a real learning experience,” she said.
Other pieces entered in the Southeast Alaska State Fair by Ketchikan artists, most of which can be viewed at the museum exhibit include:
● “Kaffe Blossoms” and “Happy Hearts” quilts by Jill Bennett. Those won third and second place awards, respectively.
● “Travel Threads,” “Pots of Flowers,” and “Whimsical Bicycle” quilts by Marva-Lee Otos. Awards for those, respectively, were second place; judges choice, second place, Ripinsky Rippers choice; and judges choice, first place and Ripinsky Rippers choice.
● Carol Pemberton’s crocheted pieces: a baby sweater, a baby blanket, child’s tube socks and a woman’s pullover sweater won, respectively, second place; no ribbon, first place and a division champion award.
● “Lavender Lane” quilt by Brenda Stewart won second place and a Ripinsky Rippers choice
● “Birdie’s Nest” quilt by Charlanne Thomas-Wilks won a first-place ribbon.
● “Joy Version #3,” and “Sampler in Purple” quilts both won second-place ribbons.
● Choc Schafer’s knitted pieces: “Brickland Cowl,” won second place, “Keyhole Scarf,” earned a judges choice and second place. She also entered “Yellow Brickbasket Cowl” and “Reversible Summer Butterfly Cowl.”
● Jean Bartos’s knitted pieces, “Red/Brown Cowl,” “Pink and Silver Shawl,” “Colors of Ketchikan” scarf and “Multi-colored Shawl” respectively won second place; second place; judges choice and first place; and third place.
The exhibit can be viewed at the Tongass Historical Museum at 629 Dock St. through Sept. 4.