Historically, quilting was a utilitarian craft. Quilts were needed to keep warm at night, and generally resources were scarce. Small pieces of fabric were sewn together to make larger pieces of fabric, and these were sewn together to make quilts. But resources are not as scarce as they once were and megalithic box stores carry row upon row of premade blankets cheaper than they can be made at home. The question remains why anyone would take the time and effort to quilt today.
Stephanie Longpre, the youngest member of the Creston Valley Quilters’ Guild, isn’t interested in cheap premade blankets. She believes blankets from big box stores are poor quality and have become part of our throwaway culture. “It isn’t a matter of whether quilts are necessary or not. When I make a quilt, I’m not thinking about expense; I’m thinking about the creative process,” said Longpre. “Quilting is an art form, and I enjoy choosing different colours and themes that make each piece unique. Handmade quilts are often made with someone in mind, and they last generations. And I enjoy the challenges of quilting; there’s always something new to try.”
For centuries, women have poured their creative energy into making quilts, and each quilt was imbued with their makers’ intelligence and ingenuity. It turns out that, according to a recent study, quilting improves wellbeing in ways that physical and outdoor activities cannot. Quilters have found the activity helps their cognitive, creative and emotional wellbeing, particularly among older people. “I’ve made all sorts of quilts – different sizes and levels of difficulty – but each quilt was an artistic challenge,” said Longpre. “And each was a joy to make.”
For the quilters that gather every Wednesday morning, the act of quilting has become a weekly social event. “We have a lot of fun together. There’s a wide range of skill levels and we learn from each other. The guild is open to all ages,” said Longpre. “Some of the older ladies haven’t quilted for years but they come to trade tips, tell stories, and laugh.”
The Creston Valley Quilters’ Guild is preparing for their biennial quilt show – called A Basket Full of Quilts – which will showcase various-sized quilts, information on quilting and the guild itself. There will also be door prizes, a draw, and a number of quilting-themed vendors. The show will also include the guild’s Canada150 quilts, in conjunction with Full Plate. The smaller quilts play on the theme of the area’s agriculture with cows, goats and chickens. The public is also encouraged to vote on their favourites. “Two years ago we showcased 224 quilts, and this year we will have a similar number,” said Longpre.
This year the guild is also continuing their tradition of donating quilts to various local and national non-profit organizations. “Part of the reason we come together is so we can decide where to donate our quilts,” said Longpre. “We try to do something every year that benefits either the local community or other communities in need. We’ve made 94 quilts for the Quilts for Kids program and this year we’re contributing slab blocks to the Ronald McDonald House. We’ve sent quilts to the Creston Valley Hospice Society, Irvine House, Spectrum Farm, Kootenai Community Centre Society, and other seniors’ and victims’ assistance programs here in town. We’ve donated quilts to the fire hall so they can distribute them to families who have lost their homes. It’s nice to be able to give some comfort to those who need it, due to either illness or a personal crisis.”
The Creston Valley Quilters’ Guild meets Wednesdays from 9:00 – 11:00 a.m. at Anglican Christ Church (422 – 7th Ave N). A Basket Full of Quilts Show runs Friday, March 31 (10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.) and Saturday, April 1 (10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.) at the Creston & District Community Complex. Those needing more information can email email@example.com. Admission is $5.