Auction will raise funds for landscaping on site
Handmade book-themed quilts will be displayed at an exhibit to benefit the new Winthrop Library from June 11-18, as part of the library’s opening week celebration.
The quilts will also be sold at an online auction, with all proceeds benefitting landscaping and gardens at the new library.
The idea for the book-inspired quilt auction came from Methow Valley quilter Nicole McCullough, who said, “When I saw a quilt that Jane Weagant made for her granddaughter — featuring a design of a little girl reading a book — a lightbulb went off in my head.” McCullough knew just what she wanted to do to combine her passion for reading and quilting: organize a quilt show for the library, which she coordinated through Friends of the Winthrop Library (FOWL).
In the spring of 2021, McCullough began spreading the word to quilters, asking for donations of book-themed quilts ranging from lap-sized to 52 inches by 72 inches. Her call was answered; 25 quilters responded with 45 offers of quilts, including one windfall from Sharon Smith, who donated 10 quilts.
“Quilters just came out of the woodwork,” said McCullough, who created and donated four quilts to the effort, including “Notice Purple,” inspired by “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker; “City Gears,” inspired by “Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess; “The Snow Child,” inspired by Eowyn Ivey’s book of the same name; and “The Power of Words,” in honor of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote “Never underestimate the power of a girl with a book.”
Other quilts include “Bird Watching” by Gail Yoko, inspired by David Allen Sibley’s “What it’s Like to be a Bird;” Belva Hoffman’s “The Root Children,” inspired by Sybille van Olfer’s 1920 book by the same name; Alisa Malloch’s “The Octopus,” inspired by Sy Montgomery’s “The Soul of an Octopus;” “The Hungry Caterpillar,” inspired by Eric Carle’s book of the same name; and dozens of others.
A quilt by Chris Meyers features a 75-year-old cross-stitch of a popular 1897 poem: “Let me live in the house/by the side of the road/and be a friend to man.” Debbie Inglis’s quilt incorporates recipes from her grandmother’s cookbook.
Lots of support
The quilters were supported by several quilting-related businesses in the valley, a FOWL press release said, noting that The Quilting Hive’s Heather Rivard and Methow Quilting’s Kathy Podmayer donated their expertise and time to do the intricate final stitching on some of the quilts using specialized long arm quilting machines, and that Cyndy Oliver of Winthrop’s 3 Bears Quilt shop also encouraged quilters by sponsoring a raffle for them.
To cultivate a quilting community dedicated to the library effort, McCullough leveraged the talents and energy of a group of quilters who have for years been meeting weekly at the Community Covenant Church in Twisp to work on quilts together.
It’s a bustling but orderly scene at the red church: tidy stacks of fabric, people cutting and piecing and stitching, and tables laid out with quilts underway, sewing machines, cutting mats, and other specialized tools. On one side of the room women put the finishing touches on their library quilts while across the room 4-H students worked with Suellen White to create their first quilts.
No 4-H quilts will be sold at the auction, however. “These kids put a lot of time into their first quilts,” White said. “They may give quilts away later, but not these first ones. These are keepers.”
One quilt, “The Smiling Country,” inspired by local author and longtime Winthrop librarian Sally Portman’s book of the same name, will be permanently displayed at the new library. The quilt, stitched by Jane Ave Lallemant, so perfectly captures the sentiment behind the quilt show that the quilting group decided to create a replica of it, so that Lallemant’s piece can be viewed by library visitors while a similar quilt will be auctioned off.
The two quilts will feature slightly different fabric choices, but will follow the same pattern. In honor of this book, the valley it describes, and the many laughs and smiles generated by the book-inspired quilting group, the quilters are calling themselves the Smiling Valley Quilters.
McCullough said that pricing the quilts for the auction was tricky. How do you value the creativity, time and effort that go into making a quilt? Quilter Linda Schoemaker of Quilters Anonymous provided guidance, McCullough said.
“You measure the square inches of the quilt, multiply it by a factor based on the difficulty of the pattern, and create a value,” she said. Even then, though, the value barely covers the cost of the quilt.
Still, starting prices on the auction website are quite modest, giving bidders in most budget ranges a crack at owning a handmade quilt and giving those with larger budgets an opportunity for tax deductions. All quilt purchases will give buyers a stake in the library’s development.
The online auction opens on Wednesday (June 8) at 5 p.m. and closes at 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 18. Quilts are available for viewing in person in the library’s Community Room once the facility opens on June 11, as well as at author Timothy Egan’s reading from “The Big Burn” at the Winthrop Barn on Saturday (now a sold-out event). Appropriately, Gail Yoko’s “Smokey Bear” quilt will be featured at the Big Burn reading.
For more information about the quilt show and auction, visit https://auctria.events/FOWLBookquilts. Other opening week information about the new Winthrop Library can be found at www.winthroplibraryfriends.org/events.