A stitch in time

Quilt takes six months

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The quilt started in July with a pile of fabric scraps and a few sketches drawn by designer Madeleine Vail.

Six months and hundreds of hours of labor later, the annual fund-raiser for the Delectable Mountain Quilters Guild (named after the traditional quilting pattern called Delectable Mountain) is complete. The guild will raffle the quilt, earning about $3,000 in ticket sales.

With the money, the guild brings in experts and lecturers from across the country so that the group of 75 passionate quilters can continue to learn the intricacies of the craft.

This year, a committee of eight women was responsible for making the quilt. They collected fabric scraps from each guild member and gave the pile of mismatched pieces to Vail, who sorted through them like a giant puzzle.

"I had to figure out how to make it work," she said. "It's not like going to the fabric store and picking out what you want."

In quilting, there are hundreds of standard designs, called "blocks," and each block has a name. Because guild members decided they wanted the quilt to have a mountain theme, Vail searched through her memory and her countless quilting books to find blocks with mountain-related names that would also look good together.

She chose Rising Star, Milky Way, Northwind, Hovering Hawks, Beaver Pond, Bear Paw, Forest Path, Autumn Tints, Eagles Nest, Denali and Aurora.

Those blocks form a quilted frame that surrounds a central landscape panel made from a collage of fabrics.

For the fabrics, the design committee asked for bright, clear colors.

"We didn't want muted or anything old-fashioned looking," Vail said.

Vail was in charge of designing and sewing the central panel, which she did using hand-dyed batiks and other hand-dyed fabrics from Bali.

The fabric combines to form a sunrise and mountain in the distance with hills and trees in the foreground.

Vail has been quilting for the better part of 10 years. It was part of a natural progression for her, she said. "I've been sewing my whole life."

Ten years ago, Vail had a vague idea that there were other people interesting in quilting in Routt County, but the hours required for her job kept her from ever visiting guild meetings. Instead, she taught herself to quilt.

"I did know the historical significance of quilting," she said, "but I didn't realize so many people still enjoy quilting. When I finally came, I found 75 other people who were intensely interested in this."

According to the Web site historyofquilting.com there is a long history of gatherings such as the ones held monthly by the Delectable Mountain Quilters Guild at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

The first known quilted object is a quilted linen carpet found in a Siberian cave tomb.

The idea that quilting is a uniquely American art is a myth, the Web site said.

When Vail got interested in quilting, she had no idea how much there was to learn. It's a craft so simple or so intricate that anyone can find something of interest, she said.

Guild members range in age from women in their 20s to women in their 80s, with the occasional man joining the group.

To join the group, members pay $18 a year in dues and contribute to the expense of special workshops and retreats, Vail said. The money from this week's quilt raffle will pay for those programs.

Since September, guild members have been selling $1 raffle tickets. At 7 p.m. Monday in the community center, a winner will be drawn.

The quilt that person will win is a combination of applique and piecing that took "hours and hours and hours and hours," Vail said.

"I spent hundreds of hours on my piece alone," she said. "But I feel, personally, that it was work it. I don't know how else we would create this influx of money."

It's also time Vail spent doing something she loves.

"I like the fact that every quilt is unique," she said. "I love finding different fabric combinations."

Finding the right color combinations is almost like painting with fabric.

"I love the character of the item," she said. "I love the feel of it and I love to sew. I just feel some kind of kinship with that textile art."

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