Saturday, October 12, 2013

Quilt By Accident

"Life is like a patchwork quilt
And each little patch is a day,
Some patches are rosy, happy and bright,
And some are dark and gray.

But each little patch as it's fitted in
And sewn to keep it together
Makes a finished block in this life of ours
Filled with sun, and with rainy weather.

So let me work on Life's patchwork quilt
Through the rainy days and the sun--
Trusting that when I have finished my block
The master may say: "Well done."

- poem by Elizabeth Ryan DeCoursey

In early September my son Raymond drove all of us to the LA County Fair in Pomona, the land of citrus fruit in the foothills of the San Gabrielle Mountains. We arrived just in time for the opening at noon. Our objective was to see his sister Amy's quilt block that won the Best in Show quilting award at the Fair. We encountered stuffy air and heat immediately after getting out of the air-conditioned car, reminiscent of my first step outside the airplane at the Phoenix Arizona Airport years ago. Oh no, how can we beat this deadly heat today! Relief in sight! One of the corporate sponsors, Sparkletts, treated Fair visitors with free ice-cold sparkling water. Yip-pee!

Raymond tried to decipher the complex Fair Map to locate the quilt exhibits. He tried Millard Sheets Center for the Arts first. It was in the innermost fair site, so we climbed over a little hill for a shortcut, passed the lagoon and entered a remote oblong-shaped building. We didn't find it. We inquired a few attendants. No luck. Finally, Raymond found the word "Tapestry" on the map which was inside the main building at the horse track near the Carnival Section, close to the entrance gate. After going back to where we started, we finally found Amy's quilt block.

Enclosed inside the glass case, Amy's owl on a bluish background was shining at the top of the block with a big gold medallion. There were 3 categories of competition, a) Piece (traditional), b) Appliqué (more of a free style), and c) Combined (which combines elements of the other two). Amy entered into the C category. She not only won the Blue Ribbon in C, but won Best in Show for all categories. The rules directed all entries to use the same fabric. I heard Amy donated her block to charity while all the others kept theirs.

The buildings, including Shopping Pavilions, were all air-conditioned; most visitors were there, relaxed and cool, enjoying grand shopping - a sort of summer exodus zone. I was surprised to see so many Jacuzzi / hot tub vendors displaying big steam sauna baths. Quite a change from the old state fair days I used to know.

Amy, per my daughter, is a microbiologist who graduated from Cal Poly Pomona. In her career, she works to ensure that drinking water is clean and safe. She manages field and lab work, as well as regulatory compliance for the area surrounding her home town of Hemet, California. She pursued quilting as a hobby almost by accident. Her enthusiasm and devotion to quilting was obvious by looking at her gifts to my daughter‘s family, which I was able to examine after visiting the LA County Fair. I liked her quilt with the sunflower appliqué. I asked my daughter how Amy fell in love with quilting. Apparently, she was interested in sewing from a young age.

Amy perhaps heard of my interest in her quilt work through my daughter and wrote to me, "My Mother-in-Law saw this little owl and wants me to make one for her too! I only have scraps of that fabric left. I have to see what I can do!!" "That sounds wonderful, Amy, my sister-in-law here in Japan is an ardent owl collector - from a stuffed owl to a tiny key holder with an owl on it! Can you make one for her, too?" I wrote back.

A day before returning to Japan, my daughter took me to the Conejo Valley Quilters Show and Auction, a two-day event, held at California Lutheran University Gilbert Sports Arena. My daughter's house is nearby. At the entrance was a car covered with the featured quilts, entitled "Quilt My Ride Car Cover." Fifty or more people contributed to this challenge.

The show has everything from lessons on quilting, shops for sewing machine (old and new), fabrics, threads, boutique and doll stores, to demonstrations of paper piecing, hand quilting, societies of appliqué, appraisers, etc. Just circling around the venue, visitors learned all about quilts - banners, memorials, themes, tree of life, pictorials, stories, etc. There were traditional and contemporary styles, and a bit of history on how American quilts were brought into the new world by immigrants and how it developed into a high art form.

Thank you, Raymond and Amy, for opening my eyes to the wonderful world of quilts.