Photo courtesy of Peggy Sturdivant
Audrey Blunt made this gorgeous quilt 25 years ago and she will be selling it at the Quilt & Crafts Fair.

At Large in Ballard: Artistry

By Peggy Sturdivant & Alison Eckels 

They happen to be all women. They are all artists. But what really links all the women sitting together in the Crafts Room of the Ballard Senior Center is that they cannot just sit. If they have to sit they need to be doing something with their hands. They need to be working a needle, crochet hook, or delicate wire through beads. What they are creating varies but all are participating in the Ballard Senior Center’s First Quilt & Crafts Fair Sale on Saturday, August 9, 2014.

The Quilters are so passionate about their work, together and separately, that they now meet twice a week, two hours at a time at the Senior Center. In the tradition of quilting bees they talk when they are in the room together, collectively drooling over a recent donation of 100% cotton or last fall’s brand new sewing machine.

Although some have sold their work before at craft shows the August event at BSC will be different. With the help of The Quilting Loft they are going to price their work and sell directly to the public; keeping 90% of the proceeds, with the other 10% to the Senior Center. No table fees. For all the vendors it’s an opportunity to contribute to the center’s coffers and to validate their hard work.

At almost age 90 Ruth Ghormley is currently the oldest of the crafters. Among other items Ghormley will be selling her Dammit! Dolls (with an accompanying poem), as well as empty thread spools repurposed into recipe cardholders. “I’ve been doing it forever,” she said of her crafts.

Quilter Audrey Blunt said of Ghormley, “If you can think about it, she’s done it.” Blunt would know, as she’s an accomplished artist and seamstress who took to quilting when she retired. Her approach is as an artist first, “If I see a picture, I can make a quilt of it.” She loves the challenge of working with the colors and is more pragmatic about products, advising the others not to underprice their work. “Figure the cost of yardage and the hours of labor.”

Demonstrating that this group truly never sits idle, Sandie Jardee’s hands were in constant motion during a planning meeting for the event. She was hand-sewing one of her quilts, many of which feature cats. As with many quilters, “I started seriously when my first grandson was born. I made his baby quilt.” When not stitching, she’s unstitching. “The seam ripper is my best friend.”

Barb Brownfield approaches quilting through a paper piecing technique. She finds she can make smaller shapes and designs than by doing it in cloth first. Once she’s got the design and colors she sews through paper and cloth, “Then I take little tweezers and pick off all the paper.”

Judy McStay proudly admits to being a 50-year quilting veteran. For the fair she’s working on making a series of fused wall hangings that will be available for sale, as well as a paper calendar. Of late she’s allowing herself to do smaller, easier things, although what she terms easier is debatable.

Cynthia (Cindy) Fleury is another crossover artist, although she claims to be jack-of-all trades, master of none. She’s currently making jewelry, handbags and jewelry boxes but also makes and sells designs for stuffed animals. Likewise Gail Nagy works in several mediums; she started painting in oils in her teens. She works in watercolors and mixed media. She also makes clothes to dress teddy bears for the Jamie Moyers Foundation.

Lois Ahrens is billed for the event as a seamstress rather than a quilter. In addition to making things she deems useful--aprons, casserole carriers and handbags, she has made over 450 lap robes for the VA Hospital over the last 30 years. She prefers “not fancy” and refers to the handmade lap robes as, “just patchwork.”

Meanwhile Praveena Patel is well accustomed to selling her work, with a major online presence as crochetgenie.com. She proves that virtually anything can be recreated in crochet. “As soon as I see something, I want to make it,” she said. Starting out she couldn’t follow the crochet patterns so she set out to teach herself, and now teaches others as well as making patterns.

In conceiving the idea of this first quilt and crafts sale Ballard Senior Center Activities Director Lauren Overlock doesn’t hide her own passion for sewing. With three extroverted cheerleaders sisters she grew up the loner who visited all the seniors in her neighborhood to learn sewing from them. Her runners and napkins are on tables all across the United States and she is a ringleader in trying to convince Director Carlye Teel that a senior center trip to Fabric Depot in Portland is a must.

Between now and early August all of the participating quilters, crafters and jewelry makers will even busier than usual, till the doors open on August 9th at 10 a.m. Admission will be free with food & beverages available (there’s a baking committee as well). A stunning quilt that was displayed at the Spring auction will go home with a raffle winner and there will be additional prizes.

The vendors have promised to not undersell their work but they can’t completely deny their hearts when it comes to their desire to donate their labor to the Ballard Senior Center. Although looking forward to showcasing their work they’re most excited about how the event will benefit the senior center. What they may call “just patchwork” is a product of hours, days, months and even years of work. Try artistry instead.

Ballard NW Senior Center, 5429 32nd Ave NW, 98107. 206.297.0403. ballardseniorcenter.org. 1st Quilt & Crafts Fair (& Bake Sale). August 9, 2014. 10-4 p.m.

Contact Peggy atlargeinballard@peggysturdivant.com.

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