Quilters have Witter Gallery in stitches

Friday, August 10, 2018
Quilt Sew-ciety members Donna Schulz, Ruth Anderson, Carole Suhr, Paulette Erlandson, Janet Strouse and Ginny Lewis gathered to help put up the current exhibit at Witter Gallery featuring creations by group members. The quilt they are showing is a group project the entire society contributed pieces to. / Dana Larsen

"It's never been so cozy in here," cracks Witter Gallery Director Cindy Barahona Roth.

Indeed, art lovers may feel inspired to curl up for a nap while visiting the latest exhibit at Storm Lake's art gallery.

Members of the Quilt Sew-ciety were helping to mount over 30 large quilts to the wall and furnishings Monday, splashing arrays of color around the facility in every direction.

The group has been around since the 1980s, and currently has more than 30 members. While based in Storm Lake, the group has members from as far as Spirit Lake and Carroll.

Member Janet Strouse says she has been quilting since 1974, and has claimed the prestigious top prize in the Iowa State Fair quilt competition. "That was on my bucket list, because I never got a ribbon in 4H," she jokes.

"The best thing about it is the variety, there are so many different types of patterns to get into. The color, the designs, it can be very satisfying and relaxing. And you can use several different skills within your quilts - embroidery, appliqué, piecework, stitching," she says.

One of her quilts in the gallery, which features images of a pioneer village, the embroidery alone took 226 hours to complete.

Other quilts range from the size of a table runner, with holiday themes, to massive versions that would dwarf a king-side bed. One is done in all snow white with the subtle pattern stitched on, others in muted old-fashioned shades and geometric patterns, and still others in blazing bright colors such as one dedicated to Halloween. Some are cartoonish and fun, others very complex and sophisticated. One is a patriotic theme dominated by a bald eagle image.

Members said they were grateful that the gallery thinks out of the box and sees the art in non-traditional forms like fabric.

Quilting is far from a lost art. While many of the group members are veterans, younger people are looking to get into the creative activity too, they say.

"You can find classes or workshops everywhere. There are even quilting cruises you can go on to learn," Anderson said.

In fact, the local club is hosting its own events later this season. There will be a "trunk show" exhibit at St. Mark's Church (where the group has its monthly gatherings) in Storm Lake September 28, and on the 29th, a noted designer and author of books on quilting will be offering a workshop. The fee is $25 and interested persons can contact Ruth Anderson at 732-6725 for information.

The Quilt Sew-ciety also gives back to the communities by making quilts to donate to hospitals and charities, and creating pillow cases for a Santa's Castle project.

The Witter Gallery exhibit runs through August 31. Admission is free. The gallery is located in the Storm Lake Public Library building.

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