Nothing makes a long winter night as snug as a handmade quilt to snuggle up beneath. In spite of my crafty tendencies, quilting is not one of my pursuits. The measuring, ironing, pinning and straight lines turned me away from the get go. I made a quilt once for my best friend, and some small one's for my kids bunk beds. That was it. I was done. Fortunately, we have a quilter in the family, my mother. My mother is not only a quilter, but a quilting artist. From the tattered family quilt I snagged to take away with me to college to the intricate outdoor-scene decorating my log framed bed today, my mother's quilts are woven into the fabric of daily life around here.
I was able to catch an interview with the quilting artist otherwise known as Ann Colley in the middle of her busy schedule as a mental health therapist and a student in upper-level Spanish classes at her local community college. There are so many amazing quilts in the family that go way back, I wanted to share some of the stories behind them, of which she is the story-keeper and family historian.
Tell us about the history of quilting in the family and your story of becoming a quilter. Do you remember the first quilt you really loved? What about the first quilt you made?
The first quilt that I loved was the one my mother's grandmother made for her to take to college in 1935. She kept it on her bed her entire adult life. It was her connection to her grandmother who she loved dearly. On a hot summer day in the Yakima Valley, I remember lying down on that quilt on my mother's bed as a child, and feeling the coolness and softness of the fabric. I started sewing when I was ten years old. I immediately took to it, and began by making Barbie outfits for my younger sister. I was not into Barbies myself, but enjoyed designing and making the outfits for her. That was 1960.
Baby Lara and her dad asleep under the quilt.
Lara's husband and twin babies asleep under the same quilt!
In 1979, I made this quilt for Lara's crib. Her little brother used it in his crib also. Each block is a nursery rhyme story!
This is my Eagle Creek Quilt. It is also a variation on a log cabin pattern. I spent a long time collecting fabrics that represented the creek, the riparian zone, and the colors of Spring, Summer and Fall along Eagle Creek.
Lara asked me to make a quilt for her in 2008, similar to my wall hanging of a campsite in the Olympic Mountains and the High Divide. In this quilted scene Mt. Carrie is on the left, and the campsite overlooks the headwaters of the Hoh River.
My Grandson's quilt, made in 2009, shows a river flowing from its headwaters with alpine terrain, through sub-alpine timber and meadows with wildflowers. There is an alpine tarn, a bear and elk, and a boy sitting on a rock by the water.
My Granddaughter's quilt was made of 12 transfer watercolors done by Cicely Mary Baker in the 1930's-1940's. Each block is a beautiful, fanciful flower fairy, and there is a border of tiny fairies.
What inspires you about quilting as an art medium?
I love the feel of good quality cotton fabric and the vivid colors and prints available. When I look at a piece of fabric, I can see mountains, fields, streams, and many other elements that might go into to make up a quilt. When I am designing and making a wall-hanging or quilt, I lose all track of time. An entire day can go by, and seem like very little time at all.
What are your favorite styles of quilting?
What are some future quilting projects you have planned out?
I am currently making a fun quilt for my niece's new baby. It has a surprise theme that incorporates some family history.
I will do several wall hangings of outdoor scenes around the Olympic Peninsula for my Spanish class to support the Mujeres de Maiz Opportunity Foundation, helping women and children in Chiapas, Mexico.
The High Divide
Upper Dungeness Camp
I also want to make a summer quilt for our cabin, that is light and cool, that encompasses colors of our creek canyon. That will probably be after I retire.