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Quilting creates a magical world. Age-old tradition of quilting

‘I grew up in a home where Mother sewed beautifully,’ says quilt maker Betty Bakie. ‘She made matching suits and dresses for her and me. When I was little I would sit at her feet and cut fabric for dresses for my dolls.’

Today, Bakie’s sewing prowess makes her mother proud. Bakie and her daughters Cheryl Poffenroth and Lorie Jones are the featured quilters at the Washington State Quilters’ (WSQ) 17th annual quilt show at the Spokane Convention Center, starting tomorrow. They all say it is a singular honor, given the large number of accomplished quilt makers in the Spokane area.

At different times, all three women have taught quilt-related and/ or clothes construction classes. Bakie and Poffenroth have created raffle quilt designs for WSQ and have won many awards for their quilts. Jones is a professional long-arm machine quilter, adding her own creative, freehand flourishes to her mother’s and sister’s quilt tops.

Bakie’s daughters recall their mother started them sewing early in life – at age nine – focusing them primarily on clothes construction. Their collective passion for quilt making came later in life.

‘At Expo ’74, WSQ was distributing quilt patterns and I started collecting them,’ Bakie remembers. ‘But I sidetracked myself with watercolor, taking art classes at night through Mead school district.’ There she says she learned a lot about color, which is now one of her specialties.

‘I was taking an art class,’ Bakie says, ‘when my two lovely daughters took a quilt sampler class and that got me re-involved in quilting.’

Like her mother, Poffenroth says that after marrying she was sewing mainly to make clothes for her children. But she’d find fabrics she wouldn’t use for clothing but wanted to use for something – novelty prints, big florals, pretty, fun, colorful – so she took a quilt-making class.

‘When I first started quilt making,’ Poffenroth says, ‘I thought, ‘Ah, I finally found what I was born to do.”

Bakie agrees. ‘Quilting is like that for us,’ she says. ‘A lot of emotion and love and heart goes into it.’

Jones adds, ‘We grew up with two grandmothers and a mother making things for us – my mother made my wedding dress – so I associate that creative activity with love.’

The trio shares that gracious tradition with their community.

‘We did a quilt for a woman recovering from breast cancer,’ Bakie says. ‘It was a total act of love. She liked Hawaiian things so we did a Friendship Star with Hawaiian-motif fabric: tropical fish, hula dancers, Kauai chickens, a Maui cow.’

Children benefit from their stitches, too.

‘Through WSQ we’ve done quilts for chemo kids at local hospitals too,’ Jones says. ‘Giving them a quilt is like wrapping them in a big hug.’

Quilts are associated with comfort and safety, regardless of how young or old you are.

‘So much of what quilters do is that kind of thing,’ Bakie says. ‘After Hurricane Katrina, Houston was inundated with quilts people sent. They finally had to tell them to stop.’

Bakie believes one reason quilting is so vital is that it creates strong bonds between women.

‘Some women wish they had a sister, daughter or mother involved in what they love as well,’ she says. ‘A quilt group can help provide that kinship. We’re lucky because we have that as a family, which makes the bond even stronger.’

Former WSQ featured quilter, author and teacher Mary Lou Weidman says that Bakie and her daughters are indeed fortunate.

‘I think it’s keen that a mother has influenced her daughters to do wonderful quilts, too,’ she says. ‘They will have some great treasures in the future for their family.’

And, as Jones points out, there are intangible treasures right now, too.

‘I realize that we were given a gift,’ she says. ‘Not just the ability to make a perfect point or a straight seam, but to make people feel the joy they do when given a quilt. I have learned that there is so much more that goes into a quilt than stitches and fabric. It often takes teamwork, passion and love. That magic is what I share with my mother and sister.’

by Rik Nelson