New-fashioned Quilts

Tips, techniques, technology gives old hobby new life

Posted: Thursday, June 22, 2006


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  Quilting on dark fabric can by tricky, but as Zada Friedersdorff demonstrates, there are ways around the problem, like sewing through thin paper that has the pattern printed on it, then ripping off the paper. Photo by Jenny Neyman

Zada Friedersdorff, one of the coordinators of Quilting on the Kenai, demonstrates a technique for marking dark fabrics at J&H Sewing and Vacuum in Soldotna on Friday. She will give a demonstration on the same topic today at 12:30 p.m. at the Viewer's Choice Quilt Show at Cook Inlet Academy, part of the 12th annual Quilting on the Kenai.

Photo by Jenny Neyman

This isn’t your grandmother’s quilting bee.

That’s a message Zada Friedersdorff, one of the organizers of this weekend’s Quilting on the Kenai, wants people to know about the annual event that celebrates everything to do with quilting — a pastime that has been associated with bifocals, mothballs and those three dirty words — little old ladies.

Not anymore.

“It used to be people thought of quilters as these women who stayed at home and had no life outside of home and made quilts out of necessity,” Friedersdorff said. “... Now you do it as a creative outlet. It satisfies that sense of being able to create in your own individual way. It’s self-expression and it’s a means of relaxation, a means of socialization.”

Quilts and quilted garments can still be practical, especially in Alaska’s chilly winters, and quilting groups continue to fulfill a social function of interaction and support, but in a more 21st century fashion.

For one thing, technology is leaps and bounds away from the hand stitching and foot-powered treadle machines of the past (although Quilting on the Kenai’s treadle race typically draws an enthusiastic crowd). Today’s high-end quilting machines about require a degree in computer technology to operate.


Quilting on dark fabric can by tricky, but as Zada Friedersdorff demonstrates, there are ways around the problem, like sewing through thin paper that has the pattern printed on it, then ripping off the paper.

Photo by Jenny Neyman

Quilters’ lives, along with their machines, have also become more complex. Friedersdorff said other members of a quilting group she belongs to are career-oriented women who juggle powerful jobs and families, yet make time for a hobby that is both relaxing and artistic.

“It’s just not the picture of quilters people have had in the past. They are one of the most dynamic groups of women,” Friedersdorff said.

Likewise, Quilting on the Kenai has grown more dynamic over the past 11 years. What started as quilt and fashion show that fit easily in Grace Brethren Church’s auditorium now fills up Cook Inlet Academy with the show, Grace Brethren with the fashion show and has spread to numerous locations in the community for the quilt walk —where people view quilts on display in local businesses for chances to win prizes.

“The first time we had it it was seen as a community Soldotna quilt show, and now it’s truly a Kenai Peninsula quilt show, and to my knowledge, the only one like it in the state,” Friedersdorff said.

Attendance and participation have grown along with the events, displays, demonstrations, vendors and classes Quilting on the Kenai offers.

Quilters from all across the peninsula contribute pieces to the quilt show and fashion show, and the event is a staple attraction for quilters in the community and be-yond.

Friedersdorff said people from around Alaska and the Lower 48 have made the quilt show a yearly vacation destination, and other people who visited because of the quilt show liked the community so much they decided to move here.

“Also, we met people, men who would be here fishing with their wives, who would come to see the show,” she said.

Friedersdorff said she’s not surprised the event has become as popular as it is, since it gave quilters a much-needed outlet for their efforts.

“There really was no show (before Quilting on the Kenai),” she said. “People just made their quilts and made their garments and packed them away in their house and no one would see what they were doing.”

Quilting on the Kenai became a chance for quilters to show off their work and be inspired by others’ efforts.

“People who are making things share them at the quilt show, other people come and are inspired and the quality of quilts and garments made in the community also improves so much just through that inspiration,” Friedersdorff said.

“It was like a magnet for drawing these people together in one place. There was nothing that really drew them together. At this point the quilt show has become the nucleus for quilters and sewers.”

Quilters young and old should find plenty to keep them in stitches this weekend.

“They will certainly see a lot of their friends and people from the community there,” Friedersdorff said. “It’s a very fun, relaxed place to come.”

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