Even more than farm animals, junk food and local history, State Fairs, for me, are all about the handicrafts. After we had seen everything else, including pig races, we finally found the “Creative Living” building.
On the way to the quilts, I met Denise Steele and Carol Dare, who are local authors. Denise has solved an 800 year old mystery surrounding The Magna Carta, and tells about it in The Mystery of the Magna Carta that has computer apps that make it even more interesting. Carol has written four books about women in history, like World War II nurses ( titled When the World Wept) and the Vanport Flood. I plan to keep in touch with them both, to enjoy their books and get advice on my own story.
After some interesting conversation, I was finally headed for my goal. The back wall of the hall was lined with quilts! I have always loved quilts. Historically, quilts were a way of using every scrap of precious fabric, of making a thing of beauty out of leftovers.
But the quilts at the State Fair are not historic quilts, but new creations made by contemporary artisans, men and women who use new fabric, machine piecing and machine quilting to make works of art. Some patterns were very traditional, like the hand appliqued pattern Sunbonnet Sue. Others were charmingly modern, like a flamingo scene or a caricature quilt that looks sort of like Auntie Bridgett’s cartoons. They were bright and fun and made with skill and care.
As far as I could see, the only quilter to use old and recycled material was Bill Crane, a quilter from Portland. He used fabric, found embroidery, and even a tuxedo shirt to make a beautiful, interesting piece of art.
What I missed were hand-quilted quilts. I noticed only two out of the hundred-plus quilts, and these used hand quilting as a bright feature of the quilt, a folksy feature to make it obviously hand-sewn. The goal of “the most stitches per inch” seems to have gone by the wayside with the availability of quilting machines. Beautiful as they are, the precise, overt machine quilting lines lack a subtlety that I value.
We finally felt that we had seen and done everything we could do, and headed back to the car. Grandpa Nelson drove us home and we crashed on the couch, feeling all Oregon’d out.