Downtown Winslow will soon be blossoming into a patchwork of creativity with the return of the annual Bainbridge Quilt Festival.
The outdoor exhibition, organized by the Bainbridge Island Modern Quilt Guild, is set to take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9. The exhibition of quilts will be displayed all along Winslow Way, near Town &Country down to Winslow Green.
Kathy Dwyer is the chairwoman of the nonprofit and said that the group focuses on adding a modern flair to the centuries-old practice of quilting.
“The modern quilt guild does quilts that are not necessarily based on traditional styles, patterns and techniques,” Dwyer explained.
The 2017 festival spans a bit of local geography, as well.
“This year we have quilts from all over the Olympic Peninsula,” she said.
Phil Winer is a retired pharmacist and first-time contributor to the festival, but his unique quilt is constructed from fabrics that have a history spanning more than 80 years.
Over the last 20 years, Winer has assembled a collection of antiques and among those he has accumulated a number of old feed bags from the 1930s.
“The collection eventually just got bigger and bigger and heavier and heavier,” Winer said. “Now that I’m retired, after 40 or 50 years of collecting things, or having spare parts, what do you do with them?”
Winer said that with retirement came time for new hobbies, and he decided that making a quilt would be a useful means of displaying his feed bags. With this in mind, he set out to learn the ropes (or the threads) of making a quilt.
“Because I have the time and I have so much local expertise to give me an idea of how to even do this – I had never even done one before – so I thought it’d be kind of a learning experience,” he said.
Winer says he has always had an affinity for quilts because of the amount of work involved in the process. He quickly developed an even deeper appreciation for the work of a quilter, however.
“I’d never used a sewing machine, so I had to have a primer on how to do that,” Winer said. “I stuck my fingers with more pins and needles than I’d like to do again.”
Indeed, taking on another quilt project may make Winer split at the seams.
“This took me months to do, I don’t know if I’d jump in and do another one right away,” Winer admitted.
The project would have taken even longer had Winer not been aided by the deft hand of White Lotus Quilting’s Marybeth O’Halloran. O’Halloran was responsible for layering and quilting the piece after Winer had designed and sewn the bags.
“I always appreciated quilts,” Winer said. “There’s an incredible amount of work and effort and artistic design that goes into them.”
During next weekend’s festival, about 150 quilts — including Winer’s — will be hung along Winslow’s main thoroughfare and those who stop to take in the sights are encouraged to participate in the festivities, as well.
This year, there’s a viewer’s choice element to the quilt festival, as attendees are encouraged to vote on their favorite quilts. The top two vote-getters will win a basket of quilting-related swag from the festival’s sponsors, including Bainbridge’s own Esther’s Fabrics and the Port Gamble Quilt Shop.
Festival-goers will also have the opportunity to win something for themselves, too.
For $2 each, visitors can purchase raffle tickets to win their very own quilt, pieced together by members of the guild and quilted by Gladys Schulz. The raffle quilt, titled “Dance Steps,” is a 56-inch-by-64-inch work of art which incorporates traditional bear-paw style blocks in a non-traditional pattern which resembles a sort of dance (hence the name).
“What we try to do with the raffle quilt is make something that is traditional enough, that people go, ‘Oh yeah, that’s a quilt,’ but not lined up and organized the same way you might think,” Dwyer said.
The quilt festival will also feature a sew-in event starting at 10 a.m. Sept. 9 at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, in the classrooms on the second floor. Participants of all ages are encouraged to take a crack at sewing their own quilt block, and budding quilters will also be helping injured servicemen and women thanks to American Hero Quilts.
American Hero Quilts is a group based out of the Madigan Army Medical Center which provides quilts for wounded veterans.
“We set up about a dozen vintage machines and anyone who wants to just wanders in and makes a block for American Hero Quilts,” Dwyer said. “Everyone who comes into the hospital gets a quilt and they, of course, are red, white and blue.”
The event, Dwyer said, will likely be rife with nostalgia both for the participants and those admiring their work.
“The best part is how people just warm up to these things, they’ll come to the information booth with stories,” Dwyer said. “It’s always, ‘Oh, my grandma quilted,’ or ‘I have quilts my mom made.’ It just seems to be a nice little celebration.”