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Laying the fabric for a FABULOUS festival

Organizers share what's on tap at this year's NW Quilting Expo


by: JAIME VALDEZ - Shellie O'Donnell, Laura Dickson and Geri Grasvik, who 'all share a passion for anything related to sewing, quilting and other creative arts,' came up with the idea for the first NW Quilting Expo in 2001.Ready for a supreme sewing event that will leave you in stitches?

Organizers Laura Dickson, Geri Grasvik and Shellie O’Donnell began the NW Quilting Expo in 2000 because the Northwest has the highest per capita of quilters in the world, they said. The women met through the common interest — Dickson owns A Common Thread (which used to be located in Lake Grove but is now near Tigard); Grasvik owns The Pine Needle in Lake Oswego; and O’Donnell formerly owned Yardsale Quilts in Tualatin.

“The event has grown from 1,500 square feet to more than 70,000 square feet. We started with 12 local vendors and now have more than 80 from all around the country. We’ve added five days of classes over the years as well,” Grasvik said.

O’Donnell added that this show in Portland brings instructors and vendors from all over the U.S. And quilts from all over the world.

“It’s a great opportunity for people in the Northwest to experience an international show here in their backyard,” O’Donnell said.

And, according to Grasvik, it is much more than a quilt show.

“It is an art show of fabric. You see things that you will not believe have been made from fabrics,” she said.

Need to buy fabric? Want to try out sewing machines? Need a gift? Gain inspiration for your work through creative handwork classes at the expo Sept. 20, 21 and 22. O’Donnell said that guest instructors will be available to chat throughout the event and 150 juried quilts will be displayed.

n Enjoy special exhibits such as The Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative — a traveling quilt exhibit focusing on Alzheimer’s disease.

“Alzheimer’s Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope” features 236 quilts. The long, narrow quilts are made from 55 purple patches, each marked with the name of a person who has or had Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The “name quilts” create a wall of more than 10,000 names of people with the disease. Additional quilts tell the story of Alzheimer’s from a variety of perspectives.

n The Twelve by Twelve: The International Art Quilt Challenge is a group of 12 quilt artists from around the world each crafting 12-inch by 12-inch art quilts created for two separate challenges — a color play challenge and a theme challenge. “While the small works are not patches, but small, individual quilts, the 12-inch by 12-inch creations are hung side-by-side for display purposes only. They remain individual pieces. Since its members are not near one another, the group uses the Internet to track its workflow. And in its five years, they also crafted the website twelveby12.org and released the book “Twelve by Twelve: The International Art Quilt Challenge” — published by Lark, a division of Sterling Publishing. It’s also available at Powell’s in Portland and online through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The book features photos and discussions about quilts from the challenges’ theme series. Each of the artists contributed a chapter to share experiences, creations and give suggestions for making art quilts. But you can view the work up-close at the expo.

n The Cover to Cover Book Club Quilters from Portland will share their work inspired by literature. For the past 12 years, members have read the same book and then created a quilt using the book as inspiration — it’s a six- month process. According to the group’s website, the club began as an effort to make more interesting quilts and be motivated to get them finished.

n The Hoffman Challenge — a premiere traveling quilt, clothing and doll collection will be on display. There are three quilt categories — pieced, appliqué and mixed technique — and attendees will also see wearable art, accessories and dolls crafted from people from around the world. Each year, according to its website, top entries are grouped into traveling collections to be displayed at shows such as the expo.

O’Donnell said that several long-arm quilting machine vendors will also be on-hand at the show to allow attendees to try the art of long arm quilting.

“They are knowledgeable and very helpful. If you are thinking of purchasing a machine, this is a great way to try several machines before you buy,” she said. “If you want something smaller, there are several mid-arm machines and sewing machines available to look at also.”

Thousands of quilters from around the world attend the expo each year — and each year incorporates new showcases. “

It is a great opportunity to meet fellow quilters,” O’Donnell said, “and perhaps talk about new ideas and inspirations.”