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Museum quilt show displays even the worn

by: COURTESY PHOTO: JOANN BOATWRIGHT - Flo Christiansen hand-crafted Antique Stars  (left) for a neighbor and Poppy Field (right) with a long-arm quilter by Becky Knopt.Evidence of use — a bit of fraying, a stain or two — shows the quilts in the Washington County Museum’s current show, “Timeless Stitches,” have been well used and well loved.

The museum’s quilt collection is not large nor does it offer a comprehensive history of quilting. What it does offer is a glimpse into the lives of Washington County’s pioneers and homesteaders.

The exhibit, which runs through Sept. 6, pairs iconic patterns like log cabin, drunkard’s path and sunbonnet sue with modern-day versions of the same, said the museum's Marcia Hale.

Hale worked with Jean Lasswell and Julie Mason, members of the Westside Quilters Guild, and local historians Judy Goldmann and JoAnn Tannock, to shape the exhibit, choosing quilts bequeathed to the museum over the years and tapping into recent works by guild members.

And, while the museum’s quilts on display date to the 1860s and obviously were bed-sized and meant for keeping pioneer families warm, the modern renditions are more likely art quilts, smaller and meant for display on walls and in galleries.

“I love the grassroots kinds of exhibits,” said Hale.

The “Timeless Stitches” exhibit also includes some nationally touring quilts, a weekly lecture series and special events, including a “bed turning” demonstration and show-and-tell sessions based on baby quilts, mother and grandmother quilts, and favorite and best quilts. Members of the community are welcome to bring their own quilts to share during those events.

The lecture series runs Thursdays through July, with topics ranging from viewing and collecting quilts to how quilting brings history alive. July 24, Oregon quilt historian and author Mary Bywater Cross will discuss to the importance of documenting quilts as visual records of personal experience.

A recent lecture featured a discussion led by Bobbie Rodriguez on Gee’s Bend quilts and a surprise showing of an authentic Gee’s Bend quilt by Bill Volckening, a Cedar Mill collector.

Volckening, in fact, became a museum member so he could take advantage of the educational opportunities that come with the exhibit.

The museum also is offering a special quilter’s membership for the show.

Since the quilts are swapped out every two weeks, there is always something new to see, said Hale.

Jean Lasswell, a founder of the Westside Quilters Guild and its former president, gives impromptu tours of the show, noting how a vintage, temperance-inspired blue-and-white drunkard’s path quilt uses the same pattern as a modern Pantone color-of-the-year art quilt.

Lasswell’s own “barn quilt” is on display in the exhibit as part of a barn quilt project spearheaded by Julie Mason, the Westside Quilters Guild outgoing president.

Mason is working to bring the barn quilt project to Washington County, where historic barns and century farms will display traditional quilt patterns painted in large scale on the sides of buildings. She'll discuss the project July 17 at the museum.

The museum, 120 E. Main St. in the Hillsboro Civic Center Plaza, is open Wednesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information on museum programs or membership, call 503-645-5353 or go to WashingtonCountyMuseum.org.

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