The mother of quilts
Gresham's Karen Jordan sews final stitches in a Technicolor rendition of a Civil War quilt
Karen Jordan is making the mother of all quilts.
For those unfamiliar with the quilting world, that is what quilters have nicknamed a rare quilt handmade by a woman farmer, Jane A. Stickle, during the Civil War.
The quilts geometric pattern, unlike anything from its era, is renowned for its melodic beauty, intricate detail and rebellious, rainbow pastel-colored configuration of 225 blocks bordered by 52 triangles.
While little is known about its maker, Stickles quilt, finished in 1863 and discovered just 21 years ago, hangs in The Bennington Museum in Shaftsbury, Vt.
But Jane Stickles legacy lives on. Dear Jane is the cult following of quilters who tempt the challenge of remaking the quilt, a grueling but rewarding journey.
For those who finish, their quilts become baby Janes.
After 16 months and seven days of thread work, Jordan is revealing her baby Jane to the world. Hers is uniquely her own.
Dear Jane, said Jordan, of Troutdale, may I introduce Joseph and his amazing Technicolor dream coat.
More inclined to use bright colors than Jane was, Jordan said this quilt is her legacy.
From scalpels to a needle and thread
After retiring from 31 years in the sterile, dramatic world of the operating room as a surgical technician, Jordan took refuge in the more relaxing pursuit of making quilts by hand.
Or so she thought.
Trading scrubs and scalpels for intricate patterns and brightly colored fabric, Jordan taught herself to quilt.
What started as a thoughtful gift years ago a quilt for every family member at Christmas soon became an addiction.
Jordan joined a quilt club at Craft Warehouse. There, she met a persistent woman named Rosalie Trembath, who persuaded her to join the quilting group that meets every Tuesday at the Gresham Senior Center.
I thought it was going to be a bunch of old people sitting around, she said. Five years later and still going to the group, shes changed her mind. If I could keep up with these people, itd be a miracle.
Jordan found a book detailing Jane Stickles quilt pattern at Pioneer Quilts in Damascus, the pages of which she now keeps in a big brown binder.
There are really no directions, said Jordan, who moved from Minnesota to Oregon the day before her fifth birthday and traveled with her ex-husband all over the country before settling down and raising three kids, two of whom have died.
Jordan began with the first of 225 blocks in the center of the quilt and stitched outwards.
Each individual block (or triangle) is its own mini-operation, some requiring five or six surgeries.
Stitching each little shape into its geometric design on the block is the most tedious part.
You have to figure out how to put them together, she said.
Inside the blocks are a product of Stickles imagination: bizarre geometric designs of diamonds, squares and hearts. The author of the book has renamed them: Eye of the Cyclone, Battlefield, Janes Tears, Field of Dreams.
The women of the senior centers quilting club are a source of inspiration and guidance for Jordan in her mission to complete the quilt, one block at a time.
Theyre all part of this, Jordan said. When she gets sick of the fabrics shes picked out, her friends shower her with vibrant new designs. I like bright colors, she said.
When shes not sitting on the couch watching sports (she loves Formula I racing, baseball and golf), Jordan sometimes gets lost in thought making her quilt.
She thinks about Jane Stickle making the same quilt, and how she lived with her parents while her husband, Walter, was off fighting in the Civil War.
I really admire her for what she did, Jordan said. Its quite an endeavor.
She said she wanted to make the quilt as much as possible like Jane did, quilting it all by hand.
But her grandmother, who died when Jordan was 1 year old, is her No. 1 inspiration. Like Jane, she lived on a farm and made quilts for her family.
My grandmother made the most beautiful hand-pieced, hand-quilted quilts, Jordan said. She had a sense of color.
Jordan would have been proud to show her this one.
Nearly finished piecing together the quilt, Jordan now must go back and do the actual quilting, accenting the designs with colored stitches and giving it that puffy texture.
Unfortunately, the quilt will not be finished in time for the Sandy Historical Societys 15th annual quilt show at the end of June as she had hoped. Perhaps by August, she said.
Despite a few crooked shapes and minor flaws only she notices, Jordan said, Finished ... is better than perfect. You cant hope for perfect all the time.