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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.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Jordan used non-traditional patterns created by 46-year-old farmer Jane A. Stickle during the Civil War.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 quilt’s 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, Stickle’s quilt, finished in 1863 and discovered just 21 years ago, hangs in The Bennington Museum in Shaftsbury, Vt.

But Jane Stickle’s 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.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - A retired surgical technician, Karen Jordan stitched more than 200 square blocks by hand, each with its own colorful geometric design.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, she’s changed her mind. “If I could keep up with these people, it’d be a miracle.”

Operation Quilt

Jordan found a book detailing Jane Stickle’s 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 Stickle’s imagination: bizarre geometric designs of diamonds, squares and hearts. The author of the book has renamed them: Eye of the Cyclone, Battlefield, Jane’s Tears, Field of Dreams.

The women of the senior center’s quilting club are a source of inspiration and guidance for Jordan in her mission to complete the quilt, one block at a time.

“They’re all part of this,” Jordan said. When she gets sick of the fabrics she’s picked out, her friends shower her with vibrant new designs. “I like bright colors,” she said.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Karen Jordan presents her multicolored Dear Jane quilt inside the Gresham Senior Center.Colorful memories

When she’s 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. “It’s 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 Society’s 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 can’t hope for perfect all the time.”




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