Saturday, September 18, 2021

Humboldt Quilters Dress Capitol Christmas Trees

Posted By on Sat, Sep 18, 2021 at 6:10 AM

It's not even officially fall and Humboldt quilters have already finished their holiday decorations. Well, for the nations's Capitol, anyway. Since the Capitol Christmas tree (named Sugar Bear, by the way) and dozens of other smaller trees for congressional offices were selected from the Six Rivers National Forest, the quilted tree skirts are coming from our neck of the literal and proverbial woods, too.

click to enlarge Jeanne O'Neale's panel "Pacific Dogwood." - PHOTO BY YARA HAILEY, COURTESY OF REDWOOD EMPIRE QUILTERS GUILD
  • Photo by Yara Hailey, courtesy of Redwood Empire Quilters Guild
  • Jeanne O'Neale's panel "Pacific Dogwood."
In June, retired U.S. Forest Service worker Linda West reached out to Susie Freese of the Redwood Empire Quilters Guild and asked for a pair of tree skirts. Freese contacted fellow guild member Maggie Stimson and soon they were joining forces with the Moonstone Quilt Guild and Eel River Valley Quilt Guild. All together, some 30 women designed, sewed and assembled a pair of tree skirts — the 12-foot "Essence of Humboldt" and the 15-foot "Smokey, Woodsy and the Quilter's Trail" — that will adorn indoor Christmas trees at the entrances of the U.S. Forest Service office and the USDA office in Washington, D.C., respectively.

click to enlarge Yvonne Jolley and Noreen O'Brien's "Yurok Life on the Mighty Klamath" panel. - PHOTO BY YARA HAILEY, COURTESY OF REDWOOD EMPIRE QUILTERS GUILD
  • Photo by Yara Hailey, courtesy of Redwood Empire Quilters Guild
  • Yvonne Jolley and Noreen O'Brien's "Yurok Life on the Mighty Klamath" panel.

“It was amazing how quickly 30 women stood up to do it. ... These ladies did remarkable work in a short period of time,” says Stimson, who also prepared a 40-page booklet with information about each panel and each quilter. (See a list of panel titles and the names of their respective quilters in the PDF below.)
“They called and asked us mid-June and gave us a Sept. 1 deadline, and we pulled it through and got it done,” says Freese, who worked on assembling the completed panels and adding binding. The completed skirts made their debut at Woodley Island Sunday, Sept. 12, where both quilters and the public viewed the Humboldt-centric scenes depicted on the panels.
click to enlarge A drone shot of the 15-foot "Smokey, Woddsy and the Quilter's Trail" quilt. - COURTESY OF MAGGIE STIMSON
  • Courtesy of Maggie Stimson
  • A drone shot of the 15-foot "Smokey, Woddsy and the Quilter's Trail" quilt.
It was a fast turnaround but Freese says the guild members like herself have hardly been idle during the pandemic, producing plenty of pieces at home. Still, she hasn't hit the bottom of her fabric stash yet. “No quilter would ever make it through their stash. If you don’t have enough to last you a year, there’s something wrong.”
click to enlarge A drone shot of the 12-foot "Essence of Humboldt" quilt. - COURTESY OF MAGGIE STIMSON
  • Courtesy of Maggie Stimson
  • A drone shot of the 12-foot "Essence of Humboldt" quilt.


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Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

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Jennifer Fumiko Cahill is the arts and features editor of the North Coast Journal.

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