Friday, April 24, 2009

Another Piece of EQ History

The Gathering 2008 - Enchanted Quilters of Lopez Island host first inter-island quilt gathering. (More details and photos in a future blog post! Tease, tease.)

(Click on the photo to enlarge. If someone could help me ID all the non-Lopezians in the above photo, I would really appreciate the help.)

For those of you new to blogging, if text within a blog is both highlighted and underlined, it means it is a live link to another site that fills in the story the blogger is telling. The first such example is the Lopez Historical Society link below. Click on it and it will take you to the LIHS website. Do visit it. They have recently redesigned it!

Digging into the History of Quilting on Lopez Island

It is such fun to comb through old files! Not only do I have the EQ guild history albums to glean from; I am also able to explore the files of the Lopez Island Historical Society for information about the history of quilting on Lopez Island.

The community here on Lopez is most fortunate to have such an amazing historical society and museum for a community of only about 2,500 fulllltime residents — as well as blessed to have such a dedicated group of volunteers to oversee its museum!

Here are a few articles I came across that give us a more substantive history of our quilt group as well as that wonderful resource we had here on Lopez for so many years -- The Enchanted Needle needlework shop, which would eventually become known to many simply and affectionately as "the quilt shop".

The first article, announcing the creation of The Enchanted Needle needlework shop, is dated October 26, 1976, and appeared in the Island Record.

(Most images will open into a larger format if you click on them. This will enable you to read the article in full or to see the individuals in the group photos more closely.)

This next article dated Sept 29, 1982 announces the creation of the Lopez Needlearts Guild, the pre-cursor to the Enchanted Quilters group? (I am not certain that the later quilt group has ever formally adopted the word "guild" to describe itself.) I need to consult a couple of the founders who are still with us about this particular aspect of the history.

Another article in the file dated May 23, 1984, from The Island's Sounder announces that Millie and Tammy Cown, mother-in-law/daughter-in-law team, are opening a second Enchanted Needle shop in Friday Harbor.

On March 6, 1985, the San Juan Journal ran the following short blurb with the header Enchanted Needle gains nataional exposure.

Another chapter in quilting history on Lopez began when Millie and Tammy Cowan sold the shop to Dawn Lease in July 1988 and the focus of the shop shifted more and more to quilting, though never entirely giving up the other needle arts. Knitting was probably the 2nd most popular form of needlework that the shop continued to support.

We were all extremely sad to see it close in the fall of 2005 when Dawn was ready to retire and a new buyer could not be found. Thank you, Dawn, for all those years of making classes and quilting fabric available! Thank you Millie and Tammy for creating the shop in the first place! The photo of the quilt shop (above right) was taken in 2005, the year the shop closed.

Here is another early photo of the Enchanted Quilters of Lopez and Shaw. This was taken on the deck of Wini and Loren Alexander's home here on Lopez in 1986 just two years after EQ got its formal start.

L-R: Millie Cowan, co-owner of the Enchanted Needle shop, Wini Alexander (my MIL and the one who inspired me to launch myself into this amazing journey I have been on since I started studying quilt history in 1981), Kathryn Powell, Sue Kline, Rosemary Beagley, Virginia Avery (guest teacher from Port Chester, New York), Francis Currier, Jerry Currier, Doug Cowan. Jinny Avery went on to be inducted into The Quilters Hall of Fame in July 2006.

Imagine my great surprise when I found the group photo (above) among my mother-in-law's files in 2005. Wini probably wrote to me about Jinny's visit to Lopez in 1986 but I had forgotten all about it. That is, until I stumbled across the photo at the same time I started corresponding with Jinny in the late fall of 2005 as we started making plans for her induction into the hall of fame in Indiana. I had never met Jinny in person up to that time.

I feel I owe a great deal of the credit to Wini for all the many opportunities I have had in the quilt world because it was she who introduced me to quilting. And from that first quilt she made in 1976 for our eldest daughter out of Sarah's childhood art work, I had my eyes opened to the extraordinary power of quilts as vehicles of family and women's history.

Karen Alexander presents Jinny Avery with her official medal as the 36th Honoree of The Quilters Hall of Fame.

Keep those needles flying to keep those grandchildren, friends, husbands and victims of war and natural disasters warm! Oh yes, and so that quilt historians will always have new material to study, too!

Karen Alexander
Historian for Enchanted Quilters of Lopez Island

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