The founding members of The Enchanted Quilters taken in 1984: Marge Gradl, Gladys Alexander, Francis Currier (in back), Bertha Kurutz, Wini Alexander, Edith Schwendeman (and husband Harold), Charlotte Lamoureaux, Bernadette Butler and Ernestine Moffitt. Millie Gillespie and Millie Cowan were among the first members also but are not shown in this photo.
Click on photos to enlarge.
Although there was talk of forming a quilt group as early as 1980 on Lopez Island, it wasn't until 1984 that a formal group of quilters coalesced. This particular group of women participated in the making of a fund raising quilt as early as 1981. The pattern was Shoo Fly. The quilt was to be raffled off at the November 21 Bazaar and the proceeds went to the Lopez Library. A photo of this quilt can beseem in the book "Lopez Island Library: sixty Years of Memories" by Lorrie Harrison (2008).
In a letter dated February 1, 1982 to daughter-in-law Karen Alexander, Wini Alexander wrote:
"We had a meeting of our small quilt group last week. It’s such fun to get together that we have trouble making any group decisions. We think we’ll make a sampler quilt to be raffled for one of the groups on the island. There are three that depend upon volunteers — the medical clinic. The library and the fire department including paramedics."
February 10, 1982 Wini to Karen:
"Our quilting group will meet on Thursday and we are going to start talking about making a sampler quilt for one of the island’s bazaar’s. To start the ball rolling, I have volunteered to bring s sample star block and the templates I use for it so that everyone can learn to make it. Then we will decide to go from there. … Gladys [Alexander] has alredy lined up about 10 women on Shaw Island who are interested in the Creative Tote Bag class so I’ll go over there on two Thursdays later in March.
I met with Gladys’ Shaw Island Quilters earlier this month to teach them how to make the fat, embellished tassels and they were enthusiastic about them."
February 25, 1982 Wini to Karen:
"Today we had our Lopez quilters meeting and decided out next community quilt to be raffled by a community service group will be the Fantasy Flower Garden – the pattern I made for Sarah."
March 9, 1982 Wini wrote:
At the last meeting of the Arts & Crafts Guild, I was elected Secretary. They asked me to run for president but I couldn’t do that---I don’t know enough people on the island yet and I’ve only been to one other meeting! But it’s like a lot of other groups — all the really interested people have already done their bit and gone on and new people are shy or reluctant about coming forth. …
Last Saturday I had a really good day at the NQA* seminar which drew ladies from the islands to Anacortes (the ferry terminal city) for a day-long (9:30-3:00) series of mini-workshops. There were four of these and the ladies could attend each one, rotating so that one-fourth of the group was in one class at a time.… one lady from Anacortes (whose name I didn’t get) told about Crazy quilts…. Annette Boerner (whom you’d like to meet) from Lopez taught Cathedral Window piecing and I taught my quilt-as-you-go method… I showed Marlee’s Star quilt as an example of why I don’t like the traditional quilt-as-you-go method; pictures of quilts I have made by my other method (Love From Sarah, Fantasy Flower Garden and Daniel’s Constellation), step-by-step samples of my current Christmas Fan and finally the completed “Lori Jo’s Menagerie”. That last was the hit of the show. Then I had four inch blocks for them to practice the joining technique.
*[National Quilting Association - http://www.nqaquilts.org]
April 10, 1982 Wini wrote:
Your big envelope of letters, clippings, designs and other inserts was most welcome. It arrived on Thursday right after the Lopez Quilters left the meeting, which was the first time they’ve been here…. I talked to Millie later about them but still want to show her your photos….Millie is hoping to have a workshop here in July with Lassie Wittman who is a Seattle-based Seminole Patchwork teacher and writer.
June 4, 1982 Wini wrote:
I mentioned the local Arts and Crafts Fair — it will be held on Saturday, July 3 and artists and craftspeople from all the islands are invited to show and sell their work. I have been busy making “wearable art” although some of it is carryable or otherwise useable. I have made several quilted and/or patched vests, hanging sewing caddies like I sent you, separate thimble cases and decorative puffball-type tassels. Now I am on the last project – a Lone Star baby quilt / wall hanging.
The Quilting group is also hard at work trying to finish the Flower Garden Quilt so that it can be displayed at the Fair. It is really beginning to look interesting and everyone seems happy with the choice of pattern.
My mother-in-law, Wini Alexander, was one of those instrumental in the founding of The Enchanted Quilters. Her 30 years of correspondence with me is archived in my quilt history files.
That first small group of dedicated quilters successfully raised $2,000 with their first raffle for the Seniors, a series of appliqué blocks done in traditional Celtic patterns. It's unusual for a group effort to tackle applique. The fact that they did attests to their skill and ambition.
And, yes, 26 years later the members of The Enchanted Quilters of Lopez Island are still making raffle quilts to raise funds for Senior Services. In fact, they made two colorful quilts this year, a Log Cabin pattern predominantly in blues and tans and North Wind, a delightful scrap quilt. Either quilt will fit any décor! You will find EQ members selling tickets at the Lopez Village Market during the Tour de Lopez this week as well as at the Farmers’ Market all summer.
Lopez Island has a long history of quilting. It probably began with the first European-American female settlers who arrived on the island 1869-1870. We do know that Amelia Davis, one of the first white women to settle on Lopez, mentioned quilting in her diaries. I continue to search for references to quilting here on the island as I volunteer at the historical society and chat with my fellow "Lopezians", as we call ourselves.
The Late 20th century Quilt Revival
Quilting and needlework in general enjoyed a big boost in popularity here in the USA in the late 1960s as the “back-to-earth movement” grew in popularity and in the ‘70s as the Bi-Centennial approached. Those on Lopez Island who loved plying a needle got another big boost of inspiration with the opening of The Enchanted Needle needlework shop in October of 1976.
This colorful shop opened in a section of the building that now houses the Fudge Factory and the Bay Café. The needlework shop, founded by the mother/daughter-in-law team of Millie and Tammy Cowan, opened at the east end or “village end” of the building with a much smaller Bay Café at the water end or west end of the building. In between the two —for a couple of years—was the Rub-A-Dub Pub.
As the businesses grew and shop owners readjusted their dreams and plans, The Enchanted Quilter moved to the west end of the building overlooking the water about 1978 and stayed in this spot until the shop was sold in 1988 to Dawn Lease. Then once again the quilt shop and the café swapped places and both gradually expanded.
The group chose the name Enchanted Quilters of Lopez & Shaw Island because of their great appreciation for Millie's quilt shop. In time they were simply referred to as the Enchanted Quilters.
In 2004 a search began to find a buyer for The Enchanted Needle as Dawn Lease prepared to retire. When a buyer could not be found, the shop closed in October 2005 thus another chapter in the business history of Lopez Village came to a close.
However, another much smaller quilt-related shop opened in the Village over Vita’s in 2000 — The Quilters Studio/Anne Dawson Quilt Restoration, a business which carries and sells a few new and antique quilts but whose real focus is repairs and restores of quilts as well as the teaching of quito making. Anne added sewing and quilting notions in June 2008. (And a new sign in 2013!)
Stop by and get your winning ticket and help the Seniors of Lopez at the same time! The winning ticket will be drawn at EQ’s first fall meeting September 14th. Let’s hope you buy the winning ticket to one of these beautiful quilts!