At the end of the road comes a quiltBack in Illinois, I belong to a quilters’ group that meets monthly. We have a speaker each month, and also, usually, another event. Last April was UFO month. No Martians appeared, but most of us did bring an UnFinished Objet d’art. I brought a quilt made of blocks that were appliqued. (For the non-quilting readers of the paper, that means, “a decoration made by cutting pieces of one material and applying them to the surface of another.”) The important part of all this is that the quilt was finished.
By: Jan Kent, Lake County News Chronicle
Back in Illinois, I belong to a quilters’ group that meets monthly. We have a speaker each month, and also, usually, another event. Last April was UFO month. No Martians appeared, but most of us did bring an UnFinished Objet d’art. I brought a quilt made of blocks that were appliqued. (For the non-quilting readers of the paper, that means, “a decoration made by cutting pieces of one material and applying them to the surface of another.”) The important part of all this is that the quilt was finished.
I began thinking about this quilt, and collecting fabric for it, back in 2002. That was the year that two friends and I did the great Route 12 trek. You are probably familiar with Route 12. It comes into Minnesota from Wisconsin as part of Interstate 94. Past the Twin Cities, it regains its independence and rambles through Litchfield, Willmar and Ortonville, where it moves on into South Dakota. Unlike Route 66 of song and story, it is still a continuous route. The three of us had been talking about this possible adventure for a long time, and that year we were able to make it happen.
Route 12 starts in Detroit and ends in Aberdeen, Washington. We all lived close to the road in Illinois, but it just didn’t seem right to begin anywhere but at the beginning. So we packed up the car, drove to a family cottage in Michigan, drove to Detroit and then back to the cottage. The next morning we started out again. Our brief time in Detroit was interesting, if not scenic. Route 12 begins at Cadillac Square, which is no longer a classy spot despite its name. It was a little hard to find and people we talked to in the area seemed unaware of it. Finally we came upon it and the first Route 12 West sign. As we took photos — the sign, the sign and two of us, the sign and two of the others, etc., a pair of down-at-the-heels men appeared and offered to pose for photos for a little cash. We declined and hopped into the car.
And on we went — Aberdeen, S.D. (the namesake of our destination in Washington), Lemmon, S.D. (home of author and poet Kathleen Norris) and over another state line into North Dakota. Very quickly we were in Montana, where we lunched in Ingoman — population 10. And then, mountains, the continental divide, more mountains. Our midwestern eyes had trouble taking it all in. We’d all flown over this country a number of times, but driving through it was a very different thing. Another pass through the mountains and we were in Idaho. At the Snake River in Lewiston we crossed into Washington and carried on to Aberdeen. There we saw the sign “12 End,” which we photographed many times. There were no male models eager to share the moment.
But, wait — I was writing about my quilt.
Before we left I cut out squares of a charcoal gray fabric, selected red and purple fabric (hey — this is not going to be your grandmother’s quilt) and brought swatches of everything along on the road trip. We stopped (by popular vote) at all fabric and bookstores that we encountered. At the bookstores I often bought local history books. At the fabric stores I bought print fabric that looked good with the purple and red I had brought along. I kept notes (sort of) as to what fabric was bought where. Fat quarters (roughly 18 inches by 22 inches) came from Ypsilanti, Mich.; Aberdeen, S.D.; Missoula, Mont.; Orofina, Idaho; Aberdeen, Wash., and many other western fabric shops.
Year-by-year I appliqued a square or two until I had 45 of them finished. Then there was a long pause when nothing for the quilt was accomplished. Finally, after I imagined this quilt for 10 or 11 years, and inspired by the idea of bringing it to the guild UFO meeting, I put the squares together, layered a quilt back, a layer of batting and the quilt top and finished off the project.
By this time, just about everyone I know in Illinois has heard the long story of the quilt. Now I’m here to inflict it on my Minnesota friends.