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Quilting: A piece at a time

Every fall at the East Grand Forks Arts and Crafts Fair, Bev Solseng would stop at the North Star Quilters Guild to admire the quilts on display. "I drooled over the quilts," she said, promising herself that she'd take up quilting once she retire...

Using a photo for inspiration, a friend of Solseng's stitched the image of "Jack," the family's beloved dog, into a quilt. (Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)
Using a photo for inspiration, a friend of Solseng's stitched the image of "Jack," the family's beloved dog, into a quilt. (Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)
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Every fall at the East Grand Forks Arts and Crafts Fair, Bev Solseng would stop at the North Star Quilters Guild to admire the quilts on display.

"I drooled over the quilts," she said, promising herself that she'd take up quilting once she retired. "I was in my 40s at that time."

Solseng doesn't know why she was so enamored of the centuries-old craft.

"I didn't grow up sewing or knitting. I never had sewing lessons," she said. "I just admired it."

Years ago, when a friend invited her to attend a quilters weekend retreat in Minnesota, she jumped at the chance.

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Her first project was a "double stars" quilt which, in retrospect, was "way beyond what I should have been doing with the skill level I had," she said. "They're complicated."

"If I ever taught a class, I'd take that quilt as an example of all the things that you should not do."

Diverse membership

Solseng, who joined the North Star Quilters Guild in 1998, retired in 2010.

"I have met people from all walks of life, but there are a lot of teachers and nurses," she said. "If you were to take a poll, I would bet they'd make up half. I don't know why they're drawn to it."

She suspects the appeal of quilting has something to do with the social connections that are made.

"The shared interest gives you that jumping-off point," she said.

"If I would have started quilting and sat at home ... I probably wouldn't still be doing it. It's because of the people. I have friends who are closer to me than I've ever had in my life."

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The guild, with roughly 150 members, meets the first Saturday of the month in Our Savior's Lutheran Church in East Grand Forks.

Members can join satellite groups comprised of a dozen or so quilters who meet in each other's homes.

While most live in greater Grand Forks, other members live in outlying communities that are "close enough to get into the meetings," Solseng said.

The guild also sponsors two retreats each year at which members "share meal-making, visit and get to know each other quite a lot more."

Education, generosity

The group is committed to spreading the word about the joys of quilting and helping others increase their quilting knowledge and skills.

Solseng is co-chair, along with Laura Gingerich, of the QuiltED CON 2016, an educational program for quilters that takes place this weekend in the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.

Members of the guild have made it a priority to support children and pregnant women in this area.

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Each year, they donate at least 100 quilts for foster kids, through the Northeast Human Service Center, as well as baby quilts, burp cloths and other useful items for pregnant women who seek help through the Women's Pregnancy Center in Grand Forks.

"I see a lot of that in quilting," Solseng said. "A lot of giving."

Increasing skill

As her interest in quilting grew, so did her skills and repertoire of techniques.

She does piecing and applique work. She turns to quilters who own long-arm machines to finish the project with machine quilting.

"I look at a pattern and know the colors I lean to," she said. "I really love deep colors. I use a lot of fall colors."

Samples of her quilts, which decorate the Solsengs' rural home west of Grand Forks, include lap quilts, table runners and wall hangings. Several reveal her artistry in combining rich fall colors such as deep reds, olive, brown and gold.

She also is drawn to the mottled colors of batik prints.

She made a quilt, using flannel and corduroy, for her husband, Joe. He constructed a 6-by-8-foot design wall, covered with batting, on which she can place and rearrange the quilted blocks as she mulls the overall design of her current project.

Capturing memories

Some of her quilts tell stories-such as the one with a block that reminds the family of "Jack," their first English cocker spaniel who died in 2001. The profile of a running Jack, with a ball in his mouth, is embroidered in black with white markings.

"He was a really, really good dog and an excellent hunter," Solseng said.

Other images include an outline of the state of North Dakota, antlers to represent Joe's passion for hunting, and a shovel and several seedlings to represent the thousands of trees she and Joe have planted since moving from Grand Forks to their country home in 2009.

Solseng has made quilts for family members-she's one of nine kids in her family-to give away.

She's made so many quilts that she's run out of beds to place them on, she said.

"I have them stacked up."

Although her two grown daughters are not as immersed in the craft as she is, Solseng said, "they have said, 'Mom, you can make us as many quilts as you want.'"

And, more than likely, she will.

"It's all just fun."

 

 

Come all quilters

 

Everyone is welcome to attend the QuiltED CON 2016 event hosted by the North Star Quilters Guild Friday through Sunday in the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.

Nationally known quilters Annette Ornelas and Catherine Redford will teach daylong classes and present evening trunks shows.

Six members of the guild will teach three-hour classes on quilting techniques.

Classes are aimed at quilters of every skill level.

A special class to introduce children to quilting, "I Spy Quilt," will be offered Saturday afternoon. There's no lower age limit-the class would be appropriate for children as young as 5, said Beverly Solseng, event co-chair. Children attend free with a registered adult.

Registrants can attend a part, if not all, of the event, she said. "Take a class or attend a lecture."

For more information or to register, go to www.northstarquilters.org .

 

Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at pknudson@gfherald.com or (701) 780-1107.
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