Finding fabric part of the fun for Tahoe quilt maker
April 10, 2009
Gretchen Neil, a South Shore quilter, plans to give back to the place that supplies her craft.
Neil plans to donate one of her quilts to The Attic to use in its November fundraising auction because that’s where she finds all of her fabric.
“(The Attic) helps people get a leg up and also makes it affordable for me to do my craft, and I should throw something back their way,” Neil said.
Neil’s quilt work is impressive, and it’s great that she donates to organizations that need help, said Joan Young, Barton Hospital Auxiliary Board member.
Neil taught herself to quilt when she was in her early 20s. When she finished her first quilt, the sides were askew, but that didn’t bother her.
“It’s the creating ” perfection is overrated,” Neil said.
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Neil said she’s made hundreds of quilts since her first endeavor.
“I create constantly. I like finding fabric at thrift stores, or clothing that strikes me,” Neil said.
Finding the fabric is part of the process of making a quilt. Neil said she likes the search because she ends up using fabric she wouldn’t necessarily pick out in a fabric store.
Sometimes she finds unfinished sewing projects that were donated because the person who had been working on it died.
“I call them rescued projects. They need to have a chance to be completed,” Neil said. “I like to see the fabric get reused and go on. It’s like giving it another chance.”
One dress Neil bought from The Attic was the ugliest thing she had ever seen. It had a bright, acid green top, but the paisley skirt material caught her eye. She bought the dress, cut off the top and used the skirt fabric for her quilt titled “Fly Around.”
Neil embroiders all of her quilts with titles, dates and her signature. She used to sign her name on all of her quilts, but after 9/11, she started signing “Each Little Peace.”
And almost all of her materials come from second-hand shops. Neil also finds her own version of quilt batting at The Attic, too. Instead of batting, she uses mattress pads for the layer in between the fabric.
The first quilt she sold was at a church craft bazaar in the ’70s. The colors were orange, brown and avocado green ” a combination that was popular at the time, she added. She made gingerbread men patterns and embroidered around the edges.
Neil sold it for $25 to an Australian woman who was visiting the United States. Her quilts are in many different places, including Holland, California, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, Canada and Idaho.
Neil does have one rule when a quilt leaves her hands: The recipient must use it.
“I make them to be used, so they’re sturdy and can hold up over time. It shouldn’t be hanging on a wall.”
Neil loves the creative process, and feels a bit sad when she finishes a quilt.
“When I put in the last stitch it’s sad. The journey is over. It’s like finishing a good book you didn’t want to end,” Neil said.
The Attic is a great place to volunteer, and is also a social place for friends and families to shop, but it needs the community’s help.
The store needs donations of good quality reusable clothes, furniture, small appliances, books, purses, sporting goods, fabrics and bedding.
All proceeds from The Attic are donated to the hospital for medical equipment.
Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to apply. After applying, they are screened for membership into the Barton Memorial Hospital Auxiliary. Applications for membership are available at the front desk of the hospital and from the cashier at The Attic.
The floor plan of the store recently changed, so more clothes and goods are on display.
The Attic is also a designated Safe Place for children: a haven for youth to stay if they feel in danger or are afraid to go home for fear of abuse.
The Attic accepts donations from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. It’s at 970 Lodi Ave., on the corner of Lake Tahoe Boulevard and Lodi Avenue. Call (530) 541-3378.