Attendance at the Walla Walla Valley Quilt Festival is steadily growing since its inception in 1999, according to organizer and WWVQF Committee member Nancy Kessler.

The first year, 70 people came. Fast forward to the festival in 2018 and 1,200 people stopped by.

The 20th annual festival will be Sept. 13-15 at its home since 2008, the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds, 363 Orchard St.

Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 13-14 and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sept. 15. The $6 admission is good all weekend.

There will be hourly demonstrations, a vendor mall and a silent auction.

Quilt entry registration forms must be accepted until midnight Sept. 1. 

Online registration is at wallawallaquiltfestival.org or mail to WWVQF, P.O. Box 1471, Walla Walla WA 99362.

Quilts must be delivered to the Fairgrounds Green House exhibition hall between 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sept. 7 and 8.

For additional information, see the website or call 541-938-6130.

The Walla Walla Valley Quilt Festival Committee of quilters and nonquilters established the event to promote public awareness and appreciation for the art and tradition of quilting and the recognition of its heritage, provide educational quilting opportunities to everyone, celebrate the social function of quilting and encourage people to visit the Valley. 

In 1998, two local businesswomen sought to help increase visitors to the area. They conceived a quilt show that could potentially draw people from across the region. 

Quilter Louise Winchel brought that expertise to the endeavor and Carolyn Tuttle appreciates the art/craft and knows how to organize.

Jan Eaton, an accomplished quilter, teacher and supporter of the effort, eventually joined the team and established a committee to make the idea a reality.  

Eaton, Cathy Wiese and a few volunteers brought the Keepsake Challenge Collection of winning wall quilts to the Kirkman House Museum for the first exhibit in 1999.

“It was a very humble beginning for the festival,” Kessler said. 

It has evolved into a much larger quilt show growing in size because of support from the community and quilters all over.  

“Today our committee is still small, only 10 members, but we love what we do, and live for the three days of stitched splendor in September when we actually get to meet you all face-to-face.”

The current committee is: Judy Benzel, Eaton, Kay Fortner, Kessler, Becky Martin, Pam Murray, Wiese, Becci Lund, Terri Hellberg and Cathy Spanish.

Skilled quilters will be at the show, too: 

Shannon Gillman Orr, national featured quilter from Northern California, is an artist, illustrator, sewing pattern and fabric designer. she describes herself as a reformed architect with a love of vintage kitsch and modern fresh color. She is the author of “Choose Joy: Quilting with Intention,” a 30-block sampler quilt pattern and journal; “Plan to Quilt Vol 1 & Vol 2,” an interactive work book and planning system, with no calendar. “I love to share my story, share quilts at trunk shows and teach workshops around the country.”

Pat Lucarelli, local featured quilter, has always loved sewing, learning to sew with her maternal grandmother on her simple non-fancy Singer sewing machine that did nothing but straight stitch and reverse. She sewed clothes for herself and daughter, learned to embroider, crochet and knit. Daughter Susie introduced her to quilting “and together we continued our love of this wonderful hobby.” Retiring after 32 years at Americold Logistics, she invested in her first sewing/embroidery machine and loved it. She and Susie sew together at any given opportunity and learn many techniques and tips from each other.   Next door neighbors, they have combined many of fabrics and patterns, making for more choices between them. They love making bags, coin purses, wallets, lunch bags, small and large quilts and other items. They joined the local Quilt Guild and have met many quilters who have provided more inspiration.

Quilter Susie Golden first quilted a king-size “trip around the world” patter quilt in 1989, but didn’t know about the strip piecing technique. “I realized I needed to take quilting classes to learn from the experts,” she said. She’s made more than 50 quilts since, many as gifts or donations to local charities. Her mother learned in the early days and since they’ve taken classes and shopped quilt stores together.  

She also learned to sew clothing and crochet from her mother. “I have always enjoyed having a project to work on, especially portable projects for traveling in the car, watching TV or during lunch breaks.”

She enjoys hand embroidery and piecing blocks together into quilts, table toppers, pillows and wall hangings as well as making tea towels as gifts for others.

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