Monday, April 16, 2007

A Patchwork Friendship

Two friends gear up for the ninth annual Quilters' Run – the mother of all fabric shopping sprees.

It was about 12 years ago when Don Gardner woke up one day to find he had himself a second wife.

Don was pretty happy because now his second wife could entertain his first wife.

Now, don't go down that road.

We're talking here about good, clean entertainment.

We're talking here about quilting.

See, Rosemary Gardner is a quilter. For years, Rosemary dragged Don to fabric stores across the county.

"Are you done yet?" Don would ask, knowing full well that she wasn't. "Are you done yet?"

Then one day in 1995 Rosemary met Sherry Wilhoyte.

The two women always got their nails done on the same day at the same time at a nail salon in Santa Ana. They both talk fast. And they joke faster. Neither one had children. Both had cats. They got along just fine.

For Christmas that year, Rosemary got Sherry, who had been down about the passing of her husband David, a quilting lesson. On the way to class, Sherry told Rosemary she really didn't think quilting was going to be "my thing."

But Sherry had underestimated the allure of the quilt. After sewing her first quilt block, she vividly remembers thinking "Ooooh, hot dang! I can put something together, and it looks good."

By the time she finished her first quilt, a green and red beauty, Sherry had something to be buried with.

And Don had a second wife.

"We do everything pretty much together now," Sherry says of her and Rosemary. "We even end each other's sentences."

And stir up trouble together.

They were once frozen out of a Mary Kay meeting for being too disruptive. And they drove one woman to drop the Sunday afternoon quilting lesson at Leah's Fabric Gallery in Orange because they horse around too much. Rosemary boasts that she once had a quilt-in-a-day kit that took her three months to finish.

The women in their Sunday class call them Lucy (Rosemary) and Ethel (Sherry). Their favorite stunt: Running into the store in hats that read "Quilt Police," blowing whistles and demanding to see everyone's seams.

Neither are free-form quilters. Rather than using their imaginations, they work with patterns, sewing impeccable blankets, pillow cases, table runners and tree skirts (Rosemary once made 21 in one year).

And they share the same simple goal: To complete all the quilt projects they've started before they die. The quilting world calls these UFOs: Unfinished Objects. Rosemary and Sherry have about 10 UFOs each right now.

But it's their love of fabric that truly binds them.

"We're pretty sure they spray pheromones on the fabric," Sherry says. The friends admit to owning 400-500 bolts of fabric. In fact, the bolts have their own bedrooms.

"Some of the fabric is so pretty I don't like to cut it," Sherry says in her defense.

Rosemary just resorts to bribery. "But I'm going to make this quilt for you, honey," she tells her husband when she walks through the door with more bolts. Of course, she hasn't made Don one yet. But she has made one for his mother. It's an elaborate chicken-themed quilt that her mother-in-law found worthy enough to hang on her living-room wall.

When the women aren't busy working (Rosemary does payroll for a building maintenance company; Sherry is a tech writer for Boeing), they are sewing quilts for friends and co-workers and, oddly enough, Tippi Hedren. The former actress auctions them to support her wild animal refuge, Shambala, where Rosemary sponsors a black leopard.

So enamored with cats is Rosemary that every item she quilts has a patch of cat fabric hidden on it.

"Any fabric with a cat on it, we own," Rosemary says, sweeping her hand across shelves of cat prints at Leah's store the other day.

Or does she?

"Spotted cats!" Rosemary shouts, her eye catching a new print. "I haven't seen thisone. Oh, Sherry! Dalmatian cats."

Rosemary and Sherry are gearing up to embark on the ninth annual Quilters' Run – the mother of all fabric shopping sprees.

This year 34 fabric shops are participating (nine in Orange County). Essentially, quilters drive from store to store, buying up fabric for future quilt projects. Picture a pub crawl, but instead of getting a beer buzz, they're getting a fabric buzz. The Run is on the second and third weekends of July.

A map was printed last week and is now in quilt shops. It details a route that encompasses more than 1,000 miles, all the way down to San Diego, up to Lancaster and clear out to Palm Desert where Rosemary and Sherry once stepped out of their car into the 117-degree heat wearing curlers, bathrobes and slippers (The Run had a pajama party theme that year).

More than 1,000 quilters are expected on this year's Run. They bump into each other as they cruise the route, getting their Quilters' Run passport stamped at every shop they hit. Those who have finished past Runs wear "ididit" pins, which at first glance appear to indicate they're calling themselves idiots. (Sherry and Rosemary love to point that out).

Rosemary will load up her chicken purse with cash and credit cards. Sherry will fill her cat purse with cash and credit cards. They confess to spending (close your eyes, Don) about $1,000 each on the spree. And that explains how quilters in 2006 spent $3.2 billion nationally.

Last year, Sherry and Rosemary rented a Cadillac for the Run. This year they're dreaming of a limo.

Rosemary's husband is putting together their itinerary, complete with directions to easily get them from store to store.

It's the least he can do for his wives.

The ninth annual Quilters' Run is the weekends of July 12-15 and July 19-22. The route can be found at participating quilting shops or socaquiltshops.com

From The Orange County Register


PATTERNS: Sherry Wilhoyte, left, and quilting partner Rosemary Gardner lay out their quilts at Leah's Fabric Gallery in Orange.

1 comment:

Felicity said...

Sounds exciting!