Monday, June 11, 2007

Believe it or not, some men quilt

by Jennifer Priest Mitchell

If you saw Bob Eldred at his “day job,” where he works for Homeland Security at the Portland International Airport, you may not think that he quilts in his spare time. But he does. And he’s proud of it.

“Well, my wife’s been quilting for 30 years, and I’ve been trying to get her to go fishing with me all this time . . . and I figured if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” he said.

Eldred is one of many male quilters who belong to the Northwest Quilters, and who call upon their patience, artistic ability, and, oftentimes, a desire to do something productive while visiting with wives, daughters or friends. He explained, “It is a lot of fun and it is a good way to spend time together. You feel good when you finish something. It was Christmas 2002 when I made my first quilt for my very best friend. People love the quilts.”

His humor and modesty are endearing, as this towering man laughs and shares tales of some of his favorite quilts, and this hobby he loves sharing with his wife. “I don’t make mass quantities or do it every single day,” Eldred said. “I quilt when I want to, when I feel like it. I’ve made a total of 10 or 12 quilts of which I have none. I made one for a lady I work with who had a baby. Most of my quilts I’ve given to charities. We give them to the firefighters at Christmas. Last year Northwest Quilters as an organization gave 600 quilts to charities.”

His first quilt was a stack and flash style, just a bunch of squares of fabric, as he put it. His wife of 40 years told him that was an easy design, and he has since advanced in the types of patterns he attempts.

“We have eight sewing machines,” he said of the home he shares with his wife and revealed, “and well, I have a Kenmore. It is just two steps above a basic model. I am actually trying to learn long arm quilting and I am hoping to get a bigger machine. I enjoy it, but I have to say I am more impatient than the average quilter.”

Eldred has worked the graveyard shift at the airport in Homeland Security for 5 years. He is what they call a “Lead” and he chuckles and said that when people first find out he is a quilter, they give him a weird look. More than 6 feet tall and weighing in at 210 pounds, he realizes he may not look like most quilters, but he says he has grown to enjoy this hobby and he likes that it gives him and his wife a chance to spend more time together.

“My aunts and my grandmother were all quilters,” he reflected, “and I’ve known how to sew since I was a child. My neighbor who lived behind us when we were young used to make old-fashioned, hand-tied quilts and I grew up with one of her quilts. This hobby always brings her to mind because of that.”

Originally from California, Eldred transferred to Portland 30 years ago through work. He loves Oregon and calls it God’s country. He praises the pace of life, the clean air, and he explains, “The people here treat you like people. This is home.”

He and his wife are proud of their six children and eight grandchildren and he laughed and piped up, “We treat our grandkids the way all grandparents should treat their grandkids — we love them, pump them full of sugar and send them home!”

Currently residing in Cedar Mill, Eldred’s next quilting project will include some appliqué and be a special gift for a special friend. His wife, Maureen Orr Eldred, is the president of Northwest Quilters. When asked what it is like for the two of them to sit down and quilt at the same time, Eldred didn’t miss a beat and said, “Well, I swear a lot and my wife giggles a lot!”

For more information about Northwest Quilters, visit the Web site

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