When Laurie Forte’s son Joseph started all-day kindergarten, she found herself with a hole in her days that she needed to fill. That was 33 years ago, and she’s been quilting ever since.
Forte is this year’s Featured Quilter for the Johnstown Historical Society’s annual Stitches in Time Quilt & Craft Fair on Saturday, September 10, at the Johnstown Community YMCA from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. A large selection of her quilts will fill a section of the gym for guests to ooh and awe over and serve as an inspiration to others who may want to start quilting.
Forte’s path into quilting began when a friend who had attended a quilting class told her about an upcoming “Quilt-in-a-Day” class and encouraged Forte to join her.
“I was so interested in learning to quilt,” Forte said. “My grandma quilted. She mostly tied her quilts, but they were still always really special to me and my kids.” Forte attended that first class with her friend and finished the log cabin blocks for a quilt top that day in time to pick up Joseph from school. Since then, she’s created more than 200 quilts.
Forte’s favorites are her collage quilts. These are more artistic and unique compared with traditional quilt patterns dating back to the early American colonies.
“Collage quilting set me free,” Forte said. “You get to create as you go.” Although there are collage quilt patterns available, the art form is usually unique to the quilter. Forte often uses flower-printed fabric, cuts the flowers out, and it can get pretty detailed as she plays with the cut-outs and layers them to create her designs.
Like many quilters, Forte enjoys creating the quilt tops and leaves the actual quilting – the process of sewing the quilt back to the front with a layer of batting in between – to others. Although she has quilted a few of her own, she added, “If I had to quilt quilts, I wouldn’t continue quilting. There are piecers and there are quilters. I’m just a piecer.”
But continue she has, along with other Johnstown and Milliken women who eventually developed into a much larger group.
Forte is one of the original founders of the Persian Pickle Piecers (PPP). The group now has around 35 or so active members who originally began to gather regularly before the turn of the last century to work on their quilts, socialize, and mentor each other in the art of quilting.
It would be many years before the group decided on its official name, which was adopted from a novel entitled The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas and first published in 1995. The story centers around a group of local women in a Kansas farming community who were dedicated to improving their minds, exchanging gossip, and putting their quilting skills to good use. A Persian pickle is the common textile design called a “paisley” or “paisley print.”
The book resonated with the quilters, and after about 12 years of sewing together, they faced two requirements in order to be part of the Thompson Rivers Parks and Recreation District and the Presbyterian Church Camp: 1) An official name for their group, and 2) To do charity work.
There’s so much more to being a part of the PPP than the actual piecing and quilting. “I’ve made so many wonderful friends,” Forte said. “We’ve gone on trips together” – one to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, about which Forte said, “I never would have dreamt that I’d be able to learn about the Amish and see their quilts, and learn their culture, and go to different quilt museums on a trip and experience their way of life.”
The trips and weekend sewing retreats strengthen the PPP’s friendships. The members share a common passion for helping others. They recently donated more than 30 quilts and blankets to Colorado wildfire victims and Children’s Hospital, and they’ve made pillowcases for battered women’s shelters.
“Every Christmas we pick a charity,” Forte said. They’ve donated purses and filled them with everything a woman would carry. Some of them arrive at shelters with nothing, having had to leave without being able to take anything with them, including their purse. The PPP load the purses with wallets, Chapstick, Kleenex, and other essentials.
“One year we bought baby dolls and stuffed animals for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients at nursing homes because they too want to love and care for something,” Forte said.
This year the PPP donated gifts to foster care teens who, Forte said, she learned are turned out on their own when they turn 18 years old and are expected to live independently. The PPP collected items to help set up housekeeping for them through the Rotary Club in Larimer County – sheets, blankets, towels, dishes, silverware, and other household items.
Come and see Forte’s quilts and others next Saturday. You can also shop for fun or for gifts offered by local crafters. There will be baked goodies, a large variety of silent auction items, and the usual Fabric Grab. Admission is still only $5, or $3 for current paid JHS members. Children 12 and under are free but must accompany an adult.
For more information, call the Parish House at 970-587-0278, email Bev at best email@example.com, or follow the Society on Facebook: JohnstownHistoricalSociety.Colorado.