Thursday, September 29, 2016

From Denali to Richmond

I (Teri) love to write, and I rarely have a problem coming up with an idea of what story to tell. This week, my mind was in stitching mode, and the writing ideas just weren't coming to me. But then I remembered that my daughters had recently sent me some cool photos while on their journeys. For good reason, when they see quilts, they think of me.

In July, my daughter took a trip to Denali National Park in Alaska and sent me a photo of this stunning quilt that was hanging in the Murie Science and Learning Center in the park. I was fascinated by it and did some research about it. The center is created with over thirteen thousand 3/4-inch squares, which represent the pixels of a satellite image of the six million acres of Denali National Park. It is surrounded by 22 blocks that represent flora and fauna found in the park. It took four years to complete. For detailed information about the making of the quilt, read "Stitching together the life of Denali."

Quilted Landscape, made by the Denali Quilters

"In 2000, a satellite captured a moment in time. The image it sent back to Earth showed Denali's six-million acres as a patchwork of plant communities sewn together into a quilted landscape. The image took only an instant to create, but it was powerful enough to inspire local quilters to devote 1,100 hours recreating it using fabric and thread. 

Today, this quilt serves as more than just a representation of land cover at a point in the park's past. It also raises questions about the park's future. The plant communities represented on the quilt are shifting as the climate changes. Permafrost is thawing, glaciers are melting, wildfires are increasing in size and severity, treeline is advancing uphill, and shrubs are taking over what was once open tundra.

Given how climate change is affecting the park today, step back and imagine: 

What might a similar quilt look like one hundred years from today?"

What an amazing piece of artwork! To think of the thousands of hours spent creating a scientific map/quilt of this most beautiful place is absolutely inspiring. I'm just sorry that we missed it on our trip in June; I would have loved the opportunity to study this quilt—up close and personal!


More recently, another of my daughters took a trip to Richmond, Virginia, and she spent some time in the Virginia State Capitol. She also took some pictures to share with me, as she knew I would love the story of the quilt that she saw hanging inside. The quilt includes several of the state symbols, including the state tree, bird, and dog. Here is the story of The Governor's Quilt, as printed on the display board below.

"On Dec. 18, [2015,] this 12x8-foot Virginia-themed quilt that Roy Mitchell's students at DJJ's Beaumont Juvenile Correctional Center had worked on for nearly a year was presented as a gift to Gov. Terry and First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe at the Governor's Mansion.

DJJ's quilting program at Beaumont, probably the only quilting class in the country in a juvenile corrections setting, teaches not just the hard skills involved in this difficult craft—planning, design, measuring, geometry, sewing—but also critical life skills such as goal-setting, patience, frustration management, public speaking, and the value of precision. Instructor Mitchell instills the notion that 'You Are Somebody' in all his students when they walk into his classroom. 

Hundreds of quilts made by DJJ residents have been given to local hospitals and homeless encampments, and have been featured in art galleries in Virginia, Michigan, and California. 'This is the best and warmest gift I've ever received as Governor,' Gov. McAuliffe said upon seeing the quilt for the first time."

State tree: Flowering Dogwood
State bird: Northern Cardinal

State dog: American Foxhound
Above is the the coat of arms of Virginia, which is found on a blue field in their flag.
And, of course, a Virginia license plate.

The Governor's Quilt, Richmond, Virginia
To see some more photos of the quilt, click here

I love the story of this quilt! How wonderful that the art of quilting is being used to teach so many valuable skills. And I love that my daughter even took this photo of a dome in the Capitol building, thinking I might like to use it for a design inspiration.

At this point, none of my children have chosen to jump on board my quilting bandwagon and join me in stitching, but I'm happy to say that they support me and are always on the lookout for inspiration for me . . . and of course, stories about quilts! Thanks, girls!!

And how about you? Have you ever come across a quilt that told a story about the place you were visiting? Or a place where you weren't expecting to see a quilt? We'd love to hear about it!


  1. Amazing stories indeed. I have volunteered in many nursing homes over the years working with the elderly on quilt projects, but to date have never taught in a correctional institution. The nearest one to me is a little over an hour away, but this certainly makes me feel like it would be worth the trip. And the Denali quilt is amazing! I live in Maine which is a pretty big state and most of it is forest land, but Denali would take up one sixth of our entire state. Simply amazing! Thanks for sharing.

    1. What a blessing to those in the nursing homes who get to work with you on quilting projects! Quilts and the stories they tell are inspiring is so many ways. Thanks for stopping by, Wendy!

  2. Goodness, am I happy to have found your blog! Such a connection with your postings as I grew up in Virginia & have made 6 trips to Alaska. Definitely will be adding you to my Favorites!! Thank you for sharing. We did come across some well loved quilts when visiting the Colony House in Palmer Alaska - brought by homesteaders who settled in Palmer during the '30's by way of Roosevelts efforts to colonize the farming areas. Also saw a quilt at the Valdez museum that somehow survived the devastating 1964 earthquake. So many stories - so true!

    1. We are glad you found us, too! What fascinating stories about the Alaskan quilts, especially the one that survived the earthquake. That one was quite devastating; it is hard to imagine a quilt surviving such a calamity. Thanks for sharing your stories!