Quilt­ing in the Cana­dian Rock­ies

Have you thought about a re­treat to the moun­tains? Maybe it’s time.

Quilters World - Autumn Colors - - Contents - By Kim Han­son

Snow­capped moun­tain peaks en­cir­cle the bustling town of Can­more, an hour’s drive west of Cal­gary, Al­berta, Canada. The ma­jes­tic beauty of the Rock­ies takes cen­ter stage, in­spir­ing artists, quil­ters and those who cre­ate to reach for a higher stan­dard in their crafts. There is an at­mos­phere in town that is pal­pa­ble—an in­de­scrib­able buzz of en­ergy, ex­cite­ment and cre­ativ­ity.

Leah & Dean Mur­phy

At the hub of all this cre­ativ­ity is The Sugar Pine Com­pany, an en­dur­ing quilt shop that serves the res­i­dents of the greater Bow Val­ley. Shop own­ers Leah and Dean Mur­phy both ex­ude a con­fi­dent air, which comes from many years of run­ning a thriv­ing, suc­cess­ful quilt­ing, sew­ing and knit­ting busi­ness. So many of Al­berta’s lo­cal quilt shops have come and gone, but The Sugar Pine Com­pany re­mains.

Real es­tate pro­fes­sion­als never un­der­es­ti­mate the im­por­tance of “lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion.” The same may be said for the lo­cal quilt shop. Part of The Sugar Pine Com­pany’s tremen­dous suc­cess can be at­trib­uted to its spec­tac­u­lar lo­ca­tion. Can­more is a short 15-minute drive away from one of the most pop­u­lar tourist des­ti­na­tions in the world, the Banff Na­tional Park, Canada’s old­est na­tional park.

Leah and Dean’s shop serves as a land­ing place for trav­el­ing quil­ters from other parts of Canada, the United States and South Amer­ica. Dean says, “We even have yearly re­turn visi­tors from the U.K. and across Europe.” Amer­i­can quil­ters, in par­tic­u­lar, of­ten find their way to Can­more on sum­mer va­ca­tion and other ma­jor hol­i­days like Pres­i­dents Day and Thanks­giv­ing.

Scenery aside, Leah’s charm­ing fabric vignettes keep visi­tors re­turn­ing year after year. She is tremen­dously tal­ented and has a flair for color, de­sign and dis­play. As one of Leah’s em­ploy­ees gushed, “We all stand back and ad­mire what Leah can do with fab­rics— she is a nat­u­ral.”

Claire Bank was Leah’s mother. An ac­com­plished and skilled seam­stress, Claire led her hard­work­ing and en­thu­si­as­tic daugh­ter down the path of learn­ing first how to sew, then to quilt and then how to be­come an en­tre­pre­neur.

In this time of on­line pur­chas­ing, The Sugar Pine Com­pany of­fers its cus­tomers a va­ri­ety of items from their web­site, but Leah’s fo­cus is cen­tered on main­tain­ing the brick–and-mor­tar pres­ence. She is adamant that “re­tail is sec­ondary to re­la­tion­ships.” Leah and Dean are both kind, hum­ble souls who wish not only to meet the needs of their quil­ters, but also to get to know them on a per­sonal level.

Jil­lian Roulet

The quilt­ing com­mu­nity in the Cana­dian Rock­ies is strongly con­nected through its love of na­ture. Hik­ing the moun­tain paths high above the town, liv­ing with wildlife as your con­stant com­pan­ions, and adapt­ing to the chang­ing

of Mother Na­ture pro­vides a fer­tile breed­ing ground for the cre­ative soul.

Jil­lian Roulet, in­com­ing pres­i­dent of the Moun­tain Cabin Quil­ters Guild (MCQG), is an artist and a for­mer Parks Canada em­ployee who also hap­pens to quilt. Each ab­stract piece she cre­ates is unique and, as Jil­lian puts it, “is in­spired by color and by na­ture.” She em­braces her nat­u­ral sur­round­ings; her senses over­flow with in­spi­ra­tion from the small­est of things—wild­flow­ers, birds and lichen. Green Orb is a quilt by Jil­lian that uses a tech­nique called soy wax re­sist. “I like in­tense, con­trast­ing col­ors, and I like a cir­cle shape,” she says. Jil­lian gives promi­nence to the cir­cles and lines on her piece with em­broi­dery thread.

Al­lu­vial Slice is an­other one of Jil­lian’s art quilts, made to mimic the ero­sion of river banks in the back­coun­try after the dev­as­tat­ing 2013 flood, which was felt provin­cially along the banks of the Bow River. Jil­lian ex­plains, “The abil­ity of the tree roots to find a path through all that rock fas­ci­nated and im­pressed me.”

Diana Petrik

As one may guess, Can­more is home to a vi­brant, thriv­ing and dy­namic art quilt com­mu­nity. An­nu­ally, the MCQG presents an ex­hibit of orig­i­nal art quilts. This year’s theme, Canada—my Home, was in honor of Canada’s sesqui­cen­ten­nial, that is, the 150th an­niver­sary of its con­fed­er­a­tion.

Diana Petrik’s stun­ning en­try Spi­ral Galaxy is a de­pic­tion of her in­ter­pre­ta­tion of na­ture’s great art. In­spired by Hub­ble tele­scope pho­to­graphs, Diana used a tech­nique pop­u­lar­ized by Ja­panese artist Noriko Endo. Diana ex­plains, “Small pieces of fabric (like con­fetti) are stuck on the back­ground of bat­ting and held in place by black tulle and free-mo­tion quilt­ing.” Although the re­sult of her work is breath­tak­ing, Diana says, “the tech­nique is re­ally rather sim­ple.”

Touch Quilts

Char­ity in the Bow Val­ley is alive and well. An un­con­ven­tional en­try in the 2017 ex­hibit was a sam­ple “touch quilt” crafted by Jorie Adams, a lit­tle fabric cre­ation that can change the lives of pa­tients liv­ing with de­men­tia. Touch quilts are stim­u­la­tion tools—a way to keep rest­less hands busy twist­ing, turn­ing and pulling the fab­rics, but­tons and bows. Dr. Sharon Moore, a Can­more res­i­dent, has been re­search­ing the ef­fect that touch quilts have on Alzheimer pa­tients and her work is con­tin­u­ing. Guild mem­bers have lov­ingly cre­ated and do­nated many touch quilts to long-term care fa­cil­i­ties

in the re­gion, mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in the lives of the el­derly.

It’s ap­par­ent that no mat­ter where one re­sides—canada, the United States or else­where—we all find cre­ativ­ity and in­spi­ra­tion in peo­ple we know, from the places we live and visit, and from things from our en­vi­ron­ment. From the stun­ning beauty, majesty and won­der of our nat­u­ral sur­round­ings to the kind­ness, con­cern and hu­mil­ity we ex­pe­ri­ence in hu­man na­ture, our uni­ver­sal goal is to cap­ture that flicker of amaze­ment and to re-cre­ate it in our work, our quilts. Au­thor’s note: The above photo is of one of my quilts, Ca­rina, pho­tographed in Kananaskis coun­try. Ca­rina was fea­tured on the cover of An­nie’s More Quick & Easy Quilts for Kids, pub­lished ear­lier this year. —Kim Han­son

Leah and Dean Mur­phy stand on the up­per, out­side deck of their quilt shop, The Sugar Pine Com­pany, lo­cated in Can­more, Al­berta, Canada.

Leah Mur­phy’s whim­si­cal fabric de­signs in The Sugar Pine Com­pany quilt shop are charm­ing.

In­spir­ing, year-round Christ­mas fabric and pat­tern dis­plays are found in The Sugar Pine Com­pany quilt shop.

Green Orb by Jil­lian Roulet.

A young deer helps it­self to break­fast on a res­i­dent’s lawn in Can­more, Al­berta, Canada.

Bow Val­ley quil­ter Jen­nifer May’s quilt named Sec­ond Chances is pho­tographed along the Bow River in the town of Can­more, Al­berta, Canada. This quilt be­gan as a “one-block won­der” but mor­phed into some­thing beau­ti­ful and dif­fer­ent.

Al­lu­vial Slice by Jil­lian Roulet.

Moun­tain Sights is a quilt made for dis­play at The Sugar Pine Com­pany by Diane Mcgre­gor of Castilleja Cot­ton.

Spi­ral Galaxy by Diana Petrik.

Ca­rina by Kim Han­son.

Touch Quilt by Jorie Adams.

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