KAILUA-KONA — With 150 people packed into a hotel ballroom, sewing machines and fabric in tow, Karen Barry could feel the quilting enthusiasm.
“I love the creative energy here. Quilting is just another art form,” Barry said. “A lot of people just think quilts are just for beds, but there’s so many other things that you can do, that you can make.”
Barry and her husband, Robert, owners of the quilt store Quilt Passions in Kailua-Kona, have sponsored Quilting on the Beach for 10 years now at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. The couple have watched Quilting on the Beach grow from a small, local retreat, to what it is now, with quilters participating this year from all over the United States and Canada, as well as a few quilters from Germany and Japan.
“It certainly wasn’t this big 10 years ago, but it kind of just grew bigger and bigger every year,” Barry said.
Quilting on the Beach offers six days, in both the months of February and July, of sewing classes, bus tours, lectures and dinners for avid quilting fans. Four different classes are offered each day, and some of the more popular classes this month will return the week of July 14-21.
Barry said there are still classes open for today and Saturday, the final days of the retreat. The class fee is $75, and each class has a kit fee that varies based on the value of the kit.
“You can see by the demographics, that it’s a certain age group, and that’s part of the reason we structured it a la carte, so they can pick and choose,” Robert Barry said. “So they don’t kill themselves. We try to encourage them not to take six full days of classes.”
Classes on Thursday focused on creating quilts using the techniques: Hawaiian appliqué, with instructor Roberta Muller, flying geese with Mary Moody-Cox, cut and piece landscapes with Phyllis Cullen, and crossed canoes with Peggy Gelbrich.
With a variety of classes offered, there’s something for everyone.
“It’s not always quilting classes,” Karen Barry said. “We try to mix it up and do a variety of creative sewing classes. We had a class the other day for making umbrellas.”
Trips for the February quilters this time around included a trip to the quilt show that runs alongside the Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival. During even-numbered years, the February group sees the Quilt and Fiber Arts Show sponsored by Society for Kona’s Education and Art (SKEA).
The finale of Quilting on the Beach in July will be the Tropical Inspirations Quilt Show at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel.
Barry created Quilting on the Beach with the vision to give local and snowbird quilters the opportunity to meet and create new quilts together.
“It makes people happy to make things,” Barry said. “In my experience as a teacher, with kids, you throw scissors, construction paper, and crayons at them, and they’ll just make stuff. And the happy people are the people, when they grow up, (who) are still making things.”
A quilt’s worth
While the quilters are busy creating new pieces, Becky Rogers is at Quilting on the Beach to assess the already-made quilts, both old and new.
“Every quilt has value,” Rogers said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s small, a wall hanging, or bigger.”
Rogers is an American Quilt Society certified appraiser, and the special guest of this week’s Quilting on the Beach. Rogers is taking appointments this week for quilt appraisals. After a 30-minute, $50 consultation, quilt owners will receive an American Quilt Society certified document for insurance, legal and tax purposes on the value of their quilt.
“If something happens to that quilt, and you don’t have an appraisal, you may say that quilt was worth $5,000, well the insurance company will ask you to prove it,” Rogers said. “And you’ll have no proof, and they’ll just call it a blanket and say it was worth $25. They have no clue. The appraisal proves what the value is.”
Antique quilts are judged first and foremost by what condition the quilt is in. Once the quilt is deemed to be in good condition, Rogers looks for how old it is, how common the design of the quilt is, and how rare that type of quilt is. Rogers said she can tell how old a quilt is by studying the fabric.
“We look for a lot of things, but the first thing is condition,” Rogers said. “Because if it’s falling apart, it doesn’t matter how beautiful it once was.”
On her slate Thursday was a scheduled appraisal for a Hawaiian quilt flag, a type of quilt that was made as far back as the late 1800s, and is also called ku’u hae aloha. Rogers said if the flag meets all the criteria, it could be very valuable because of its historical significance.
Those who want an in-depth look at the appraisal process of a historic item would have to bring one in themselves.
“It’s a very private thing. I can’t have a lot of people standing, watching,” Rogers said. “It’s between that person and myself.”
New quilts are judged on the money spent on materials and supplies and the time spent making the quilt. Who made the quilt counts as well.
“I look at fame of the maker also,” Rogers said. “If the person that made this quilt has been published, recognized or has won a lot of awards, the value goes up because people are going to want one of that person’s quilts.”
Those tests of a quilt’s worth are just for the certified appraisal from the American Quilt Society. Through her eyes, Rogers understands the real value of a quilt.
“The actual quilts carry love, and time and energy and most of the quilters are making them for someone else,” Rogers said. “It’s a very warm and emotional thing, so I don’t take it lightly when someone’s made a baby quilt for their granddaughter or grandson. I know they’ve done that out of love and they’ve given their time and energy to it. Quilting is a very warm and cozy thing.
“The art of quilting is certainly visual and enjoyable to look at, but the ones that are made for a specific reason are really special.”