Local quilter featured in show

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Despite the “Lucky 13” theme this year, it’s not the whims of fortune that have kept the regionally popular Walla Walla Valley Quilt Festival going for that number of years.

Rather, it’s more a matter of the creativity and skill of the quilters.

And each year organizers select a local artisan as the featured quilter.

Becky Martin is that person at this year’s festival, Sept. 14-16, at the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds.

She’s sewn all her life but began quilting 15 and a half years ago.

“I took a class from my best friend, said Martin, 62. “When my grandkids were born I got more interested.”

Since then she’s created a wealth of colorful quilts for gifts, home decoration and just for fun. She’s also come full circle from taking a quilting class to teaching them.

At home, in addition to the stacks of fabrics and cases of colored thread, she has a dedicated room full of quilts and an assortment of equipment to make them.

“I’m not machine poor,” she laughed.

She worked with area schools for 18 years teaching personal safety and child-abuse prevention, and also worked in the family business, Martin Archery. She currently teaches quilting at Walla Walla Sew & Vac and Spas.

The art form involves complex patterns, choosing, cutting fabric and putting it back together.

“It’s therapeutic, if I’m mad or have had a stressful day ...,” she said.

Her favorite fabric is cotton. In years past she used cotton thread exclusively but now she’s branched out to other types.

As intricate and time consuming as quilts are to make, Martin says they should not be kept in hall closets to keep them out of harms way. Rather, they should be displayed and used.

“Wash it, use it,” she said.

Martin has no lack of quilts to work on. She recently finished a table runner and is working her way through a stack of quilting kits.

A future project will combine painting and quilting using heat setting and crayons to color a design. Then she will create a quilted border for the piece.

It’s a logical combination for her since she used to do tole painting — the folk art of decorative painting on furniture and household wares.

She’s also come full circle from taking a quilting class to teaching them.

“You always learn, every time you take a class,” she said.

Typically the teacher makes the project before presenting it to the class so she can tell you about the pitfalls.

“Then there’s tearing out things — we call it the ‘unsewing,’ ” she said. “Learn the things you don’t do.”

Student or teacher there’s always plenty to learn, and for her it’s doing more handwork and embroidery.

“I like to keep it interesting,” Martin said.

Karlene Ponti can be reached at 509-526-8324 or karleneponti@wwub.com

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