Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stitches in time — Sewers contribute talents to historic quilt

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Helena Moses chose to comm- emorate Alaska’s 50th anniversary of statehood on behalf of Soldotna with a fiber arts depiction of Les Anderson holding up his world-record 97-pound, 4-ounce king salmon. If she were being repre- sentative of her own memories of statehood, the scene would be of a little girl on a park bench, terrified that the Russians were about to bomb Anchorage.

Moses, of Soldotna, lived in Anchorage in 1959, when the Senate voted to accept Alaska’s statehood petition. She was sitting on a bench outside the library, which was in downtown Anchorage at the time, waiting for her mother to get done with a meeting.

“All of a sudden every siren, every bell in the city went off, and I thought the Russians were coming,” she said. “I was expecting bombing or something to start.”

Moses grew up in the era of air raid drills and the threat of Russian invasion. When the city set off its sirens to celebrate the statehood vote, she feared something even more dramatic than that was happening.

“Being a kid, I wasn’t aware we were about to become a state,” Moses said. “It scared me pretty good. I remember that day very well.”

Fifty years later, Moses is able to help commemorate that historic Alaska moment by depicting an event of historic significance to the Kenai Peninsula, and especially Soldotna: The day in 1985 when Les Anderson set the still-unbroken world record for a sport-caught king salmon.

Moses designed and sewed a quilt block based on the statue of Anderson holding his fish that sits outside the Soldotna Visitors Center. She did it by request of the Soldotna Senior Citizens Center, as its contribution to a state history quilt commemorating statehood with panels depicting various communities and regions of Alaska.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Statehood Quilt Committee is the local coordinator of the state project, and is creating a quilt for the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s statehood anniversary festivities, as well. Moses and other quilters contributing to the project made two blocks, one for the state quilt and one for a peninsula quilt that will tour around the borough.

The blocks are 24 by 30 inches. The committee hopes to get 16 of them and create a borough quilt that’s 8 by 10 feet tall. Various communities and groups across the peninsula have been asked to participate.

The Soldotna senior center asked Moses to do a block for them, but left the design inspiration up to her.

“They were asking something that was, you know, very specific to the city of Soldotna. I was going, well, probably everybody in this whole area is going to do fishing,” she said.
Once she picked fishing as her topic, Anderson was the natural choice for models.

“We lived a few houses down the street from where Les lived. Les was actually one of the first people we met when we moved to Soldotna, so he’s always been sort of special to us, in my mind,” Moses said.

She and her husband, Paul Moses, moved to Soldotna in 1975.

“And I was so glad he was the one that caught the fish, instead of some tourist,” Moses said. “It was significant because, after he got that big salmon, sportfishing really took off around here. I think it just gave a lot of publicity to Soldotna, that one big fish, so I just thought that would be a good representation.”

Several of the quilt blocks represent elements of community history. The Funny River block, made by Rose Scott and Linda Miller, shows people traveling across the Kenai River by a basket and pulley system, which is how merchandise was delivered to the Funny River community before the Sterling Highway bridge over the Kenai River was built.

A block for Kasilof, made by Carleen Ducker and Jean Evenson, has a depiction of a fox farm, as well as vistas from the community, including the Kasilof River and Mount Redoubt.

Homer’s block, by Alice and Theresa Dubber, is patterned after an aerial photo of the Homer Spit taken in January 1959. Hope’s block is the most literal representation of the community, since it’s made of actual photos printed on fabric and pieced together by Fayrene Sherritt in “A Window to Hope.”

Other blocks are more nonrepresentative, like the city of Soldotna’s block by Sandra Sterling showing the crossroads of the highways, the river and abstract flowers growing out of them.

Some blocks refer to the whole borough, like one showing fishing activities on the beaches of Cook Inlet, and another that represents the night sky.

Zada Friedersdorff, chair of the borough quilt committee, said she’s happy with the quilt blocks she’s received so far.

“We’ve gotten a really big variety of quilting techniques and patterns come in,” she said.

She and a group of volunteers are planning to construct the quilt when the last of the blocks come in. She plans to have it ready to display in January, and hopes a museum in the borough will want to take ownership of it, “so it becomes part of the history of the borough, so it will still be around when we have the centennial celebration,” she said.

“It’s very representative of the communities that came in. And it’s a good representation also of the variety of talent we have here and in the borough.”

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