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Quilting with a purpose 

Bend artist sews community, compassion with quilts.

Kathy Chism stands beside "Robins Take the Steps," a log cabin-style work that will be featured in the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show in July. - ELIZABETH WARNIMONT
  • Elizabeth Warnimont
  • Kathy Chism stands beside "Robins Take the Steps," a log cabin-style work that will be featured in the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show in July.

When you ask Kathy Chism what she likes most about quilting, she answers without hesitation: it's the sisterhood. The Oregon native started quilting almost 30 years ago as a new creative outlet for herself, but she discovered that quilting in Central Oregon is more about community and giving.

Chism belongs to three local quilting groups, including Blockin' Robins, Book-Scissors-Quilt and The Mt. Bachelor Quilters' Guild. The Quilters' Guild asks members to donate at least one quilt a year, but within the guild, several smaller groups also make multiple quilts each year for the guild's Community Quilts program. Recipients include the Ronald McDonald House, which provides temporary housing for families who travel far from home to get medical treatment for their children, and Cascade Youth Services, a program benefiting local teens in need.

"There's a lot of compassion in quilting. Whether you're making a graduation quilt for a granddaughter, or a baby quilt for a new grandchild or whether it's something about a special book." QuiltWorks of Bend invites quilters every April to make a quilt inspired by Deschutes County Library's annual "Novel Idea" book selection. The author himself, Peter Heller, bought Chism's quilt for "The Dog Stars," a past selection.

QuiltWorks has an upstairs gallery with a new collection on display each month. "Usually on one side is a featured quilter and on the other side a group or a theme," QuiltWorks owner Marilyn Forestell told the Source Weekly. "For example, Kathy (Chism) is our August featured quilter, so half the gallery will display her favorite works while the other half with have a theme like animal, landscape, applique or portraiture." A reception at QuiltWorks honors new contributors on the first Friday of each month.

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Book-Scissors-Quilt is a group of about 20 quilters who sew quilts in response to books, often, but not always, Novel Idea selections. "The Snow Child," an early Novel Idea title, generated a total of 65 quilts for the gallery. Blockin' Robins, one of many small groups formed within the Mt. Bachelor guild, is a group of 10 artists who complete a group project each year. The Blockin' Robins is the place where Chism says her skills and creativity are stretched. One artist presents a block, usually a square, as a starting point for a quilt. Members take turns adding to the starter until the quilt is completed, unseen by the person who started it. By the end of the year the group reveals the 10 finished quilts.

In all of the groups, Chism says members develop lifelong friendships as they gather together to participate in projects that honor an individual, bring aid to someone in need, or inspire each other. "That's what appeals to me about quilting. There's a sisterhood."

Chism will have two quilts in the Sisters Annual Quilt Show in July, an event that drew over 10,000 visitors to the town last year. One, named, Robins Take the Steps, is the product of the Blockin' Robins group.

Detail from "Kathy's View," one of her favorite quilts. - SUBMITTED
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  • Detail from "Kathy's View," one of her favorite quilts.

This year, quilts will be on display for three weeks, hanging in businesses in Sisters and Bend for one week before the show and two weeks after.

Chism's other interests include gardening and breast cancer awareness. "Since I'm a breast cancer survivor, I usually do the local walk for Sara Fisher, a teacher in Bend who died of breast cancer." Heaven Can Wait, a program of St. Charles Hospital, provides resource kits for new cancer patients and raises funds through the annual cancer walk. It is named for the former Bend teacher.

Quilt Walk Kick-off
Sun. July 8, noon-4pm
Clearwater Gallery
303 W Hood Ave., Sisters

Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show
Sat. July 14, 9am-4pm
Downtown Sisters
Self-guided tours July 1-15

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