Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cabin Fever Quilt Guild, Fairbanks, Alaska

Thursday, February 23, 2012
Pam Sprout and her husband, Tim are my hosts while in Fairbanks.  They live in a lovely log cabin in the hills outside of Fairbanks.  The first thing I noticed was the silence - it is unbelievably quiet here.  The second thing I noticed was the weather - it is quite a bit colder here with temperatures between zero and the low teens.  Yesterday afternoon in Anchorage, the thermometer hit 37 degrees, so it's definitely colder here.  It's also a drier climate.  Even though there's snow here, it's measured in inches whereas in Anchorage there was 2 to 3 feet of snow everywhere and drifts that were 6 to 8 feet tall.

Thursday afternoon, another guild member, Ellen, joins Pam and I as we drive to the Chena Hot Springs Resort, about an hour north of Fairbanks.  The drive is scenic and quite enjoyable.  There are a lot of Japanese tourists at the hot springs because they believe a child conceived on an evening when the Northern Lights are visible will be lucky.  Unfortunately, we don't see any Northern Lights, but the hot springs are wonderful and very relaxing. 
The Birch Forest on the way to Chena Hot Springs

After soaking for a while, we had dinner at the restaurant and had a great meal.  The resort uses the natural hot springs to heat greenhouses on the property, so fresh vegetables are abundant and excellent.  On the way back to the room I noticed It was the first time since being in Alaska that my nose was sticking together with every breath...the temperature was 10 degrees below zero.

Friday, February 24, 2012
After a shorter soak in the morning, we headed back to Fairbanks.  In the afternoon, Betsy Underwood, the Cabin Fever Quilt Guild Program Chair, picked me up and took me sightseeing.  We visited the Alaskan Pipeline at a location where it was above ground.  We also stopped at Creamers Field, an 1,800 acre waterfowl sanctuary just north of downtown  Fairbanks.  There was a Visitor's Center and I was able to take close up pictures of several bird species common to this area.

We also visited Alaska Raw Fur Company, a fur and fabric shop.  You could buy any kind of animal hide you could imagine there - from chinchilla to beaver, wolf, silver fox, muskrat, seal, and dozens of others.  If you sew, you buy a pelt of your choice and make gloves, hat, or even a coat.  Most of these animal skins keep a person much warmer than anything man made.  I'm such a student of nature and the natural world that it was tough to see so many pelts of animals that I've never seen in the wild, but I do understand that it's a different environment up here.  I did purchase a type of knife called an ulu, which is a short curved blade with a piece of wood on top where you hold it.  The native women use this type of knife to scale, fillet and clean fish.  You cut using a rocking motion and the gals in the quilt guild tell me it's the best pizza cutter ever made.

In the evening, I had the opportunity to talk to about 40 guild members about my quilting journey.  They are a very fun, hearty group of women who asked lots of questions and seemed to enjoy my lecture.

Saturday, February 25, 2012
I always start my Thread Painting classes with a discussion of thread types, sewing machine needles, and how I approach the quilting on my fiber art pieces.  Students then spent the rest of the day working on their own Great Blue Herons.  Because the heron doesn't fly this far north, I helped several gals change their herons to Whooping Cranes.  The whooping cranes migrate here in May and spend the summer in this area before flying south in September and they are a beautiful, striking bird.

Our class is being held in a vacant storefront right next to a great quilt shop called Northern Threads.  This store has a large selection of Alaskan fabrics and patterns, batiks, threads, as well as lot of yarns and other supplies for knitting.  And as of today, they are now carrying my patterns! 

Marie, owner of Northern Threads, has a wonderful dog that accompanies her in the store.  In fact, as Marie walks around the store with customers, the dog will pick up his bed, drag it after Marie, and flop into it every time Marie stops walking - hysterically funny to see and well worth a visit just to see the show! 

Sunday, February 26, 2012
Today, I'm teaching a Currents class for the guild in the same place we were at yesterday. It's always great teaching close to a quilt shop because students have the opportunity to go shopping if they're stuck and can't seem to find just the right fabric from their stash.  Currents is my first pattern and one that I've made many times.  Ive also taught this class many times as well, but its always so interesting to see all the different variations of Currents started in class - several gals used the colors of the Northern Lights, another made hers entirely out of corals, there was another that was all violets, and another gal had reduced the patterns by 50 percent and used all white and off white fabrics.  She's planning to add a raven to the quilt as well - awesome!  For dinner, Pam and I had pizza and salad at Betsy and her husband, Terry's lovely home overlooking Fairbanks.

Monday, February 27, 2012
With classes and lectures now over, I'm officially on vacation for the next two days.  So, I slept in this morning!  In the afternoon, Pam drove me to the University of Alaska Museum of the North.  This museum is on the beautiful grounds of the UA - Fairbanks campus and has an extensive exhibit of Alaskan cultures, wildlife, and history.  It's also the home of Blue Babe, the world's only Ice Age bison mummy.  There is also a video about the scientific explanation of the aurora, an interesting display of contemporary art on the second floor, and Alaska's largest public display of gold.  They have a very nice museum store, where I added yet another book about Alaska to my growing collection.

On our way back to Pam's home, I spotted something I've been wanting to see since my arrival in Alaska - moose!  There were two moose sitting down in a stand of birch trees not far from Pam's home.  I didn't get a very good picture of them, but was still thrilled to see them!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Today is the start of Ice Alaska.  Started in 1988 and entirely volunteer driven, there are 70 teams from around the globe competing.  It is one of the largest ice carving competitions in the world, second only to Harbin, China.  Today is the start of the single block competition where both amateur and professional teams of two carvers work until Thursday evening to construct their masterpieces.  They are given an ice block measuring 5' x 8' x 3'.  The multi-block competition starts at 9 a.m. Sunday morning and ends at 9 p.m. on Friday, March 9.  The teams of four sculptors are given 10 blocks of ice, each measuring 4' x 6' x 3'.  After the competition is judged, all the sculptures are lit with colored lights.  The event averages 45,000 visitors through the end of March, and if the carvings are anything like last year's, it's easy to see why!

Pam and I had fun talking to a number of the sculptors today.  With temperatures hovering around zero, it makes me shiver just seeing these men and women covered with ice shavings!  As we were returning to Pam's home, we saw another sundog around the setting sun.  A sundog (scientific name parhelion) is an atmospheric phenomenon that creates a bright spot of light in the sky close to the setting sun.  It most often occurs during very cold weather. With this one, however, we saw the complete circle around the sun - very cool!
Pam and her lovable cat, Kitty-Man

Wednesday, February 29, 2012
On Wednesday morning, Tim dropped me off at the airport for my three flights back to Portland.  A huge THANK YOU to Pam and Tim Sprout for so graciously opening up their home to me - I really appreciate your hospitality!

P.S:  I've just received an email from Patrice Meffley, one of the Fairbanks Thread Painting class attendees.  She sent a picture of her finished heron and I thought everyone should see it...well done, Patrice!!!!

1 comment:

  1. I was looking at your photos of the quilt guild to see if I recognized anyone but to no avail. I'm one of the 3 founding/organizing women who started the guild in 1979/80. We went from 3 members to about 40 in one month, the women were so desperate to get together over quilting! It was pretty darn exciting. I"m now a member of the Clark County Quilt Guild. Still loving it after all these years.