The Story Behind The Stitch ~ The Flathead Art Quilt

MarveLes Art StudiosArt and Collage Quilts, Blogs, Tutorial 8 Comments

My maternal grandmother, Ila Kossel grew up in Western Montana, on the Flathead River, near Kalispell, where her folks cleared the 60 acres there and established a homestead for farming wheat.

“The Flathead” Contemporary Landscape Art Quilt

For many summers, I would pack up my two young boys, and we’d travel the 340 miles to go to the family farm in the Flathead Valley.  This is something I also got to do as a young child; to spend a week with my Gramma, picking what seemed like tons of raspberries, (and eating them), as well as strawberries & huckleberries.  My Great Aunt Vi had the most incredible Raspberry Patch! Her huge ½ acre yard was encircled with 4-6 rows of raspberry bushes!  It was amazing just to step inside the thick patch of incredible, large and luscious, berry-filled branches that were well over six feet tall! 

Once inside that patch, everywhere you’d look, all you could see were the beautiful berries!  One could hardly know where to begin picking.  A fond memory for me, is hearing the delightful giggling and awe in the voice of my Gramma as she would say “Just look at all those beautiful berries!” It was the highlight of her summer. She dearly loved her berries, and they were a special treat for her because they were so hard to come by on the harsh prairie where she made her living.

She always loved to tell the story (many times!) about one of the grand kids who wanted to stop on the way home, to enjoy the many attractions of Glacier Park, to which my Grandma replied: “No, we can’t stop, we have to get the berries home.”  The child, who was my younger brother, said:  “Berries, berries! I’m sick of the berries!” Ah yes.  A sentiment us kids weren’t fond of hearing! There was always the looming deadline, to get those berries home, washed and into the freezer — pronto.  That was when the real work began, as we washed, froze, made jam, syrup and more.

When I think of the Flathead Valley, I see shimmery lakes, sparkling rivers, lush fields and purple mountains majesty. This contemporary landscape-styled quilt, with it’s impressionistic threadplay and fabric design began by thinking of those journeys to the Flathead; the beautiful images and sweet summer memories with my Gramma as a young girl, and then again as an adult with two little kids alongside, showing them a part of their family heritage, and watching the sweet love of their Great Gramma with them.

This is, in large part, how this quilt was made, inspired by color.  Inspired by memories.  And a place and time that cannot ever be repeated… except in my heart!

Adding a bit of leftover paper fabric!
Yes… I bead “by machine”  – love doing this.
I did not have this “Flathead” idea when I started this quilt… it came to me as I ‘jumped in’ and I started thinking about the colors… and what they symbolized for me, and it grew more inspired in that way as I continued  stitching.  Of course, it was not a ‘quick’ process, and it certainly isn’t how it happens for me all the time… but when it does, it is something I am deeply inspired by. 

I hope you have enjoyed hearing 
the story behind the stitch!
In love and honor of my sweet Gramma Ila, 
who passed away in 2002. 
Soli Deo Gloria!
Love, Leslie

Comments 8

  1. Another beautiful piece Leslie!! Loved reading the story along with it. The Flathead has lots of great memories for me also!

  2. Such sweet, wonderful memories. That is the best inspiration, isn't it? The quilt is amazing. Beautiful work! 🙂

  3. Interesting piece and nice story – what wonderful memories! And I love berries! I've never been to Montana but would love to go there someday.

  4. This is breathtakingly beautiful! It definitely feels like Montana…the purple is an exquisitely perfect distant mountain color.

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