Quiltpays tribute to Blaine history

Published on Thu, Aug 10, 2006 by ara Nelson

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Quilt pays tribute to Blaine history

By Tara Nelson

The quilt was forgotten about for nearly 20 years before Birch Bay resident Cynthia Arnett acquired it.

But Arnett, who moved to Birch Bay 14 years ago, said she just couldn’t refuse an invitation to finish a project that would commemorate the history of Blaine.

“(Stafholt) called me and said come and look at this thing,” Arnett said. “It stunk. It was terrible. But on it, there were all these different scenes of the area, so I said ‘Let’s just take it’ and I went ahead and washed it and cleaned it up and quilted it.”

The quilt was started by the Blaine Senior Center craft class in 1981 to be sold as a raffle prize in that year’s Skywater festival.

Although the original members of the class never completed the quilt, they later donated it to the Blaine Heritage Society, which in turn, donated it to the Stafholt Good Samaritan Center, with hopes someone would pick up the loose ends.

Marsha Hawkins, a community relations person at the center, said when the staff came across the old quilt earlier this year, they immediately began looking for a volunteer who would be willing to complete the project.

“We just thought it was so neat,” Hawkins said. “Each square represents something that went on in Blaine.”

Those squares were designed by 10 Blaine residents, such as Carrie Seimears, Myrtle Shaw and Annie Vezzeti, and included depictions of first Blaine school, a local saloon, the Alaska Packers Association and the old Semiahmoo Lighthouse. Many of the artists – all of whom are now deceased – lived at the center.

Arnett, who said she has been quilting for more than 14 years, said she was fascinated by the history represented in the patches.

“It was very personal to the area,” she said. “It had things about Blaine that I didn’t know and I’d lived here 14 years. Little historical things that they would know but I wouldn’t have. Like the saloon, or one of the fishing ships that was pretty much a staple in this area. Things that were here for these folks but not really for us.”

Arnett said she removed the old batting, or filling, washed the material, sewed in the names of each artist and embroidered the edges with jumping salmon. The entire project took her approximately three months, she said.

“I did it by hand so it took me about three months, working a few hours a night,” she said. “It was a very simple quilt.”

Wayne Weinschenk, the current administrator at Stafholt said he plans to display the quilt in the front hallway of the center along with other displays of Icelandic heritage.

“We want the center to reflect Blaine’s history,” he said. “We also want to celebrate our Icelandic heritage.”

The Blaine Heritage Society was founded by Caryn Johnson in 2003 in an effort to preserve records of Blaine’s past. For more information about the organization, call 332-1338.