NEWS RELEASE January 13, 2011
Quilts handmade by Linda Owen, wife of lieutenant through March
Linda Owen’s quilts can be seen in a patchwork of places. One is on display in the governor’s mansion. Another is stashed somewhere among the belongings of former President Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. Now a collection of nine quilts sewn by the state of Washington’s second in command’s ‘first in command’ are hanging in the lieutenant governor’s front office.
The spouse of Lt. Governor Brad Owen says she began quilting about 10 years ago while on the hunt for sewing material at a new fabric store in Shelton. “They told me they only sell quilting stuff,” Mrs. Owen said. “That simmered in my brain for awhile. Then I thought it might be a fun thing to try, so I walked back in, signed up for a quilting class, loved it, and it went from there.”
The centuries-old practice of quilt making is among America’s favorite pastimes. A survey in 2003 concluded there are more than 21 million people in the U.S. who quilt. Washington has more than 140 quilt shops and numerous organized quilting guilds. The town of LaConner in Skagit County even has its own quilting museum. Lt. Governor Owen included quilting among other hobbies that generate revenue for the state in a recent legislative meeting in Tacoma on that topic, drawing testimony from local quilting experts. Linda Owen is among the thousands of quilters who make the “Shop Hop” tour of western Washington quilting stores an annual ritual, usually taking a friend or two and making a multi-day adventure of it.
Owen insists she is not a master quilter, saying her efforts pale compared to the “amazing work” of many other quilters she has seen. She jokes that her style is the “dorky, homemade look.” But it has drawn the high praise of her husband, whom she says has bugged her for years to display some of her projects in his office as part of the rotating art displays in the foyer of his office in the Capitol building. It has also gained approval from Governor Chris Gregoire. The governor was presented with a Linda Owen quilt four years ago as the honoree of the I Care about Kids award at the Owens’ annual fundraising banquet for their non-profit organization, Strategies for Youth.
That quilt, on display in the family room of the Governor’s Mansion, is stitched of fabric featuring scenes from Washington that was given as samples to participants in the Quilter’s annual Shop Hop tour in 2006.
“It’s amazing how many quilters come through and recognize the pattern” says Teresa Olson, mansion coordinator. Lt. Gov. and Linda Owen presented Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter with a smaller version made of the same samples during their visit to Seattle that same year.
Seattle’s longtime favorite clown, J.P. Patches, received an Owen patchwork quilt when he was honored at the Strategies for Youth banquet in 2008. In 2009 the recipients were Seattle civic leader and jeweler Jon Bridge and his wife Bobbe, a former state Supreme Court justice. Their quilt had diamond patterns. In 2010 there were four recipients of the organization’s I Care About Kids award. Each got a quilt.
One of the lieutenant governor’s favorite quilts, which he keeps draped over a couch in his personal office year around, is the one Mrs. Owen made for him as a gift several years ago depicting all U.S. presidents through George W. Bush. That project took two years as she had to stitch it in secret. The election of Barack Obama presented a technical challenge because there “wasn’t a way to put him on it without destroying it,” she said. Lt. Gov. Owen himself made the winning suggestion of stitching President Obama on a separate matching pillow. Problem solved. Each president is embroidered in red, called “red work” to those in the quilting know. Her presidential quilt is part of the display, as is another lieutenant governor favorite made of multiple patches depicting musical instruments.
Visitors to the office may also view her dragonfly quilt, inspired by students at Crestwood Elementary in Kent who in 1997 proposed to the Legislature that the dragonfly be named the official state insect. The Owens first learned about the students’ State Symbol project during a visit to that school beforehand when making their Strategies for Youth music presentation there. A Wizard of Oz quilt was inspired by Mrs. Owen’s favorite movie as a girl. A quilt of the American flag has 50 pockets – one to hold each state quarter.
The grandmother of 17 says the majority of the quilts she has made so far – about 60 she figures – have found their way into the arms of friends, adult children and grandchildren.
“I do my quilting for my family, just to make my kids and grandkids comfortable, not for works of art,” she said. “I do it for sheer pleasure, and because it is exercising a creative outlet I never knew I had!”
Mrs. Owen’s quilts will be on display in the Office of Lt. Governor, 220 Legislative Building, through March. National Quilt Day is on March 19.
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For more information contact:Office of the Lt. Governor: Brian Dirks (360) 786-7707 or email@example.com