Penni Barger considers the sewing machine her brush, the thread her paint and fabric is her canvas. She's one of two featured artists in the 2017 Quilt and Textile Arts Show Jan. 21-22 at the Modesto Centre Plaza in Modesto.
About 250 quilts will be showcased at the all-day Heart of the Valley quilt show Saturday and Sunday, put on by the 160-member Country Crossroads Quilters group whose members stretch from Modesto to Turlock, Farmington, Oakdale, Stockton, Hughson, Ripon and Riverbank.
"Every quilt is a work of art," Barger says. "People use different colors and pick their own fabrics. I am always experimenting."
The 65-year-old registered nurse from Ripon says she has been a serious quilter for 10 years and has been a soft pastel artist for 16 years. Barger says she was quite surprised and felt honored to be named a featured quilter at the biannual show.
Besides quilts, art quilts, wearables and special exhibits, the show will feature demonstrations, door prizes, raffle quilts, raffle baskets and 16 vendors from throughout California. The demonstrations will hone in on appliqué, fusing fabric, how to do special binding and how to piece quilts.
The group's publicity chairman, Barbara Grandon, said quilting is an art form and quilts are not just about blankets for beds anymore. Grandon, 60, from Riverbank, has been quilting off and on for about 35 years when she completed her first quilt but picked up the hobby again two years ago from a 20-year lull when she retired as a registered nurse.
Grandon thinks showgoers should consider it a weekend of exposure to a new hobby and a place to make new friends. She adds quilting is one of the biggest group of hobbies out there these days.
Kathy Sandner of Ripon, a dietician, is the show's other featured quilter. She sewed when she was young and made her own clothing. She just finished a double wedding ring quilt and has a long list in mind of projects she wants to do. She always thought she would quilt when she retired but didn't want to wait that long.
"I'd rather do that (quilting) than most anything," Sandner says. "I got interested in all aspects of appliqué quilts and slowly it's evolving. They don't look like traditional with color choices and the way they are put together with some modern innovations."
Show chairwoman Liz Carota explains what quilt show visitors will experience.
"It's like going to an art museum but people made these with sewing machines," Carota says.
Sandner believes people will be amazed at the talent in the Central Valley and the experience will open their eyes about what quilting is all about.
Barger says quilt guild members believe in quality over quantity and quilters are now thought of as textile artists. She says when you are sewing it's like an opium effect. Research has shown that the repetitive sound of a sewing machine releases natural endorphins.
"Years ago quilting was viewed as being done by elderly women. Now quilting is totally looked on more as an art form," Barger says. She says the quilt guild has such unique and extremely talented members who want to keep learning.
Quilts made by the late Yvonne Porcella, who died Feb. 12, 2016, will be shared by her family. Some of her quilts have been displayed at the Smithsonian and Porcella is enshrined in the Quilters Hall of Fame in Indiana.
Sander says quilting is a great way to spend an afternoon and quilters are "pretty much nice people."
Country Crossroads Quilters meets every second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. at Trinity Presbyterian Church on Carver Road in Modesto. It's open to anyone who wants to join.
The quilt show is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Jan. 21 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 22. Admission is $8 with those under 12 admitted free. For more information, go tocountrycrossroadsquilters.com
.— Doane Yawger of Merced is a semi-retired newspaper reporter and editor.