One day late in October, my friend Liane Giambalvo and I drove through Bangor and into the gold and green countryside that took us through the backcountry of Glenburn, Levant, Corinth and Exeter. Eventually, we found ourselves at the home of Shirley Rogers, who was eager to show us her handiwork and to donate bags of fabric for use in the Women’s Re-entry Program quilting classes that Giambalvo facilitates.
Rogers has been sewing for 45 years and the energy of her craft is clearly visible in her small sewing room that is overflowing with the abundance of her imagination. On one wall hangs a quilt in progress that she has been working on for many years.
“Every time I find something I like, I stitch it on,” she said of her work-in-progress. “Maybe I’ll finish it someday.”
The quilt is done in the ornate Victorian crazy-quilt manner, with satin and velvet fabrics, overlays of lace, bits of embroidery snipped from vintage linens, or corners of lace-edged handkerchiefs appliqued on, fancy embroidery stitched over seam lines and other bits of ornate trim embellishing the piece.
Rogers is wearing a vest she created in the same crazy-quilt style.
“I have so many things in the making,” she said.
The focal point of Rogers’ sewing room is the antique treadle sewing machine, patented in 1880, she uses for all her work.
“I have a new machine,” she said, “but I prefer this one.”
In past years, Rogers used to sell her handmade quilts and other items at shops in the Rockland area where she grew up. It was her way of earning money to pay tuition so her daughter could attend Bangor Christian Schools. These days, Rogers said, she’s more content to give her handiwork to friends and family.
“I love to give things away,” she said. “I love to make people happy.”
Rogers also works with wool felt to create wall hangings. Sometimes she sees a design in a craft magazine and uses it as a starting place for creating her own design. She especially likes to put sheep in her work, but other themes include flags, nature and seasonal holidays. She said she prefers to work from her own ideas.
Rogers said she buys fabric at Marden’s in Brewer and the Jo-Ann store in Bangor, and wool felt from a rug hooking supply shop in Searsport. Her sewing room is stacked with tubs of fabric she has stashed away over the years. She also collects vintage linens and other textiles for use in her creations.
At one point in her life Rogers was so prolific at her craft that she made five quilts from September to December to give as gifts to family members
Rogers isn’t the only member of her family who likes to sew. Her daughter Roxanne Bonneville and her niece Natalie Rogers also have taken up the art. She has granddaughters who are carrying on the family sewing tradition, too.
One of the high points in Rogers’ quilting life came when she made a double-wedding ring quilt for an aunt and uncle in Alexandria, Va., who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. It was one of 61 from throughout the country chosen to be on display at Woodlawn Plantation Museum in Mount Vernon, Va.
“I like to sit and dream stuff up,” she said.
Shirley Rogers makes her dreams come true in fabric and thread.
— The National World War II Museum in New Orleans still is accepting hand knit or crocheted scarves for its Knit Your Bit program. The scarves are sent to veterans as a way to provide holiday cheer and to say thanks.
To learn more about the program and to download free scarf patterns, visit www.nationalww2museum.org/education/knitting.html.
— Lion Brand Yarn Co. will sponsor the second annual Vanna’s Choice yarn contest at Michael’s stores through Feb. 1. The grand-prize winner will get $1,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Los Angeles to meet Vanna White.
Crafters will submit photos of their handmade items in four categories — afghans and throws, baby and children, hats and scarves, gifts and crafts.
For more information, visit www.vannaschoice.com.
— The Hopes and Dreams Quilt Challenge for ALS contest aims to increase awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, raise funds for the ALS Association’s global research program and to “warm the hearts and laps of ALS patients.”
Individuals and quilt groups have until July 30 to submit quilts for the contest. Selected quilts will be sold in an online raffle and auction in August to raise funds for the association. Quilts not offered online for sale will be distributed to those with ALS and their families. Other quilts will become part of a traveling exhibit.
For more information, visit www.alsa.org.