By Valerie Shelton, Editor
It’s not every day you meet a 15-year-old with sewing skills, but Clovis High sophomore Lauren Stalker is the exception.
At the age of 7, with the help of her grandmother Nancy Stalker, Lauren was able to stitch together her first quilt and has enjoyed the art of quilting ever since.
“I think most kids find it interesting that I quilt, but everyone is so revolved around technology now that people don’t want to sit down and take the time to piece something together and then quilt it and wait,” Lauren said. “I don’t mind taking that time, but I do think most kids have an issue with sitting down for that long period of time.”
Nancy, who has been quilting for about 15 years and has been sewing for even longer, said she is proud to pass on her skill to her youngest granddaughter.
“Quilting together creates a bond because you have to discuss what kind of material you’re going to use and how you’re going to put it together, matching the colors and everything. Then we have a wall and we’d put stuff up on there to see how the quilt might turn out. It’s been good for us,” Nancy said. “I’ve talked to a lot of grandmothers who say their granddaughters just don’t want to do it and aren’t interested. Eventually, Lauren will be a perfect quilter. She’s probably made 10 quilts and it’s hard because she is in school and doesn’t have the time I do to just sit and make a quilt.”
Nancy has made around 75 quilts, maybe more, in the last decade and a half since she started taking classes at Quilter Paradise in Old Town Clovis. Most of those quilts have been gifted to family members and friends. It wasn’t until last year that Nancy decided to enter one of her quilts—a giraffe quilt—in the Big Fresno Fair.
To her surprise, her giraffe quilt took home the People’s Choice Award from the fair. Since then, she entered another quilt in the Best of Valley Quilt Show in August and it to won an award for Best of Show for embellishment.
“The first time I ever entered anything in the fair it was the giraffe quilt and I didn’t really expect to get anything,” Nancy said. “The first day I went there was nothing hanging on the quilt and the second and third day, nothing, and then my granddaughter and her family went and called me and saw that I got Peoples Choice, which means everyone voted for that quilt, which was really exciting.”
Lauren said she is not surprised that her talented grandmother has earned awards in both contests she’s entered. “She’s really good,” Lauren said.
Nancy said with any luck, though, someday Lauren will surpass her skills.
It’s not everyday, Nancy said, that you see a young person quilting.
“It’s really unusual for Lauren because she started so young,” Nancy said. “I obviously helped her when she was little. She didn’t just sit down one day and make a quilt, but I did help her make one. Before she made that first quilt we had pieces or blocks of fabric she would just sow together and some points matched and some didn’t, but she only did straight stitching. Then I did they embroidery work on it after she drew it because she didn’t know how to do that then. Now she can embroider and does a fabulous job at it.”
Lauren still remembers her making that first quilt—a present for her mom for Mother’s Day.
“I remember when I made my first quilt I was frustrated because I could not get things to go together, but my grandma showed me and after a while you learn to piece it together,” Lauren said. “Once you lay it out, you see how it is supposed to go and as soon as you get one on top of the other and sow you gradually see it come together and it’s all good in the end.”
Since then Lauren has made a handful of quilts she has given to friends and family members. Recently, she made a lasagna quilt for her dad.
Lauren said part of the reason she loves quilting is that she is able to make these timeless a meaningful gifts.
“I gave one to my grandpa for his birthday and I’ve given quilts to all my grandmas for Mother’s Day or their birthdays,” Lauren said. “It’s a good thing to give as a gift because a lot of time and work goes into it.”
Lauren has also made and embroidered pillowcases, dishtowels, coasters and other items and given those things as gifts.
Quilting, Lauren said, is also a way for her to express herself, and as a drama student, having the ability to sew comes in handy when working with costumes.
“I think quilting is a beautiful thing especially because everyone can make their own mark on a quilt,” Lauren said. “I think that every quilt comes out unique and I love how you can make a quilt and make it look totally different from someone else’s. Quilting is a really nice way to express yourself. I just find it amazing. It’s nice to have the skills my grandmother has taught me. I’m in drama and when I need a costume or I have to stitch something for a costume, I can go out there and do it. I can embroider anything, a dishtowel or anything and that’s nice. I wish more people had these skills.”
For Nancy, quilting is relaxing.
“When you quilt, it just puts you in a different frame of mind,” Nancy said. “You don’t have to think about things. Everything just kind of disappears. It is a hobby, but when you’re really interested in something you just forget and don’t concentrate on all the things that may be bothering you. When you sit down to quilt it all goes away.”
Being able to pass the tradition on is also a plus, Nancy said.
“You do want to pass things on,” Nancy said. “I think that is what is nice about the olden days; everyone passed something on to the next generation and that’s how I felt. I wanted to pass something on. My mother didn’t quilt, but my grandmother did so it skips a generation.”