Young quilter keeping sewing tradition alive
While quilting was once a common pastime for Iowa girls wishing to learn a creative yet practical skill, 13-year-old Shea Dahlstrom of Packwood is single-handedly keeping the tradition alive among her peers. Next year, her classmates at Pekin Middle School will learn to sew a pillow in home economics. Dahlstrom, on the other hand, has been sewing since she was 8 years old, making everything from pillows to purses, dresses and most recently, quilts.
Dahlstrom participates in cross country, basketball, softball, track and 4-H. But as temperatures drop precipitously announcing winter’s stay for months to come, Dahlstrom sets aside her running shoes for a needle and thread.
“Most of the ladies I sew with are in their 40s and 50s,” said Dahlstrom. “It’s pretty fun, I wouldn’t want younger kids there, it would be distracting.”
She said sewing has a relaxing effect she can’t find anywhere else.
“I get in the zone and keep sewing and can’t stop,” she said, “and when I do stop, I feel good afterward because I got a lot done.”
Dahlstrom’s first project was a flip purse her friend’s grandmother taught her to make.
“I liked being able to use something I made and enjoy it,” she said.
She got her start quilting last year at a store in Fairfield, CR Quilts Fabric Shop, which holds weekly workshops with assistance from experts.
Jennifer Stever, co-owner of the shop with her mother Jeanie Belgarde, said they’ve been impressed with Dahlstrom’s perseverance.
“She is the youngest person who has hung in with it,” said Stever.
Stever has made upwards of 60 quilts, which she said are useful to keep warm in the winter, or to give as a thoughtful gift. At the shop, however, she said many of her clients say they quilt because of how it makes them feel.
“I think it can be a stress reliever,” she said. “Quite a few people do it for that purpose, you can get lost in the project.”
Dahlstrom said she’s enjoyed getting to know the women who attend the workshops. For instance, she’s become friends with a librarian at Pekin through quilting together.
“We go to the same quilting circle,” she said. “It kind of got it started, and now I hang out with her at study hall.”
Stever said the colder the weather gets, the busier her store becomes.
“In the fall and winter months, business picks up,” she said.
While Dahlstrom has taken summer classes at CR Quilts, she said most of the time she’s too busy.
“It’s a fun pastime in the winter,” she said. “In the summertime I work at Yummy’s and go running.”
Dahlstrom’s mother, Jill Dahlstrom, who owns Yummy’s, said she’s proud of her daughter’s industriousness.
“I’m thrilled she’s able to go to CR Quilts,” she said. “It’s a lost art.
“People say quilting is therapeutic, it requires your attention so you forget about everything else.”
Dahlstrom sews for the enjoyment of it, but said she does have a goal in mind.
“I’d like to win a blue ribbon at the state fair,” she said