Heirloom Stitches

November 1993/Slope News
By Michelle McCormack

Petra Klug can’t tell you how many quilts she’s made in the past 20 years or even in her lifetime of practicing a craft she learned from her mother. “I suppose I could read through my diaries and get a count, but I have too many other things to do,” she says with a laugh.

Petra Klug was 79 years old on July 4, but as one of her friends says, “She has the bounce of an 18 year-old.” Her plans include a lot of future activities – trips to Norway and things she is going to do while she can still get around. But even when she sits, her hands are busy. The end result is an abundance of quilts, for family and friends and for sale.

The Attic Quilts

Many of the quilts made by Petra have been commissions, ordered as gifts for weddings, graduations, babies and other special events. She has a small collection of special heirloom quilts, kept in storage for her grandchildren. “They all chose the one they wanted, and I put their names on them,” says Petra. She was particularly touched when her grandson chose a quilt that was one of her first quilting projects as a young girl. Other special quilts include a wild-rose, appliquéd quilt that took, “hours of embroidery stitching,” and a basket quilt with a long history.

“The basket quilt started out as a quilt my mother made, with 20 pieced baskets on it,” says Petra. “When she died, my three sisters and I cut the quilt apart, and we each got five of the baskets.” The baskets are various calicos, and the surrounding white pieces were originally made from sugar sacks. Petra replaced the sugar-sack cloth and added blue squares to alternate with the basket patterns, then quilted the whole thing. It is a quilt that holds many memories for her.

A Natural Talent

When you ask Petra about the mechanics of her craft, it becomes obvious that she has done it for so long, and with such natural talent, that there is not a lot of struggle involved. “I just let the colors tell me where they want to go,” she says. But when it comes to sewing, she is a perfectionist – those corners have to meet!

When her quilt top has been pieced and all the colors are where they should be, the quilting process begins. Petra uses a full-size quilt frame, held up by four chairs. She sits on a tall stool while she stitches. The backing, batting and quilt top are stretched to give the characteristic puffiness around the stitches.

Petra doesn’t use a thimble or leather quilter’s pad, because she says she “needs to feel what’s going on.” She takes two to three stitches at a time, always uses hand-quilting thread and a very short needle.

Quilters Club

Petra is a member of the Bowman Lutheran Church quilters group that makes quilts for the missions. They use scraps of fabric cut from donated old d clothes. They meet every Monday, and various members rip, press and cut the fabric into squares or strips. Petra prefers sewing as her part in this group effort. The quilts are tied rather than hand-quilted. “We’ve made hundreds of quilts together, I’m sure,” says Petra. The group is making plans to produce quilts for all the high-school graduates from their church this spring.

Displayed With Pride

On Petra’s bed and on a quilt rack in her room are various quilts she likes to look at, including her favorite patter, the log cabin. Her quilts are also for sale at the Dakotah Winds Gift Shop in Bowman. “I try to price them reasonably, considering all the hours of work that go into a guilt,” she says. That is especially true of a pieced-and-quilted, rather than tied, quilt. “I can have up to 700 hours of work in one quilt,” Petra says. The end result of all those hours is a beautiful piece of needlework art that can be displayed with pride anywhere.

Transcribed by Danielle Mead Skjelver
Update: Petra Klug is now 101 years old – a living example of how to do life well by finding happiness in adversity, staying connected to loved ones, and using her gifts every day.


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