All jokes aside, this quilter’s serious about her art
I’d recently seen the original “True Grit” film with John Wayne on television, then saw the classic Western’s remake at Regal Cinemas 14 with Jeff Bridges. I like the new one better. But that’s not the point.
The story centers around a teenage girl determined to avenge the death of her father in the rough-and-tumble days of the Wild West. Her adventures still were fresh in my mind during a recent meeting of Colorado West Quilters’ Guild.
The evening’s speaker, Jean Roesler of Grand Junction, presented a trunk show of her Western-themed quilts. She titled it “Celebrating the Cowboy in Quilts: Roundup 2.”
Roesler, a talented quilter of a quiet and unassuming nature, lightly peppered her commentary with Western lore and a few jokes. It’s difficult to say if her jokes elicited chuckles as much for their jocular content as for the sly smile on Roesler’s lips as she regaled us with them.
She piqued my attention when she said one of her quilts was titled “I’m Looking for the Man Who Shot My Pa.”
A “True Grit” reference, I wondered. Then Roesler explained:
You’ve heard the one about the dog that goes into a bar?
Bartender says, “We don’t serve dogs in here; get on out.”
Dog turns around and goes out the door. About that time, a shot rings out.
Next day, the dog returns, hobbling along on three legs, and one leg all bandaged up.
Bartender says, “I told you we don’t serve dogs in here.”
Dog says defiantly, “I’m lookin’ for the man who shot my paw.”
Pretty clever, considering Roesler’s actual quilt featured a comical fabric with hounds wearing chaps, holsters and hats in a saloon setting. It’s title ended in Paw rather than Pa.
Turns out that hound dog quilt is one of 89 in a series — each with a Western motif — that Roesler has made since 1982.
Over the years, they’ve been shown at the Museum of Western Colorado in Grand Junction, the Museum of Northwest Colorado in Craig and at the first Denver National Quilt Festival in 2006.
Other titles in her series include “Fiesta Cowboy,” “All American,” “Glory Days,” “Good Ropes Sing,” “Ropin’ and Ridin’ ” and “Feeling Their Oats.”
Some quilters finish their borders with a flourish of appliqued flowers and vines. Leave it to Roesler to adapt that treatment on one of hers to a winding rope with little cloth cowboy hats surrounding it.
Western novelty fabrics weren’t readily available when Roesler began her series, but since then, companies have manufactured and sold more than you can count. In the 1990s, fabric design house Alexander Henry came out with some of the more sophisticated and colorful ones, such as “From the Hip.”
During that time, Roesler and her husband, Hal, have read Western novels and other books from which they’ve gleaned dozens of quilt titles and cowpuncher vernacular.
For example, cowboys never tie a knot with their ropes. They “throw a hitch” with their lariats, Roesler explains.
They’re superstitious as well, never laying their hat on the bed they slept in, if they were fortunate enough to sleep indoors instead of under the stars, and adhering to the belief that changing their underwear surely would bring bad luck.
Do you know what sickness cowboys can get from riding wild horses, Roesler asks. “Bronchitis” — another deadpan punch line.
Stories followed about barbed wire rifts between farmers and ranchers and the vigilantes who rode about the West destroying the fences. Did you know that wild horses were often called fuzz tails, and Australians refer to them as brumbies?
Roesler has more than earned her spurs in the quilting community, not only for her Roundup quilt series, but also for her dedication to the art itself in all its forms.
She is a founding member of the statewide Colorado Quilting Council and the Art Quilt Association of the Western Slope.
Roesler owns and operates Cotton Crossing, a retail fabric business on East Orchard Mesa. It’s open by appointment by calling her at 245-5442. Some earlier lines of fabric are available, too, which she sometimes sells via the Internet through missing fabrics.com.
Roesler no longer searches for Western fabric to sew her quilts; she has boxes full of it in her own stash, she says. Her target is 100 Western quilts, with No. 89 the most recent.
I question whether she’ll be able to rein this pony to a stop when the last stitch is sewn, after devoting nearly three decades to the series.
Say, you hear the one about the city girl who visits the country, and the cowhand asks her what kind of saddle she prefers to ride in?
“Well, what kinds do you have?’ she asks him.
“We have Western saddles and English saddles,” he answers.
“What’s the difference?” she queries.
“Well, a Western saddle has a horn on it,” the cowhand explains.
She replies: “My goodness, if there’s so much traffic out here that you need a horn on your saddle, I don’t believe I’ll be riding at all, thank you.”
And thank you, Jean, for a delightful presentation.
E-mail Sherida.Warner@ gjsentinel.com.