Fictional Elm Creek Manor comes to life

Fictional characters often can become bigger than life. Think of Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind,” poor orphaned Oliver in “Oliver Twist” and J.K. Rowling’s famous wizard, Harry Potter.

For contemporary author Jennifer Chiaverini of Madison, Wis., characters from her popular Elm Creek Quilts series have developed an extensive fan base, too. Her readers still clamor for more after 15 books since her first was published in 1999.

But readers demand more than stories from Chiaverini; they also want patterns of the quilts she writes about.

Enamored with tales of the “Elm Creek Medallion” and “The Sugar Camp” quilts, and many more, fans long to make the fabric creations for themselves.

In addition to her novels, Chiaverini has obliged by publishing four books of quilt patterns, the most recent “Sylvia’s Bridal Sampler.”

It features 140 traditional blocks that make up a large quilt, a replica of a fictional one given to a principal character at the imaginary Elm Creek Manor, Sylvia Compson.

The quilt appeared in Chiaverini’s sixth novel, “The Master Quilter,” as a wedding gift to the beloved Compson, who founded the quilters’ retreat.

A Web site exclusively about the bridal sampler quilt patterns was established in 2005, http://www.sylviasbridalsampler.com, with a blog and block exchanges.

Dutch, German and French groups have formed online to share their quilts, and an Elm Creek Quilters Club meets and works together in Marietta, Ga., Chiaverini says.

As the books grew in popularity over the past decade and fans demanded actual patterns, she also designed Elm Creek Quilts fabric lines for Red Rooster Fabrics.

Here in Grand Junction, two yearlong classes on “Sylvia’s Bridal Sampler” have formed at Quilter’s Corner, 421 Colorado Ave.

The instructor is Laura Pedge, a shop employee and a quilt restoration specialist.

Pedge says the class was offered because of a customer request, and participants are making different versions of the quilt with varying fabrics, numbers of blocks, sashings and settings.

She calls it a fun but challenging quilt. The class is geared for

advanced quilters, and some

spaces are still open.

“I help people with paper piecing and curved and inset seams if they’re not too familiar with them,” Pedge explains.

The blocks are small, finishing at 6 inches square. One pattern titled “New Mexico” contains as many as 77 pieces of fabric, she says.

“I like the older, traditional-style quilts,” Pedge says, and she has read all of Chiaverini’s novels.

Quilter’s Corner sells the pattern book as well as the novel “The Master Quilter,” in which the bridal sampler was introduced.

The class is being taught in two sessions, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the third Saturday of each month or on the third Wednesday of each month.

One of those enrolled in the monthly classes is Michelle Berry of Grand Junction. Berry hasn’t read the Elm Creek books, but she did put a lot of thought into her “Sylvia’s Bridal Sampler.”

Pink, yellow and blue fabrics in graduated colors will form the 48 blocks she’s making from her stash of Civil War reproduction fabrics.

Her version of the sampler is based on a hymn: “O Love that Glorifies the Son.” The blues will represent sky and water, the yellows represent the sun, and so on, explains Berry, who plays with the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra.

“I plan to border each block, making them all a square-in-a-square design, then set them on point.”

The class also appeals to Berry, she says, because she enjoys spending a day of sewing with her friends.

After all, that’s the gist of many of Chiaverini’s novels — a group of friends spending time together and sharing their lives at the Elm Creek Quilters Camp. What a novel idea.

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