Helen Butler has never considered herself an artist. But after making more than 100 quilts in the past 20 years, she said she’s slowly had to become one.
“I think I will quilt as long as I have eyes to see,” she said. “I do love it. I’m very passionate about it.”
Right now, the Alpine resident has at least a half-dozen quilts entered in local and national quilting competitions, including one displayed at the Springville Museum of Art and six in a show at Thanksgiving Point.
Her quilts have won everything from first-place national awards to local viewers’ choice recognition to best hand quilting or machine quilting designs. Last year, she submitted a pearly white quilt with intricate green vines, bluebirds and yellow and red blooms that won “Best of Show” at the Annual Utah Quilt Show.
“When I have the best of what I have into making a quilt, I want others to be able to see it because I know how much I enjoy seeing the fine workmanship of other quilters,” she said. “If you happen to get a ribbon or an award for it, that’s icing on the cake.”
Butler, 61, learned sewing from her mother and grandmother when she was 6 years old living in Arizona. But a few years later, her skills surpassed what her family members could teach and Butler started teaching herself.
She has sewn wedding dresses, completed alterations and made her own clothing for almost her whole life. Her clothes last longer than mass-market items, she said, and she can make one-of-a-kind garments.
But Butler still remembers the first time she walked into a quilt shop in Cincinnati years ago and saw rows and rows of beautiful high-quality fabrics and textiles.
“It was all over for me,” she said. “I always thought it was the apparel sewing, but when I discovered quilting, I discovered what my real passion was.”
Her favorite part is creating the quilt top and picking out favorite fabrics. Then she slowly and patiently hand-stitches needle turn applique designs to life.
The more challenging part is figuring out how her vision will become an actual quilt with batting and backing. She usually quilts on her home sewing machine since she doesn’t own a long arm machine.
Creating a competition quilt can take years, Butler explained, but a typical quilt top takes about a year and a half.
She has also taught beginning and advanced sewing skills to hundreds of students through her sewing school and personal classes held at her home.
“I never knew what a joy that would bring me to teach others and to pass on to others something that I love so much,” she said.
With six children and eight grandchildren, Butler plans to give most of her quilts to her family members, especially if one person takes a particular liking to a fabric or design.
“I find now that I like to put meaning into my quilts as they pass on to the next generation,” she said. “Based on the pattern and the design, there is meaning and memories and history.”
The 46th Annual Utah Quilt Show is open through Sept. 21 at the Springville Museum of Art. The Garden of Quilts at Thanksgiving Point will run three days from Sept. 12 -14.