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About Town

About Town: Wrapped up in the Bridge of Flowers

SHELBURNE FALLS — About 30,000 visitors a year come to the Bridge of Flowers and most of them come with cameras. On peak summer weekends, there are times when you have to weave through throngs of people snapping photos of the bridge or close-ups of its blossoms. The Shelburne Falls shops do well selling photographs and postcards of the bridge. It seems like everyone wants to take home a memory of it.

And now you can make your own keepsake — a Bridge of Flowers in fabric.

Quilt designer Sue Pritt of Schaghticoke, N.Y., is no stranger to the bridge. Since 2008, Pritt has been coming to Shelburne to teach workshops at Notion to Quilt four to five times a year.

“Every time we went there, the flowers were in bloom,” she said. “My friends and I would always stop and walk across the bridge.”

“Then last year, when (store owner) Becki Stratton asked if I would consider doing a Bridge of Flowers, I thought it was a great idea. I started designing it in my head, even as she was talking about it.”

Pritt designed a 15-by-30-foot wall hanging, in a folk-art style that is becoming her trademark.

“I have had people tell me I’m the ‘Grandma Moses’ of the quilting world,” she said. “I don’t see it that way, but I guess that’s my style. I like my quilts to tell a story.”

Pritt said she started making quilts during the 1970s, when she lived in Vermont. At the time, she said, the only place to go for fabric was the local Ben Franklin dime store and the most popular patterns available were the block, Amish-style Log Cabin or Star quilt.

“I didn’t really expand out of that, until I started doing wall quilts,” she said. “The quilting business has really taken off over the last 10 years.

Pritt said she stopped making quilts for a while, when she was working full-time and raising two children. But when she and her husband became “empty nesters,” she said, “it was time to bring quilts back into my life.”

This time, she was interested in making art quilts, which also tapped into her talents of drawing and designing. Pritt says she sells her patterns around the world, both through her Website and through three distributors — two in the U.S. and one in Australia.

Pritt’s Website shows her quilt designs of “Up North” vacation getaways, of fanciful “Painted Ladies” — Victorian style homes, and of “Holiday Ladies,” which appear to be a row of Victorian houses in their Christmas finery.

But the Bridge of Flowers is only the second quilted work Pritt has designed to represent an actual place.

“The first was ‘Run for the Money,’ done for the 150th anniversary of the Saratoga Race Track,” said Pritt.

Pritt said designing quilt patterns for others is much different than designing one for yourself. She said she starts off by drawing the image she wants on paper, then enlarging the image to full-size.

“First, I have to like it, and then I have to think of how to make the directions for others.”

“For the most part, quilters want to make it exactly as I have,” she remarked. “There are quilters who want it exactly what’s on the pattern (illustration).” That means Pritt has to think about using patterned fabrics that will be available to anyone. The difficulty, she said, is that textile manufacturers discontinue some of their patterns over the years.

Pritt said one of the fabric designs she used for an earlier pattern was discontinued, and she still gets emails from quilters who want the exact fabric.

“But there are some that want to branch out,” she added, “and I love to see (my patterns) in different variations.”

Pritt said some of the shops she sells patterns to like to make up their own kits, so that customers have only exactly as much of a specific fabric as the pattern needs.

For now, the Bridge of Flowers pattern is only available through Notion to Quilt. “I wanted Becki to have it first,” said Pritt.

Stratton said that, even before a class for the project was scheduled, she had customers on a waiting list.

A one-day class to make this wall hanging has been scheduled for March 1. Besides stitching up the Bridge of Flowers, quilters will also get a lesson in free motion quilting — stitching ripples in the cloth Deerfield River, which really makes the image “pop.”

For more information, call A Notion to Quilt or visit one of these websites:

www.anotiontoquilt.com

or:

sweetseasonquilts.com

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