Prineville woman creates works of art on a 1947 sewing machine
In her spare time, Annette Kuehn can be found working on a quilt when she is at her home, and the rest of the time, she is at one of the two quilting groups she is part of.
Kuehn has been quilting for more than 60 years. She began by sewing clothing for her children, and she would take the leftover pieces and sew into quilts. Through the years, as she honed her skills, Kuehn became more interested in patterns and various kinds of quilts.
The remarkable thing about this 83-year-old woman's quilting skills, is the machine with which she creates her works of art. It is a 1947 Singer Feather Weight, which has been passed down from other members of her family. Kuehn sews the portions of her quilts, including the blocks, together with this simple machine. She does not have the ability to do the quilting for the backing, so she contracts that out to local seamstresses in Prineville who have the long-arm machines for doing so.
She has a repair person from Bend who services her Singer machine every year. Kuehn previously had a larger sewing machine that she had received as a wedding present from her grandfather.
"It finally gave up, and so rather than going and buying another big machine, I just said, 'I have these Feather Weights, and I will just use them."'
She added that she cannot do zigzag or other special stiches, and she cannot do the quilting for the back of her quilts.
Her grandmother also had a Singer sewing machine that she used to repair and create costumes for a theatrical group she was part of. Kuehn still has the machine, although she remarked that she is not sure how to use it or if it works. Her sewing skills have been passed down from one generation to another.
"It has got to be 100 years old," she said of the vintage machine her grandmother owned.
Nila Landers has been friends with Kuehn for approximately 20 years. She admires Kuehn for creating the quilts with her unique and simple machine. She is in the Quilting Sisters group with her at the Lutheran Church.
"She had all this pile of quilts, and they were beautiful," Landers said of one of her visits at Kuehn's home. "She takes them out and has them quilted, and then she gives them away. When I saw this little dinky machine, I said, 'You have a story that somebody has to know besides just me.'"
She added that Kuehn also creates quilts on a small sewing table.
"She is such a humble person, and she is just interesting. She is smart, and she is a stately lady," elaborated Landers.
Every one to two weeks, Kuehn makes a quilt top for the Lutheran Church group, and these quilts go overseas. On Mondays, she goes to the church to help tie quilts.
After her husband passed away two years ago, she moved into a home that allowed her to resume her quilting. Although she does not have much space, she continues to make quilts for the guilds that she is part of. Currently, she is a member of the Crook County Quilt Guild and the Quilting Sisters at the Prineville Lutheran Church.
Kuehn creates chemo quilts through the previous guild, which are a smaller quilt for chemo patients to use for lap quilts when getting chemo treatments. She enjoys making the smaller quilts, and after she has them quilted, she creates the binding for the edges. In one year, she makes approximately 10-12 chemo quilts, some of which are donated to the Ronald McDonald House in Bend.
She expressed that even though she does not get to see the result of her chemo quilts, she loves using her time to help other people.
When reflecting on the value of creating the quilts, Kuehn said that she likes knowing that she is not just sitting watching television all day and is using her time to help other people.
She paused as she demonstrated the pile of quilts that she was sewing labels for.
"It appears when I do something that I like, I am not wasting my time and sitting around," she concluded.
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