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Worth overdoing

Ronan quilter Carl Rohr quilts in vibrant colors, patterns

"Happiness is the color orange” was posted on Carl Rohr’s son’s blog. After reading that quote, Rohr knew he had to make his son an orange quilt. And Rohr said he smiled all the while he was cutting and piecing that orange quilt.

English quilter and fabric designer Kaffe Fassett inspired Rohr’s attitude about color and quilting. Parts of Fassett’s philosophy Rohr has adopted as his own are: enjoy real color, ignore all the rules, and if something is worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.

A quilter for 12 to 14 years, Rohr got hooked when he lived in Bonner. Rohr was a pastor in the Lutheran church in Bonner, and many of the women in his congregation quilted. Rohr started with a log cabin quilt, but “the first quilt I made just bored me to death.” Since that log cabin quilt, he’s made probably 250 quilts.

“The (quilting) bug hits you, and it’s insidious,” Rohr said.

Now Rohr quilts almost every day. Rohr retired four years ago, and he and his partner moved to Ronan in June of 2006. 

“It (Ronan) is a great town, it’s quiet,” Rohr said.

And his peers respect him, too. As proof Rohr has a quilt hanging in the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden, Colo.

Rohr also organized a men’s round robin quilt and the 2009 Montana Men Who Quilt show, showcased at last summer’s Mission Mountain Quilt Guild show.

Rohr will take the show on the road this summer to Brookings, S.D.

Rohr also teaches the occasional quilting class. His first time as a quilting instructor came after Rohr was asked to hang a quilt in Timeless Treasures Quilt Store in Missoula.

“Everybody loved it (the quilt),” Rohr said.

So Timeless Treasures asked Rohr to teach quilters how to make his quilt. He taught a two-day class and “really had fun.” Rohr also taught a group of women friends who take one class a year as a retreat. Rohr also went to Great Falls and taught a class. 

On Feb. 27 Rohr taught 15 Mission Mountain quilters at the Ronan Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The quilt was called Radiant Suns, and the pattern is published by Doodle Press. Radiant Suns sounds as if the pieces would be pointed and sharp, but the templates are rounded and curved. 

When Rohr first saw a Radiant Suns quilt on display at a quilt store in Minnesota, he loved it and bought the pattern. At the time he was a fairly new quilter and thought the curved lines would be to tough for him to sew. 

A friend from his class of quilting ladies told him about a 15-minute class on piecing curved lines at Timeless Treasures so Rohr took the class and learned how.

But Rohr said, “You really just have to do it (make the quilt).” 

Quilters were piecing the quilt using fabrics that varied from yellow and black prints with just a smidge of red to black and white and lime green prints to autumn colors. Rohr wandered around and was available to dispense advice.

The heaps of fabric, scraps of cloth, irons and ironing board, pins and rotary cutters didn’t bother Rohr who characterizes his organizing style as “perfectionist wanna-be.” Rohr has a “nice work counter” in his basement workroom, nicknamed the dungeon. Bins of fabric are sorted by color, but sometimes things encroach on the counter and fabrics get moved around.

Rohr’s favorite quilt is “the one I’m working on now,” he said with a grin. However, his favorite right now might be a quilt Rohr just completed. A friend’s mother died and left the friend six stars, each about 33” tall. The friend’s great-grandmother pieced the stars. She used old shirts of her son’s, some stained with tractor grease which Rohr could smell as he pressed the pieces, and scraps of her dresses, just worn pieces of clothing.

“Even some of the pieces were pieced,” Rohr said.

Four of the stars were completed in the 1920s, and the other two were finished later, Rohr thought.

The strips of cloth were hand sewn onto a backing, but they wrinkled and rippled and wouldn’t lay flat. Rohr took them all apart, washed and pressed the strips, and restitched them so they were smooth and flat. Since the family raised wheat, Rohr used wheat fabrics for the sashing, or the fabric which connects the stars. Rohr said he hand quilted the finished product just because he thought the quilt deserved hand quilting. Rohr said he just had completed the binding, or edge finish, on the quilt. 

“I put so much into it,” Rohr said, “And got so much out of it.” 

As far as being one of that rare breed, a male quilter, Rohr said it’s getting better. Going into a quilt store for him used to be sort of like a lady going into a hardware store. 

“They (the clerks) assumed you knew nothing and treated you like that,” Rohr said. 

Now Rohr not only has a network of Montana men who quilt, but he also talks to other male quilters on quiltguy at Yahoo, a group with about 250 members.

What’s next for Rohr? 

“There are so many quilts in my head,” he said, tapping his forehead with a bent finger.

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