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Quilters feature Anchorage’s history in fabric

By Heather Hintze 7:29 PM July 25, 2014

For Katy Neher, there’s just something about looking at black and white pictures.

“The Kimball building,” said Katy Neher. “Every time I see it — I live downtown now — and when I go by it’s neat to see something that’s been in the same spot my whole life.”

Anchorage’s 100-year history is strewn out in quilts on the floor of the Central Lutheran Church.

In honor of the upcoming Centennial Celebration, the Anchorage Log Cabin Quilters decided they wanted to feature the past in fabric.

Neher is a lifelong Alaskan; her parents homesteaded in Knik. The photos spark memories and stories of the strength and determination it took to live in Alaska before it was even a state.

“My mom snowshoed out in January and had me and six days later snowshoed back in to a dry cabin without any electricity or water,” said Neher, later adding she was carried on her mother’s back in a sugar sack.

The ten banners depict a little piece of each decade from the humble tent city in 1915 to the downtown towers of today.

“It’s mind-boggling when you look at all the decades and see how much it’s changed,” Neher said.

On Thursday the ladies worked on the back of the quilts, sewing on special centennial-emblazoned fabric. They all have to be ready for the Great Alaska Quilt Show at ConocoPhillips on Sept. 13 and 14.

Neher hopes the project will help others reminisce about the old days.

“I like the ‘55-’64 quilt because I was here for the earthquake,” Neher recalled. “I remember that very well. Fortunately we didn’t have any damage. We were on the east side of town. The house I spent some time in as a toddler went down in the inlet.”

The banner from 1925 to 1934 seems to be the quilters’ favorite. It features three pictures: The storefront of the Empress Theatre, three women riding a car in a parade and the railroad.

“We originally wanted to have the skyline of Anchorage for each decade but we ran into problems because we couldn’t find pictures that would go together to make the skyline,” said Marilyn Merino.

For her, the project is a chance to channel her passion for sewing and show it off to the city.

“Quilting gives you so much more freedom of expression than making clothes. So it’s the culmination of all of that. That people are really going to look at that and tell a story,” she smiled.

Smaller quilts accompany the banners. Each is a snapshot in time of what the quilters thought was important about the past.

“You’re kind of leaving legacy you wouldn’t get an opportunity to do otherwise,” Neher said.

It’s a small stitch in the fabric of history the quilters hope will last a lifetime.

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