BROWNSVILLE — Teresa Smith’s business card at Yankee Dutch Quilting in old town Brownsville says she is the “display magician and instigator of fun.”
Mari Vanderstelt, her boss — and we use that term in the loosest sense — is the “chief trouble maker.”
Toss in friends Karena Smith and Sharon Bagg and you have a merry band of mischief makers. Teresa Smith lives in Albany, Karena Smith is from Harrisburg, Vanderstelt is from Brownsville and Bagg is from Shedd.
Since July, the four have dedicated themselves to creating a tub full of quilted ornaments and an 8-foot quilted skirt for a Christmas tree that will adorn the lobby of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service in Washington, D.C. this coming holiday season.
It is one of 75 trees that will join the Capitol Christmas Tree that will come from the Sweet Home Ranger District.
“I have wanted to do this since the Sweet Home Ranger District announced the tree was going to come from here,” said Teresa Smith. “We heard about the ornaments first and then a staff person from the ranger district dropped off fliers about the program and she told me about quilting skirts for the indoor trees.”
Smith said she has known about the Capitol Christmas Tree program for a long time, because she is originally from Montana, which provided a tree years ago.
Smith said other groups had already committed to making the skirts.
“But in July, Stephanie Gatchell from the ranger district called and said one person had dropped out and they need an 8-foot skirt,” Smith said. “We jumped on it. I already had a plan about how I wanted it to look.”
The design involved making an eight-point star. Each star point is a different quilted scene depicting life in Oregon, past or present.
Smith said her father taught college classes on rangeland management and forestry, which prompted her to create a quilt piece about the Forest Service.
Other pieces depict a pioneer woman carrying a rifle on the Oregon Trail; Crater Lake; the Oregon coast; statehood 1859, featuring the Oregon beaver; and one with the state bird — the western meadowlark — and the state nut, the hazelnut. One piece features a salmon and another is centered around Linn County farming and points out that the county is the "grass seed capital of the world.”
“We worked on it as we could and now, it’s time to put it all together with the long-arm machine,” Smith said. She estimates the quilting crew has spent at least 100 hours on the project, which has to be completed by Oct. 1.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Karena Smith — no relation to Teresa. “It’s exciting to have the opportunity to do this.”
Bagg said it’s also fun to think about the fact the women creating such a major artwork from a small, local quilt shop.
And the women haven’t kept all the fun for themselves. Teresa Smith’s daughter, Ivy, 14, has been recruited to help out as well.
And, there is a chance that once the trees come down, the women’s project will hang in the Smithsonian or on display at the USDA's Forest Service office.
“Once the trees comes down, staff from the Smithsonian will review all of the skirts and pick some of them to hang there,” Teresa Smith said. “Also, they will be reviewed by the USDA staff, which will take some.”
The others will be shipped back to the Sweet Home Ranger District, where they will be auctioned off and proceeds used to benefit local nonprofit organizations.
Other mid-valley quilters also have gotten into the act. A group of women from Sweet Home recently completed their ninth skirt for the tree project.
Some 10,000 handmade ornaments were needed to decorate the large tree that will be set up in the Capitol mall, plus 75 smaller trees that will be set up in offices surrounding the mall.
About 1,000 ornaments remain to be completed. They should represent life in Oregon and cannot include logos — no company names or sports logos.
The Capitol architect recently toured the Sweet Home Ranger District and reviewed finalist trees. The official tree will be cut on Nov. 2. The community of Sweet Home is planning a day-long celebration to give the tree a send-off to Washington, D.C. on Nov. 9.
The next ornament making event will be from 2 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18, during the Oregon Pioneers 80th birthday party at the State Capitol, 900 Court St. N.E., Salem.
A local event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 6 at Sankey Park during the community’s annual Harvest Festival.