Glaucoma has made it difficult for Murph Gerber to continue longarm quilting, but she continues to work in the medium and with other quilts a few days a week, she says. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Glaucoma has made it difficult for Murph Gerber to continue longarm quilting, but she continues to work in the medium and with other quilts a few days a week, she says. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Annual show’s featured quilter focuses on big show, big quilts

By Matthew Nash

Olympic Peninsula News Group

SEQUIM — When Murph Gerber, 74, quilts, she likes to go big.

“I mostly make king-size quilts,” she says inside her Sequim home, standing over a large, beautifully designed quilt in a guest room.

“When my family comes from Nebraska, they like to be comfortable.”

Gerber’s family members aren’t the only ones who take comfort in her fine quilts.

Fourteen previous featured quilters with the Sunbonnet Sue Quilt Club’s annual show selected Gerber to be this year’s featured artist.

She’ll have a prominent display with quilts of all colors and sizes at the 31st annual Quilt Show on July 21-23 at Sequim Middle School, 301 W. Hendrickson Road.

The show will be held during the annual Sequim Lavender Weekend.

The quilt show — which will have the theme, “Don’t Bug Me, I’m Quilting!” — will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 21-22 and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 23.

Tickets are a suggested $5 donation.

Tickets for the club’s raffle quilt by Muriel “Kitty” Niles are on sale for $1 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 15 at the Sequim Farmers Market and during the show.

Said Gerber: “I’ll admit I’m a good piecer [of quilt scraps] and almost always my points meet exactly.

“But I didn’t feel I was as good as the other ladies.”

Gerber started quilting 25 years ago while living in Lincoln, Neb., although not as much as she would have liked.

She worked as a cytotechnologist, a laboratory professional, studying primarily Pap smears.

“I always wanted to be a quilter, but I was too tired after work,” she said.

Some of her first quilts were for newborn grandchildren but she soon segued into various styles as time allowed.

One of her most memorable quilts, “Chicken Soup,” took a year to make with help at a Nebraska quilt shop.

Each month she received a new block after finishing the previous block.

“It’s one-of-a-kind and there’s no pattern like it,” she said. “It really was a fun project.”

Over the years she’s developed a niche for piecing scraps together to make quilts too.

“I love scrap quilts,” she said.

“Most of what I’ve done is bright colors.”

Gerber and her husband, Donald, a retired certified public accountant for the state of Nebraska, visited Sequim in 1999 and fell in love.

They came back two years in a row before moving in 2001.

Her neighbor Loretta Bilow became her “big sister” in the quilt club, inviting her to join.

“I came here with a lot of quilt tops so I knew I wanted to keep quilting,” Gerber said. “I wanted to get involved because I love to do it.”

Gerber, like most club members, says the group is “wonderful” and very “talented.”

“When I joined, the group shared their knowledge and were very accepting,” she said.

She eventually became co-chairman of the community quilts program, which provides quilts to people in need and/or community groups, for a number of years and continues to help with projects in the club.

Gerber said she also took up longarm quilting, the ability to use a machine that sews the quilt top, batting and backing together, about 13 years ago, and has helped finish more than 100 quilts for friends and herself.

Despite a rich resumé in quilting post-retirement, Gerber said it’s been hard to quilt with glaucoma, a condition damaging her eyes’ optic nerves due to pressure.

She’s had eight surgeries on her left eye and four on the right and is able to function up close, she said, but has a hard time longarm quilting.

“I try to put in as many hours as I can and get out here and quilt a few days a week,” Gerber said.

She does keep a good routine with quilting by going to the Sunbonnet Sue Quilt Club’s weekly Wednesday meetings at the Sequim Masonic Lodge, going to Karen’s Quilt Shop with friends on Thursdays and going to a longarm quilting group once a month.

“The pressure [in my eyes] is stabilizing,” she said.

Gerber said she is considering going to her eye surgeon in Nebraska for further procedures, but for now she’s focused on the quilt show and doesn’t feel stress being featured at the show.

“It’s just a joy to share and see other people’s work,” she said.

“I’m fortunate to have enough eyesight to keep going.”

For more information, visit www.sunbonnetsuequiltclub.org.

________

Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].

“Chicken Soup” took Murph Gerber a year to finish while living in Nebraska. She took a class at a quilt shop and received a new quilt block each month after finishing the previous one. It will be on display with dozens of Gerber’s quilts and hundreds of others from Friday through Sunday, July 21-23 at Sequim Middle School. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

“Chicken Soup” took Murph Gerber a year to finish while living in Nebraska. She took a class at a quilt shop and received a new quilt block each month after finishing the previous one. It will be on display with dozens of Gerber’s quilts and hundreds of others from Friday through Sunday, July 21-23 at Sequim Middle School. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

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