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Stensrud earns honor

August 15, 2012
Jodelle Greiner - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

BLUE EARTH - Merle Stensrud is considered by some to be an expert at paper piecing, but she got into quilting by accident.

Stensrud will be the featured quilter at the 29th Annual Upper Midwest Woodcarvers and Quilt Expo this weekend at Blue Earth Area High School.

The Expo is open 4-8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

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Merle Stensrud is the featured quilter for the 29th Annual Upper Midwest Woodcarvers and Quilt Expo this weekend at Blue Earth Area High School.

Stensrud will demonstrate the flying geese ruler at 6 p.m. Friday, and paper piecing basics at 7:30 p.m. She will repeat the demos, respectively, at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Saturday. She will offer the ruler demonstration again at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

Stensrud has displayed her work at the Expo for about a decade and found out she was the chosen quilter in a message from organizer Mike Ellingsen, who says Stensrud is "regarded as a master" at paper piecing.

Stensrud grew up sewing.

"Mom taught me how to sew garments and I was a 4-H'er," she said, but she didn't start quilting until 1983.

"Our daughter was going to be married and heard about a memory quilt and she wanted one," Stensrud recalled.

A memory quilt is made of pieces of fabric on which people have written special memories of the bride or groom, then the blocks are sewn together.

"I had no idea what I was doing!" Stensrud said.

She got the quilt together by relying on her sewing experience, then talked friends into hand-quilting it for her.

After making quilts for each of her two daughters-in-law, the kids got the idea to surprise their parents with a memory quilt for their 25th anniversary.

"They got the blocks back and realized 'The surprise is on us,'" Stensrud said, because none of them knew how to sew the blocks together. Stensrud wound up sewing the blocks for her own anniversary quilt.

"It was exciting to get the blocks back; very ingenious people out there, I tell you," she said.

She started paper piecing the same way - by accident. She was at a quilt show in Austin and saw a 12-by-12 quilt of pine trees. She bought the pattern but didn't realize it was paper piecing.

"I learned how to paper piece to that pattern," Stensrud said.

"It's so accurate, that's what's so fun," she said of why she enjoys paper piecing. "I think it's the preciseness you get from it."

She believes in passing along what she knows. Although her great-grandchildren are too young, Stensrud has taught some of her grandchildren.

The Expo will be an opportunity for her to teach, but also to learn. She's also excited about looking around.

"What a wonderful job they do displaying items that come in," Stensrud said of the Expo. "Wonderful, wonderful show."



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