Karyn Nilson of Arlington acquired a partially completed quilt at a yard sale and finished it. She recently located the original intended recipient. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Karyn Nilson of Arlington acquired a partially completed quilt at a yard sale and finished it. She recently located the original intended recipient. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Arlington woman finishes vintage quilt, reaches out to family

ARLINGTON — The tiny red farmhouse is home to two people and three pugs.

Most of the decor is from garage sales and secondhand shops.

Karyn Nilson, 59, likes the rusty and the funky. Her yard is full of old farm tools. Her husband calls it junk. She calls it art.

She’s also into crafting and quilting.

Years ago, her mother gave her a box from a garage sale in Bellingham. The box contained 61 squares for a quilt and scraps of vintage fabric. Each square had a flower with hand-sewn petals.

Nilson moved to the Getchell area in 2011. She put the box in a closet and forgot about it until a cleaning spree last year. Then her curiosity kicked in.

The box had been shipped from Alice Kelly, of Florida, to Rosemary Hostetler, of Bellingham. Nilson knew the squares had taken a lot of time.

“I just had this desire that I had to find somebody,” she said. “I didn’t feel right keeping it to myself if someone in the family wanted it.”

Nilson tried social media and the phone book without any luck.

The quilt needed three more squares, so she made them herself. There wasn’t enough of the fabric, and she couldn’t find the prints online. She compared swatches at the store.

“I told myself, ‘I’m never going to do this again,’ ” she said.

By October, the quilt was finished, large enough for a king-size bed.

Nilson sent an email to The Daily Herald. A little sleuthing turned up a phone number for Hostetler’s son, Tim. He recently arranged a call between Nilson and his mother, who is 91.

Hostetler’s sister, Alice Kelly, is 105. The quilt pieces were made by their mother, Elva Garber Oesch.

Nilson sent the family pictures of her work.

Hostetler was impressed. She grew up in a Mennonite community in Indiana, where quilting was a social activity.

In those days, quilts were fashioned from leftovers of dress-making and old garments. It was about “making use of something rather than throwing it away,” Hostetler said.

Everyone in her family has plenty of quilts, she said. Hostetler wanted Nilson to keep the quilt she finished, which has a typical Mennonite design.

Nilson thinks the pattern will be perfect for spring. She’ll drape it on the bed, away from where the pugs sleep.

She likes to look at her antiques and wonder about their histories.

She won’t wonder about the quilt anymore.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @rikkiking.

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