Some of the women in the Arctic Blonde Strippers have been practicing their skills for 60 years, maybe more. And some learned the art from their mothers.
But these days it’s not as common for moms to teach their daughters how to quilt.
Quilting slipped into one of the endangered arts somewhere in the 1980s and 1990s, but there has been a resurgence in the new century. In Whitehorse, women of all ages have a standing invitation to join the Artic Blonde Strippers and learn techniques from the old timers.
The group meets on Tuesdays from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Golden Age Society.
Bonnie Guy, the volunteer organizer of the quilting circle, says that the women who drop by on Tuesdays and hunker down to work together on a quilt aren’t all pros and they welcome newbies.
Everyone was a beginner at some point — and some of the women who help make the quilts got their start just two years ago when the quilting circle was formed.
Guy came up with the name and June Raymond, Golden Age Society president, got a kick out of it.
“The origin of the name is that grey hair here is considered to be Arctic blonde and the quilts that we’re making are started with strips of fabric,” Guy says.
When the seniors who attend events at the Golden Age Society got wind of it, there were mixed reactions.
“There were women saying we can’t have strippers here,” Guy says.
And Raymond interjects, “But the men, their eyes all lit up, like, ‘What’s happening here?’ It’s quite funny, actually.”
Since then a group of between six and 12 women have been meeting regularly and pumping out quilts that are so well done they have loosened thousands of dollars out of people’s pockets in raffle ticket sales.
Each week the Arctic Blonde Strippers work together on a quilt and when it’s done, they donate it to the Golden Age Society to be raffled off. The ticket sales are then divided, with 30 per cent invested back into supplies to make more quilts and 70 per cent supporting the society.
The next chance to gamble for a quilt will be at the society’s Spring Tea and Bake Sale on May 4. A raffle ticket is $2.
The group started their first quilt together in October 2011 and they completed it for the December raffle.
“They blew me away when they were able to get a quilt turned out that quickly,” Guy says.
“And it was nice,” Raymond adds.
Guy agrees. “We’ve only had one dud,” she says. “But the woman who ended up with it loves it and that’s all that matters.”
The Arctic Blonde Strippers have already started making a queen size quilt to be raffled off at Christmas this year, but still they welcome newcomers to join them.
“We’ll get them making baby quilts or start another full-size quilt,” Guy says. “I’d love it if young people join us. There’s an amazing amount to be learned – on both sides. Just because we age doesn’t mean we stop learning.”
The opportunity to quilt with the seniors is about more than learning sewing techniques, she adds.
“I think it’s incredibly valuable for young people to have a very clear picture of what life as a senior can be,” Guy says. “Stereotypically, young people look at it like something that will never happen to them. Or, they may think that as seniors they won’t be productive; won’t contribute to society; won’t be valued, healthy or active. So it’s a great way to see it’s none of those things.”
There’s an invisible line we pass into old age, Guy observes, and we don’t see it coming. One day we find out we’re old and things have changed.
“There’s a midway ride that I thought nothing of when I was in my 40s and now it scares the hell out of me,” Guy says. “When did that happen? There’s an invisible passage of time.”
Raymond had the very same experience, only she found out while strapped into a rollercoaster that she was now terrified – the same ride she’d taken several times in her life.
“I bit my husband’s arm,” she says. “I was right down in the seat and I’m hanging onto my husband and he’s trying to hold me and I bit him and my wallet flew into the air and by some luck it landed in his lap. That was some trouble. But you don’t know when you change – because you did it as a kid.”
The Arctic Blonde Strippers meet every Tuesday afternoon at the Golden Age Society from 1 to 5 p.m. The fee to participate is $2, which covers all quilting supplies and all the tea and coffee you can drink. The Golden Age Society is located on the side of the Sport Yukon building at 4061A – 4th Avenue.
For more information call the society office at 867-668-5538.