Fiber Artists Inspired by Cayuga Lake Watershed

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Tompkins Weekly 1-16-19

By Patricia Haines Gooding

For generations, quilts have embodied creativity, heritage, and community. Over the last decade, watershed groups across the country have begun turning to the art of quilting to spark public awareness of the increasingly critical importance of protecting our precious water resources.

For a few examples:
• In 2006 in Aux Sable, Illinois children designed a large quilt expressing their pride in their local environment. 
• A 50-foot quilt of the Farmington River, created by local and national artists, hangs in the Connecticut State Capitol. 
• Encouraged by the Lynnhaven Watershed organization, in 2014 Virginia Beach first graders created a 48 square painted quilt as part of their sustainability studies. Now in fifth grade, they promote watershed stewardship for current first graders. 
• Trout Unlimited, which has Trout in the Classroom programs across the country — including all around our lake, thanks to the Floating Classroom — invites k-12 students to send 8-inch by 8-inch squares, along with a letter describing their watershed, to all participating schools, which then put them together in their own unique designs.

Watershed map quilt by Patricia Gooding

Cayuga is much more than a beautiful body of water nourishing over 140 hamlets and towns in seven counties in central New York. Our watershed encompasses a multitude of ponds, wetlands, rivulets, streams, fields, woodlands, even roadside ditches that channel water running off roads in the direction of the lake itself. Whether we pay attention or not, our lives are rooted in an aquascape of awesome complexity.

How to participate
To celebrate this complexity, Cayuga Lake Watershed Network C(CLWN) invites Cayuga quilters — of all ages, experience levels, and backgrounds, school classrooms, individuals and groups — to join a shared journey to express their connectedness with the lake at the heart of our regional identity.

Most quilters have stashes of fabric waiting for creative expression. Quilters Corner, SewGreen, and the ReUse Centers offer more and not just fabric. As the biannual Tompkins County Quilters Guild show celebrates, today’s quilts go far beyond the ordered squares of history. At TC3 in October, in addition to traditionals, you’ll see multi-layered free forms with paint, paper, beads, embroidery, fabric collage, freehand, and machine, dancing across vibrant designs.

Cayuga Summer quilt by Phyllis Rappaport

The end goals of this project are to bring together folks who care about our waters, willing to express this caring through the art of quilting; and to offer these expressions as traveling exhibits that encourage others to join in protecting the lake. Art can convey more vividly than words, moving us to pay attention.

This project reflects CLWN’s commitment to promoting citizen engagement with protecting the lake, by sharing information about threats to its welfare and opportunities for action on its behalf. We’ve been hearing so much about threats — hydrilla, HABs — that it’s easy to neglect the abundance of beauty our waters offer every day. Quilting Cayuga is intended as a reminder to remember, and celebrate, this beauty in our daily lives.

Where to find info
Details about the Network and participation in Quilting Cayuga may be found at In brief, we invite wall hangings (max 36 inches) that will draw viewers into connecting with the watershed. Images of water, trees, farmlands, birds, fish, sailboats, paddlers, long vistas or up close and personal are welcome. Photos submitted by July 1 will guide exhibit selections, aiming for small collections that can be offered for display at libraries, fire halls, community centers, and other public venues starting in October.

Patricia Haines Gooding, CLWN Board memberand project coordinator, invites suggestions and questions at

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