Sardines made out of fabric?

That was Jan Muto's fiber arts challenge years ago when, as a member of the Valley Stitchers Guild, she and fellow members where tasked with creating unique projects using a variety of textiles.

One year as the guild focused on a particular theme, Muto was part of a "Scandinavian Smorgasbord" committee assigned to create Scandinavian food designs from different types of fibers. Sardines were among the fabric creations Muto created. Another year, Valley Stitchers produced creative pieces based on the theme "Rags to Riches," for which members took clothing such as an old pair of jeans and restyled it into a handbag.

This is the creative textile world of the Valley Stitchers Guild, whose members have been quilting, sewing, weaving, crocheting, knitting, embroidering and doing all things fiber arts for more than 40 years. This August, the Valley Stitchers will be showing work at the Orinda Library Gallery.

Muto, a Concord resident who will feature various beading techniques in her work, said that meeting with other fiber artists regularly has numerous benefits. The group gathers monthly, September through May, to listen to various speakers talk about the different aspects fiber arts.

"We expand our knowledge of textile arts and are able to keep up with the latest trends," said Muto, who taught a basketry class through Walnut Creek Civic Arts Education. "This gives us an opportunity to explore all kinds of textile arts and a chance to support individuals as creative artists."


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Rudi Thomas of Orinda has seen Valley Stitchers Guild, which celebrated its 40th anniversary three years ago, steadily grow in membership and in range of talent. The guild has close to 100 members from all over Contra Costa and Alameda counties.

The guest speakers keep monthly meetings at Faith Lutheran Church in Pleasant Hill interesting, Thomas said.

"We've gotten some wonderful stitchers and some who make clothing," she said. "We just explore the whole science of putting needle and thread together."

In addition to creative challenges in which members are encouraged to create something different using common materials, the guild has also hosted fashion shows featuring wearable art and unique accessories such as beaded handbags and hats.

The exhibit at the Orinda Library Gallery will feature wall quilts, macramé, origami and fabric postcards and boxes, among other things.

While Marilyn Tribble of Walnut Creek has been a Valley Stitchers Guild member for four years, she's been quilting since 1989. She said she continues to master different methods — by hand or sewing machine — of putting quilts together. Tribble's quilts often depict appliqués and designs that show her love of animals and nature, she said.

"We have show-and-tell at meetings, which are so much fun," Tribble said. "I'm always impressed not only with the creativity but also with the productivity and talent of the group."

Tribble hopes the gallery exhibit will show visitors the number of talented fiber artists in the East Bay.

Clayton resident Vilija Deutschman found a crochet square in a trunk belonging to her husband's grandmother it had been packed away in the late 1930s. She dyed the crochet square and embellished it onto her own hand-woven fabric to create a unique bag.

"It's exciting — the fact that everything old is new again," Thomas said.

Valley Stitchers Guild "Bags, BAUBLES and Beads" exhibit
WHEN: Through August
WHERE: Orinda Library Gallery, 26 Orinda Way