Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Bear in Charlie's Cabin--A Quilt to Honor a Special Man

A Bear in Charlie's Cabin

My husband and I made this quilt in memory of our friend Charlie Pirtle, who passed away in 2008. 

Charlie was a gentle man and a gentleman.  He loved the outdoors.  He loved sharing it with others.  For many years, he taught outdoors skills at the Becoming an Outdoors Woman in New Mexico workshop. 

He was a popular instructor.  He touched many people and many of us are compelled to create tributes to Charlie.  Someone created a geocache near one of Charlie's favorite fishing holes.  Bart Skelton wrote his story about Charlie.  Charlie's obituary tells of the nature of the man. 

The quilt that my husband and I made will be raffled next weekend at the Becoming an Outdoors Woman in New Mexico workshop in Raton, New Mexico.  Funds raised in the raffle go to pay for a scholarship for a student to attend the BOW workshop.  BOW is a program where women can go to learn basic outdoors skills in a non-competitive environment.  Raffle tickets are only $5.  If you would like to support this program and the raffle, please contact Leilani right away at  If you are interested in the BOW program, visit the New Mexico website here.

The quilt has a story, too.  Charlie had a cabin in the New Mexico mountains (the log cabin blocks in the quilt).  He also loved to tell stories.  We loved to sit and listen and share some of our own stories.  Charlie told bear (and elk and dog and other) stories (bear paw blocks).  When we taught together at BOW, Charlie always asked the locals about the wildlife at the NRA Whittington Center where BOW in NM is usually held.  Invariably, the news included information about bears at the center and whether they had been trying to get into the cabins there.  Sometimes Charlie told the same story more than once.  Charlie would say something like, "I probably told this story before, but I like to hear it again, so I'll tell you anyway."  We liked hearing it again, too. 

So, when I was reminded of Ricky Tims' quilt called Bear Paws in Bertie Marie's Cabin and Ricky's treadle sewing machine, my husband and I agreed that this would be the right idea for this year's Charlie Pirtle quilt.  Our version cannot hold a candle to Ricky Tims' quilt in terms of design and construction, but our version is meaningful to us as we do our part to honor Charlie. 

Charlie was an old fashioned man.  He did not use a computer and he did not really like cell phones.  He and my husband formed the Rotary Dial Telephone Club.  They were the only members.  At my husband's suggestion, I made the red and black bear paw blocks for this quilt on my grandmother's treadle sewing machine.  My husband and I made the log cabin blocks on our 1950's era Singer Featherweight machines.  I assembled the blocks on the Featherweight.  We both quilted it on our (definitely modern) longarm quilting machine.  In keeping with Charlie's old fashioned-ness, in order to win the Charlie Pirtle scholarship, applicants must write an essay about the outdoors.  It must be hand written (not typed or printed from a computer). 

The back of the quilt shows horses running free.  I think they are some of Charlies' fans, too.  


  1. It is a handsome quilt Denny! I would have liked Charlie, too. He sounds like the menfolk in my family. I'm hoping that one of your "new" Featherweights was instrumental in piecing the quilt together!
    The world cannot afford to lose its Charlie Pirtles.

  2. great quilt & a wonderful story of you & your husband collaborating to honor your friend.
    No way my Dh is getting anywhere near my quilt stuff LOL

  3. Charlie was a man of history beyond comprehension of today's millennium kids. I was born in the west on a Calvary post and raised horseback with a revolver from age 7 yet Charlie was one of those few men still on the planet just like those who went before him into the pages of history.He was the caliber probably even higher than those I was told about as a boy: Ed McGivern, Wyatt Earp, Elmer Keith, the pony express riders, Hugh Glass, Alvin York, Jim Bowie, Ira Hayes. lt col Fairbairn, Stephen Austin . They were the moral back bone of America, So was Charlie. Those of us who got to spend a few days with him have a responsibility to re tell his lessons painted with great stories of the West. He is missed,


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