Concerning Sock Monkeys and Quilts and Two Extraordinary Peninsula Women

Mar 11, 2012 | 3 comments

     As was only fitting, the annual meeting of the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum was all about history and collections and things vintage and classic.  At the outset, Karla Nelson was given high praise for her six years of service on the board and her three years as its president.  In appreciation, she was also given a portrait of a sock monkey.
     It couldn’t have been a better tribute.  Karla adores sock monkeys.  She is also the proprietor of Time Enough Books in Ilwaco and, in Dian Schroeder’s painting, the sock monkey is busy reading to Karla’s dog and to a collection of attentive sock monkey friends.
     Sock monkeys, according to Wikipedia, “are a mixture of folk art and kitsch in the culture of the United States…”  Karla, who dresses up in wonderful costumes for Dr. Seuss’s Birthday and for Valentine’s Day Dances and for new Harry Potter books, to give just a few examples, could well be considered our own Peninsula’s example of ‘living kitsch!’
     The program of the day featured a lecture by Karen Snyder, nationally known quilter and fabric designer.  She talked about her initial interest in quilts, her quilt collection, her search for fabrics with which to replicate quilt styles of the 1930s, and how, eventually, she has become a fabric designer.
     Karen (who, like Karla, grew up on the Peninsula) gives talks about quilts and fabric design all over the United States.  She illustrated her informative discussion with quilt after quilt from her extensive collection as well as with quilts she has made and with fabrics she has designed.  She was ably assisted with her “show and tell,” as she called it, by her husband Bob Hamilton and by Mike Williams, Quilt Holder Uppers Extraordinaire.
     Just as Karla’s delight in her new sock monkey portrait almost made me want a sock monkey, Karen’s enthusiasm and knowledge about quilts and fabrics and designs almost made me want to start quilting – ‘almost’ being the operative word in both cases.  It was a wonderful afternoon and I left feeling warm and fuzzy about sock monkeys and quilts and especially about the contributions of both Karla and Karen to our rich heritage here at the beach.



  1. Kathleen Shaw

    One role quilts played in American history was that of guidance along the Underground Railroad prior to the Civil War. A quilt of a certain pattern, folded in a particular way and placed just so on a fence or in a window, for example, meant “safe house” or “trouble in the area”; in fact, there was a whole quilt “language” that could be followed by slaves escaping to safety. As I recall from Life magazine, there is a small museum in southern Ohio showing these very quilts and explaining their purpose. There is also a wonderful 2007 novel, Cion, by South African author and Ohio University professor Zakes Mda that tells much of this story, along with other stories about slavery in the U.S. at that time. I highly recommend it!

  2. Karen Snyder

    It was a fun day. I love sharing quilts, especially with non-quilters!

  3. Stephanie Frieze

    I was always jealous that my cousin had a sock monkey made by her mom and I didn’t. My granddaughter likes sock monkeys and monkeys in general. I spoil her with them.

    Some of my best memories of my grandmother are of her sharing her quilts with me, telling where each fabric had come from. During the Great Depression an Ozark family used up everything so there were pieces of her dresses and my aunt’s dresses, flower sacks and the like. Quilts tell a story. I like the ones that are made from pieces of the family better than the beautiful things that are carefully planned.


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