Wilderness Quilt Project
LeConte Memorial Lodge Centennial - Yosemite National Park
Wilderness Quilt Squares
Visitor Participation Made the Difference
On May 1, 2002 the Wilderness Quilt Project was begun
by Dr. Bonnie J. Gisel, Curator, LeConte Memorial Lodge, in preparation for the
LeConte Lodge Centennial Celebration in 2004.
To honor the ideals of Joseph LeConte, John Muir, and other early founders of
the Sierra Club, and to celebrate the LeConte Memorial Lodge Centennial, the Wilderness Quilt Project invited all visitors to LeConte Memorial Lodge to paint a quilt square. This would memorialize their visit to Yosemite National Park in a way that could be shared with others..
The Sierra Club supplied all the materials to visitors free of charge; and the curator and volunteer staff encouraged and inspired each person who painted a quilt square. Quilt squares were painted by people of all ages - - families and friends, wives and husbands, mothers and children, sisters and brothers, grandmothers and grandchildren. Their designs captured Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, the door of the LeConte Memorial Lodge, Yosemite bridges, climbers on granite walls, starry skies over Yosemite Valley, Curry Village tent cabins, rafters on the Merced River, camping in Lower Pines, bears, deer, squirrels, mice, wildflowers, and even portraits of John Muir and Joseph LeConte.
The Wilderness Quilt Project squares were painted during
the 2002 Season from May 1 through September 29. All quilt squares were donated
to the LeConte Memorial Lodge, Sierra Club. Originally only one hand-stitched
quilt was going to be made, and it was planned to be auctioned off, but there
were so many beautiful and interesting quilt squares which seemed to be of
permanent value that we sought additional volunteers to sew together more quilts.
In all, six different, totally unique quilts were created! The first quilt
completed was designed by Bonnie Gisel and Janet Wood, stitched in LeConte
by Lynde Scheffer, and quilted by Janet Wood. Janet named this first quilt
Club Quilt - For Our Families for our Future," which
is one of the Club's trademarks. This quilt was given for exhibit at the
Sierra Club Headquarters in San Francisco. A second
quilt features "John Muir" and
was donated to the John Muir National Historic Site. The third
was donated to the Yosemite National Park. The fourth was originally called the "Smithonian Quilt" but it turned out that esteemed instittuion did not want this little treasure of National Park and Sierra Club history, so the quilt was instead donated to, and accepted by, the Autry National Center in Los Angeles. The fifth quilt remains at LeConte Memorial to warm up one of the benches. Finally, the
sixth quilt became the official "LeConte
Centennial Quilt" and is displayed above the interior doorway on permanent exhibit at LeConte Memorial Lodge. Each of the completed
Wilderness Quilts were on display in LeConte Memorial Lodge throughout the entire
2004 Centennial Season, and now have gone to their namesake institutions.
The inspiration for the Wilderness Quilt Project was, in part,
a trip taken in 1873 by Jeanne C. Carr, mentor and life-long friend of John Muir.
Jeanne made a sketch of mountain scenery in the High Sierra while exploring with
John Muir and Albert Kellogg, a noted California botanist. Carr did not have
any art supplies with her, but she had paper in her herbarium. She tore a twelve
inch square of cotton cloth from her undergarment, pasted it to the botanist's
paper with a teaspoon of flour and water, whittled a small piece of pine, chewed
the end into a brush, crushed in the end of an onion until a teaspoonful of juice
was produced, and made her sketch. A hundred years later, Dr. Gisel as an art
instructor sent students to the Buffalo Zoo to paint the animals and
birds on muslin squares that she then stitched into a quilt. In early 2002, while
rummaging in boxes stored in her parents attic, Gisel found the quilt, still
in pristine condition in a box long since put aside. Putting these two events
together, the Wilderness
Quilt Project was born.
The Wilderness Quilt Project engages visitors to Yosemite National
Park from around the world, extending enjoyment of Yosemite Valley, providing
an opportunity to share the wilderness experience with people across the United
States, telling the story of Yosemite Valley, a dream of John Muir's. The Wilderness
Quilt Project encourages thoughts about the Valley, caring about nature and
wilderness, and brings together a diversity of people to celebrate the importance
of the diversity of wild places and our need to preserve and protect wilderness.
See Wilderness Quilt Squares
Photos of completed
Wilderness Quilt and close-up of LeConte building square by Harold Wood. Fisheye
Photo of Curator Bonnie Gisel with circle of quilt squares by James MacFarlane
Information and Donations
For more information, during the summer contact Sierra Club LeConte Memorial Lodge
Curator, P.O. Box 755, Yosemite, CA 95389, 1-209-372-4542; e-mail:
During the winter, contact LeConte Lodge Committee Chair, Harold Wood, P.O. Box 3543,
Visalia, CA 93278; phone: (559) 697-3525; e-mail: email@example.com
Please help us keep the Sierra Club's oldest public outreach and education program in Yosemite National Park. We need to continue the Sierra Club's legacy at the Heritage Center and the time has come to raise funds for the program and ensure its existence for future generations. To start, we need to raise $90,000 by October 1, 2016 to fully fund operations for fiscal year 2017. (See Fundraising Fact Sheet) (PDF)
Please make a tax deductible donation to preserve the Sierra Club home in Yosemite National Park!
- Make an
online donation using our secure web form; or
- Write a check payable to "Sierra
Club Foundation," marked "restricted for the LeConte Memorial Fund." Please
send to: Sierra Club Foundation, 2101 Webster St., Suite 1250, Oakland, CA 94612.
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