COREA — Twenty years ago, Carmen Weeks was a high school teacher living in Woodbury, Conn. On weekdays she drove to her job in Newton, about 20 miles northeast, often listening to public radio during the commute.
“Every day there was a program on driving home — ‘The Faith Middleton Show,’” said Weeks. “One day a guest was discussing ‘little-known getaways’ and mentioned a small Maine town called Corea. He called it the most beautiful fishing village on the entire East Coast.
“When I got home I told my husband,” recalled the mother of two. In April of 1988, the couple set out from Connecticut for Maine and that Downeast fishing village.
The town “was totally closed down,” Weeks remembered. “There was nowhere to eat.” But despite (or perhaps because of) the quiet, the couple fell in love with the village. Later in life upon retiring, they up and moved to Corea, taking up residence in the historic Bartlett house overlooking Corea Harbor.
Weeks had little time for outside pursuits as a teacher, but in retirement she took up quilting to pass the time. It quickly became more than a hobby.
“I said this is another career, this is fun.”
Before long, she had accumulated stacks of colorful creations. “You keep making things and you can only give your kids so many until you see the dog is on them,” Weeks said.
And so Bartlett House Quilts was born.
“I don’t make many traditional quilts,” said Weeks, unfolding a crib quilt with alternating black-and-white squares framing patches of bright polka dots. The Corea resident uses startlingly vivid fabrics, ranging from panels of fuschia-colored florals to splashy patterned yellows and squares with turquoise spots.
Weeks takes her inspiration (and often buys designs) from London-based Kaffe Fassett and his longtime business partner Liza Prior Lucy, who are well known in the quilting world for their bold prints and modern designs.
Weeks occasionally does design her own, tacking up squares on her felt board, but it’s rare.
“Why should I kill myself trying to design something?” she shrugged.
Although her own favorite quilt remains one of her grandmother’s, which Weeks described as “made of leftover bits of men’s slacks” with an “unusual” binding of wide-wale corduroy, she prefers modern quilt designs over traditional.
For most of history, she noted, “quilts were there to keep you warm. Quilts today, they’re not warm. People don’t use them for warmth.”
It wasn’t until insulation and electric heating became widespread that they started to become more decorative.
“When you were not worried about being frozen, then you could worry about what they look like on the bed.”
Weeks does the piecing and binding herself, but generally sends her quilts to be finished by a machine-quilter in Harrington. She has hand-quilted before, but the process was too laborious and time-consuming to be practical.
Weeks sells about “five or six” quilts each year, which is “about how many I can do.” They range in price depending on the size and intricacy. A king-sized hand-quilted piece went for more than $2,000, but most similarly sized machine-quilted pieces are under $1,000, while a crib quilt is priced at $275. A smaller quilt will take around 10 days to complete depending on her schedule.
To keep up her skills and connect with other quilters, Weeks attends workshops around the country, often put on by Fassett. She frequently returns home with bundles of colorful fabrics, which are added to an armoire off the kitchen.
While she is proud of her creations, Weeks said the process sometimes strikes her as silly.
“We buy gorgeous fabrics,” she laughed, “cut them up and sew them together again.”
To learn more, call 963-2659 or visit Bartlett House Quilts at 677 Corea Road.