Quilting isn't just for grannies anymore. Just ask one of the 19 art quilters whose craftswomanship hangs on a wall in Ashland's U.S. Bank.

Quilting isn't just for grannies anymore. Just ask one of the 19 art quilters whose craftswomanship hangs on a wall in Ashland's U.S. Bank.

"Along the Rogue" is a concept quilt made up of 19 separate sections, each roughly the same size and each created around a single common element: the Rogue River.

"It all started a year ago after I went to Ohio and saw a similar project; it was just so cool that I said we have to do it here in Ashland," says Karen Bates, longtime member of Rogue Art Quilters and coordinator of the project.

Bates ran the idea past the group of quilters. "Everyone loved the idea of creating a river, and since the Rogue is in our backyard, it was the perfect choice."

Thirty-nine feet long, the art quilt tells many stories, all literally and figuratively woven together by a piece of "water fabric" — a swath of river-evoking blue cloth painstakingly chosen by Bates. Each quilter was provided with about half a yard for her portion of the flowing river, a randomly selected number that identified where her quilt was located on the overall design, as well as dimensions of how wide the river needed to be on each side of her quilt so it would "flow" seamlessly into surrounding pieces.

"The other rule we came up with was you could choose to have the height of your quilt plus or minus 6 inches from your given width, so some are horizontal and some are vertical," explains Bates. "Most quilts run from 20 to 30 inches wide."

Before beginning, each quilter had to provide a commitment to the group at large.

"If anyone dropped out, the river wouldn't flow smoothly, and we only had one year to complete the project," says Bates. With ages ranging from 40 to 70 and experience ranging from a brand-new hobby to many decades of semiprofessional quilting, the quilters were up to the challenge. Nineteen women from all over the Rogue Valley and Northern California were willing to dedicate themselves to "Along the Rogue."

"The fabric was chosen in April, and many of us started in on our pieces then," recalls Bates. "Others mulled theirs over for a long time, and some people were finishing up the day before the show was hung. But we always trusted that everyone would come through."

For her segment, Bates, who has been quilting since she was pregnant with her first son 28 years ago, chose to create a scene featuring a photograph of her father and her second son fishing together.

"My father passed away three years ago, and my children were very close to my parents, so this will be a gift to my son when we are finished displaying it."

Crafting memories is what quilting is all about.

"Through quilting, we have created a caring community who supports and encourages its members," says Bates. "We have an outlet for our artistic voices, and we love being stretched by our challenges — these are definitely not your grandmother's quilts!"

Most of Rogue Art Quilters' finished designs are meant to be hung on the wall and usually are not washable. Beads, fibers and found objects often are used for embellishment and dimension. Once a year, the group finds a venue open to hanging an art quilt: U.S. Bank usually grants the quilters carte blanche, allowing members to determine their own parameters for the show.

About five days before "Along the Rogue" was installed at the bank, the art quilters laid out their creation at the Ashland home of member Debra Wolfson. A sense of awe filled the room.

"They are phenomenal," says Wolfson, whose horizontal segment is a quilted reminder of a river-rafting adventure. "And we are so excited about putting them up."

"Along the Rogue" will show through Oct. 31 at U.S. Bank, 30 N. Second St., Ashland. For more information about the exhibit and Rogue Art Quilters, contact Karen Bates at 541-482-7935 or e-mail quiltnow@gmail.com. Photographs of the exhibit can be seen at www.rogueartquilters.wordpress.com.