For about 20 summers, Karen Schoepflin Hagen hit the road and showed off her quilts in gymnasiums and cafeterias across the Western U.S.
Now, the quilts she’s made over the past 45 years — hundreds of them — cover the walls of the former Masonic Lodge in Genesee and are available for public viewing.
“To me, it’s just a dream come true for sure,” Hagen said.
The two-story building on the corner of Laurel Street and Ash Avenue is called Kascha Quilts — named after the first two letters in each of her names. Hagen, 76, lives across the street from the building.
The public can view Hagen’s work from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Saturday or by appointment. To schedule an appointment, call Hagen at (208) 285-1786. There is no admission fee, but donations are accepted.
According to a framed short narrative near the entrance of Kascha Quilts, Eva-Maria Sher persuaded her husband, Ron — the couple now lives in Whidbey Island, Wash. — to purchase the Masonic Lodge so Hagen could display her quilts.
It says Sher and Hagen were “arm-in-arm best friends” in the 1970s as they wore “home-made long prairie dresses, and our granny shoes.” The women were the two youngest quilting members of the Viola Community Club, where Hagen found her passion for quilting.
Hagen grew up in Viola on a wheat and dairy farm and spent 10 years in West Virginia before settling in Genesee in the late 1980s. She was a special education aid at Genesee School for several years.
Hagen said her friends officially bought the Masonic Lodge in October and Hagen renovated the building mostly by herself.
Hagen’s quilts vary in size, color, textures, themes and techniques. They sometimes take a few years to make.
She completed her first quilt, called “Revolving Hourglass,” in 1975. The quilt along with a description is displayed on the first floor of Kascha Quilts.
“The very imperfect result of months of struggles and the agony of error, but it started me on a wonderful joy-filled journey,” the description reads.
A large quilt of her mother’s face hangs on the east wall of the building. Hagen completed the quilt, “Face of Flowers — My Mother” in 2011. A brain tumor claimed her mother’s life in 1968, the description reads.
The quilt contains many floral fabrics, huckleberries, fish and birds on the border to remember her mother’s hours of birdwatching.
“I lost my mother seven years before I made my first quilt,” the description reads. “That is my heaviest sadness because I know she would have joined with me in sewing quilts — a joyful bond.”
Another huge quilt includes 20 Cow Creek Run T-shirts — one each from 1982 to 2001 of the annual trot in Genesee.
Hagen, a member of Palouse Patchers and Genesee Quilt Guild, said she spends three to four hours a day quilting.
“I quilt every day,” she said. “I can’t leave it alone.”
She said she enjoys “thinking up something and then actually seeing it happen.”
She kept most of the quilts she made and gave some away to family members. But, she has never sold any.
“I never would sell one because that would be like being an organ donor when you’re still alive,” said Hagen, noting the quilts’ importance to her after a great deal of time and thought devoted to them.
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.