Quilts, catering, and community keep Junction mom busy

So what does a stay-home-mom do all day long, anyway? Ask Pam Butterfield of Haines Junction. Butterfield has had little chance of escaping art as…

So what does a stay-home-mom do all day long, anyway?

Ask Pam Butterfield of Haines Junction.

Butterfield has had little chance of escaping art as a hobby and a profession.

Her four siblings are visual artists, interior designers, and woodworkers. Butterfield’s mother excelled at crafts; her father, William Butterfield, a commercial artist, designed political cartoons for the Vancouver Province in the 1950s.

Butterfield underlines this with, “And all my sisters are very good cooks, too.”

The exuberant, hospitable mom excels at quilting, operates a catering service in Haines Junction, and sits on several community boards.

Sit down to chat with her in her woodsy house on Pine Lake, and she will offer you a delicious latte, ready in seconds.

“Yeah,” Butterfield says in her slow, drawled out way. “I have always loved fabric and food.

“My sister and I started sewing at about age six, making Barbie doll outfits with fabric and Scotch tape.

“And our mother always encouraged us to cook.”

After high school, Butterfield spent three years at Alberta College of Art where she specialized in fibre arts, dyeing, and painting on silk.

She holds up her first quilt, a sampler, which she sewed in 1988 for a quilting course in Haines Junction. That was her quilting debut and she has not stopped.

“At that time, I was living in the basement of Glacier View Motel,” she says. “I didn’t have a sewing machine, so I pieced, appliquéed and quilted all by hand.”

She adds that she now does most of her work on her Husqvarna machine.

“I am able to produce so much more,” she says. “I would guess that 75 per cent of quilters are now using machines, for both assembling and quilting.

“Handwork is a long process.”

Butterfield elaborates on other changes she has observed in quilting over the past 20 years.

“For one thing, there is now an amazing array of fabrics, not just calico and florals. Now there are hand-dyed cottons, silks, so many fabrics and patterns available, even in Whitehorse.”

She picks up a piece of her newer work which is machine quilted. It boasts silkscreened patterns from Megan Waterman’s shop, the Fashion Nugget, in Dawson City.

Butterfield describes how the style of quilting has expanded to include textile art, landscapes, abstracts.

“Quilting has certainly expanded from the sampler quilts,” she says. “Some artists are doing portraits with fabric, and amazing collages.”

So do quilters suffer quilter’s block as writers experience writer’s block?

Butterfield laughs her bright, spontaneous laugh and quickly sets down her latte.

“Oh definitely! That’s why I have a pile of 12 unfinished quilts.”

“For me, blockage comes at the actual quilting stage. It takes me a while to figure out how I want to do it.”

Butterfield asserts that getting too critical of her work hinders progress, so she puts that piece away for a while.

“Sometimes I look at a piece too long, and think this is the most hideous thing, then dig it out later and really like it.

“Or I look at a Quilter’s Newsletter magazine, or go on a website to e-quilters, or just wait. Sometimes that motivates me.

“And there are the other Junction quilters, the Threadbearers, about 20 of us. That’s inspiring.”

Walls of books, fabric, and quilts-in-progress fill Butterfield’s studio.

So what does a quilter do with 20 years of quilts?

Butterfield explains that she makes them for family gifts, for breast-cancer funding campaigns, and sometimes by commission. She does sell some.

Butterfield resides in a stunning landscape on the shore of Pine Lake with her husband, Eric Stinson, and their son, Cianan.

“I like being outside but I’m not an ardent nature girl. It’s the ambience I love about living out here. It’s motivating,” she says.

Their artistically appointed main floor with butterscotch-coloured walls invites one to relax, and gives evidence to Butterfield’s flair. Several framed family drawings, photos, and three avant-garde café posters grace the room.

And oh yes, your eye will catch the small moose marionette strung from the ceiling. This seems appropriate to Butterfield’s catering business called the Laughing Moose.

“We had the Laughing Moose Bed and Breakfast in town for eight years,” Butterfield says. “I changed to catering when we moved out to the lake in 2002.

“And every time, I have an event, I really stress out about it, then it goes off fine, and I think why did I stress about it?

“All the groups I have catered for are so receptive and appreciative of the fresh ingredients I use, home-cooked, and well prepared.

“I especially like catering to the 30 women who come to the Junction for the Bear Paw Quilter’s Retreat spring and fall. Being women, they really appreciate being cooked for, and having someone else clean up.”

Butterfield’s favourite foods to cook for herself are North African and Japanese. She points out her Tagine (exotic slow cooker) from Morocco.

“A lot of my catering is not exotic food, though. Groups dealing with a crowd are usually more basic.

“I love baking bread,” she says twice for emphasis. “And I love sushi, but it’s difficult to get the right fish up here.”

Butterfield plans to keep her business small.

“I’m happy where it’s at right now. I’m happy to be able to do things like take Cianan to volleyball tournaments and such.”

But she offers services ranging from small dinner parties to banquets.

Butterfield also keeps busy as a community volunteer. She was recently re-elected as School Council treasurer, and sits on the Yukon Housing Board. As well, she has volunteered for the Silver Sled Dog Race and the Alsek Music Festival.

“Running the hospitality room for the music festival for five years was a great learning experience for catering; otherwise I have had to learn just by doing,” she says.

Does Butterfield really qualify as a stay-at-home mom? Certainly one with a full slate.

Butterfield will be selling some of her sewing, including quilted bags, at the Haines Junction Public Library Craft Sale on Tuesday, November 18. She can be contacted about quilts or catering at (867) 634-2335.

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