Quilt History

Star Quilts on the Northern Plains of Montana: Part 2 - Star Quilters

Star Quilts on the Northern Plains of Montana

Now that you know a brief history of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation and the origin of Star quilts within the Indian culture (read about that here), I want to introduce you to a quilter from Poplar, Montana who has been making an impact on the quilting community for over 25 years.

Rose Atkinson has been teaching the Star Quilt Techniques course at Fort Peck Community College (FPCC) since 1995. FPCC is located on 2 campuses in Wolf Point and Poplar and offers an Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, Associate of Applied Science, and several Certificate programs.

The Star Quilt Techniques course is a 3 credit course that meets 1 evening each week. I asked Rose several questions about her quilting background and the Star Quilt Techniques course and I'm so excited to share her answers with you because I know you will find them as interesting as I did.

Enjoy reading about this present day Star Quilter and how she has taught countless students a lifelong skill...

Rose Atkinson teaches Star Quilt Techniques

Pictured Above: Rose Atkinson in her Star Quilt Techniques classroom. Photo credit: Fort Peck Community College's Facebook Page

Q&A with Rose Atkinson

How long have you been teaching the Star Quilt Techniques course?

I started at the college in 1995 and was convinced in 1996 that I could teach star quilt techniques


What is your quilting background? When did you start?

I made my first quilt in 1981 for my first born although I wanted a girl so bad I filled it in with a peach color and had a boy. I kept it for the next two who were both boys so I eventually sold it.  


Who taught you?

It was my grandmother Mary Evelyn Redwood Buckles who taught me how to make my first quilt


Do you quilt for fun in addition to teaching?

Yes for sure I sew at least 5 days a week if I have someone to visit with and sew we stay till midnight at times.  This summer we worked 4-10’s so we look forward to Friday’s to start us off for the weekend.


How many students do you have each semester on average?

I let 8-10 sign up because there are always a few that drop out of school.

What is the average range of ages for students in the course?


What is the average % of men vs women in the course? Mostly women? Or is it pretty evenly distributed?

Mostly women but the men I’ve had in take it very serious.  One summer Harold took the class and in the fall he made both his daughters quilts for volleyball giveaway. Dana Kirn was one of my best students who made lots of quilts for many events.  Stan used his PELL grant to buy his first sewing machine and makes tops for people for memorials.  I have a quilt hanging in my office that Ron made me he was a retired carpenter.  Ron went on to make I’m sure over a hundred quilts he got the craze.  My husband said I create monsters who want to just keep making quilts.  Hopefully they are inspired.


Do your students have any quilting or sewing experience when they begin your course?

Some don’t have any experience at all and have gone on to become the best around.  Olivia said she never touched a machine and she is the go to now if you want a quilt I usually refer people to her.  One lady even bought a quilting machine and has traded up a few times although when she made her first one she thought it wasn’t the best so she quit coming for a couple weeks I called her and she said her quilt didn’t seem right I had to remind her she committed to giving it to her boss so you have to come back and finish.  She was hooked her next quilt was a king size for her son.


Do you keep in touch with your students after they complete the course?

Yes some come back over and over too. 

Do you have any idea how many continue quilting? 

At least one or two keep going after each semester.  I can name most of the best around and they started in my class I tell them I’m just giving you the tools to make them it’s your creativity that will keep you going.

What are a few of the reasons for students enrolling in this course?

It may have been on their bucket list like the retired SUD of Indian Health told me this summer or they are having a baby or their going to be a grandma for the first time.  I had a mom this spring make her daughters their graduation quilts one for her senior and the other her 8th grade graduation.  My Grant Manager just finished her queen size dream quilt with minkee on the back.  Ruth was Accounts Payable and I was doing Payroll 25 years ago when she took the class and she is sewing in the craft room right now designing a beautiful work of art.  Like I said I could go on and on.  My cousin Donelle just whipped one up for her cousin’s funeral last week and we had it filled in by 10pm.  Her son is 21 now and she remembers taking my class when she was pregnant with him.  I helped her make some of her many quilts she honored him with in Basketball and Senior night.


My brother in-law who is a retired military man of over 30 years Master Chief Swede Christian thanked me recently for teaching so many people to carry on the tradition of the quilts for sale/give away.  I guess no one really said that to me directly and it made me feel proud to have made a difference in so many lives.  My grandmother said to share your knowledge and I love to teach.


Pictured Above: Rose Atkinson instructing a student in the Star Quilt Techniques course at FPCC; Photo credit: Fort Peck Community College's Facebook Page

Want to know more? See additional resources below:

About FPCC
Smithsonian Mag - A Spectacular Collection of Native American Quilts
Fabrication and Function of of star quilts on Fort Peck Reservation in northeastern Montana
Lakota Star Quilt Maker Shares Her Journey
Montana Star Quilts by Linda Parker
Great Falls Tribune - Treasured Tradition


Supporting present and future Star Quilters on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation

Each quarter, I will donate $5 from every Patchwork Lone Star quilt pattern sold to the Star Quilt Techniques course at Fort Peck Community College to benefit present and future quilters with the hopes that future generations continue to pass on the tradition of the Star Quilt. 


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Peggy Grow

Peggy Grow

This is so great! I lived in Ft Peck for a summer back in the early 90’s, working a seasonal job for the Fish and Wildlife Service. I wish I’d known about this course back then! It would have kept me busy in my free time, and been such an amazing experience!! Thanks so much for sharing this!



I enjoyed reading these two posts from your blog.
the story of your traditions is very beautiful

Connie Maxwell

Connie Maxwell

What a great project! Thank you for sharing!
I took my first quilting class with a friend 35 years ago and was hooked! It is such great feeling to create something with so much love put into it and then to pass it on to someone who really deserves it. Over the years so many of my quilts have gone to homes that bring comfort to others. What more could you ever ask for.

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