300 Words about Quilting: Why I Love my Quilt Guild

Quilters Newsletter invites you to share your quilt stories with other QN readers in 300 words or less. If you have a quilt story that fits the topics listed, be it funny, sad, poignant or anything in between, we want to hear from you. Send your story, its title and your complete contact information to submissions@qnm.com. Put “300 Words” in the subject line.

Upcoming topics and deadlines are:

DEADLINE: July 15, 2012— Dreams and goals for my quilting

DEADLINE: September 1, 2012— I won't give up                                                                                                          

DEADLINE: November 1, 2012— Quilts and charity

DEADLINE: January 1, 2013— Awareness quilts

DEADLINE: March 1, 2013— The person I taught to love quilting





Quilt Guilds are the touchstones and centers for community in the Quilting world in unique ways. Guilds show themselves to be voluntary, democratic, independent and self sufficient, the co-operative nature of which is refreshing in a world of “What have you done for me lately?”

My Quilt Guild serves as a wellspring of talent, creativity and encouragement that can be drawn on and utilized to elevate one’s own work to a greater innovative level. The individuals in the Guild can serve as sounding boards, artistic critics, cheering sections and reality checks. They can be companions at retreats, classes, shows and shops. In this electronic age when e-mails and blogs and tweets connect the world the human connection of a room of members with a common purpose of promoting our love for Quilting can be, at times, as comforting as the Quilts the members produce.

For someone who travels due to work or family the Guild can be a familiar framework for new friendships amid a passion that is shared by all, a love of fabric and quilting. Nor does the support end at the Guild door. Members can introduce a new person to the culture of their city. I have moved from Houston, Texas to Baltimore, Maryland to San Antonio, Texas to Canberra, Australia. During all of that travel I have been a member of a guild in the area where I live. With the help of a much loved and respected quilt teacher the first contact I had overseas in Canberra was with a gifted quilter who was my hostess the first night at the Canberra Guild. I have established friendships that I cherish.  These new friends travel on with me. These individuals continue to enrich my life (and make me more daring about my quilting!)

Imagine yourself on a guild retreat. Its midnight, and you’re sewing the last seam of an on-point, 12-block quilt. You unfurl it, realizing that the side setting triangles are the tiniest bit too small, and the border seam will clip the corners of your beautifully-pieced basket blocks. You discuss the problem with the other night owls, groggily quilting nearby. Suddenly, someone starts to draw on a post-it, calculating how big the triangle’s hypotenuse should be and what that means for cutting instructions. A cry for “a calculator with a square root function” produces the smartest phone in the universe, and the pronouncement is “a 16-inch square, cut in quarters diagonally.” Then uncertainty sets in. Another cry goes out for help. Across the room, another friend pulls a huge setting triangle ruler from her Mary Poppins-like carpet bag. The three huddle around a cutting table, verifying that both methods of creating the triangles result in the same answer.

You ask the “hypotenuse” person to do the honors with a rotary cutter on your last 1.5 yards of setting fabric. She hesitates, but you encourage her to go for it. The big ruler is used to cut the last two triangles, and you happily head back to your table. Another friend helps you rip all the seams out so that you can sew the new triangles to your quilt, which you do until almost 3:00 A.M.

Now imagine accomplishing the same thing at your own house, alone. Impossible. You might even have quietly boxed up the quilt, creating yet another UFO. So, why do we go to guild retreats? To commune, to learn, to teach, to deprive ourselves of sleep, to create works of art, to make blankets, and to sew and sew to the lovely sound of friend’s voices.


The sisterhood of fabric and thread – that should be the byline of our quilt guild, Piece of Heaven! Based in Draper, Utah, we meet the first Thursday of every month and I hold that spot in my calendar sacred. I was introduced to the guild by a non-quilting neighbor in 2009, two years after we moved to Utah. Joining immediately, I attended my first meeting, participated in that year’s spring retreat, and was hooked! With 50 members, this wonderful group of women has a wide variety of interests regarding quilting, which translates into fun, instructive, and inspirational meetings. Here is the best part: we grow together in the art as we encourage one another to try different techniques, in friendship as we learn to appreciate one another for our uniqueness, and in life as we encourage one another to endure to the end, regardless of how many times the threads of motherly patience, health, and sanity keep breaking on us!

As its presidency rotates every year, our group is exposed to a multitude of classes, trunk shows, humanitarian initiatives, as well as light- hearted activities, such as last year’s Halloween quilt, costume, and cackle contest. Members participate with enthusiasm, contributing to an extraordinary experience for all of us. Under the direction of founder Karen Wight, the focus remains to enrich our quilting experience while having lots of fun. Although she is accomplishing this every month, the overriding effect our quilt guild has had on my life has been to ease me into the community, to provide a forum within which to test my crafty ideas, and to expand my knowledge of the quilting world. Above all, as an expatriate from Brazil, our quilt guild has gifted me with 49 sisters! And that, my friends, is heaven on earth!


At my local quilt guild meetings, women whose ages span a few generations share a common love of fabric, design, and stitching – everything in the world of quilting. And when describing their favorite quilting tool, members often mention the guild itself, and the camaraderie, encouragement and inspiration it offers.Guilds offer a unique opportunity to interact with women both older and younger, as peers. Age doesn’t limit conversations, which cover quilting, families, health, careers, and more. But mostly, we talk quilting. While we treasure its history and traditions, we also explore new tools, materials and techniques.

During show & tell, older members with names like Edna, Ruth, Rose and Gladys show quilts they’ve made for their growing families. Many learned to sew during the Depression, when making clothes was a necessity. Some are longtime quilters; others discovered quilting only after retiring, and eagerly learn the basics. Middle-aged members with names like Diane, Linda, Susan and Nancy bridge the generations. Some work full or part-time, while others are taking a break to raise children. Many learned to sew in Girl Scouts and Home Economics classes.

There aren’t many young women at our meetings, perhaps because they work during the day, when meetings are held. Or maybe it’s because school budget cuts eliminated the Home Ec. classes in which they might have learned to love sewing.To keep the tradition of quilting alive, many guilds teach kids sewing and quilting, and “Youth” categories are included in quilt shows. Some guilds award scholarships to a new generation of sewers and quilters – high school students with names like Crystal, Savannah, Lindsay and Tiffany, who plan to study fashion design and related fields. In this way, guilds support those to whom we can pass the quilting torch – one made of fabric, of course!

“I’ll do the block demo next month.”
 “Sue, here’s a baby quilt for the hospital.”
“Katie, I finished the bindings on these three Quilts of Valor.”

These are the conversations when I walk into the meeting. It’s –11F here in northern Minnesota and 30+ quilters have put on their CuddlDuds and Sorel boots to come together. The young moms, the great-grandmas, two engineers, three nurses, a school bus driver, the home town gals and the transplants are joined with a common thread;  it’s a beautiful patchwork of backgrounds and skills. As I remove my mittens and down jacket, I reminisce. Seven years ago some of us didn’t know a fat quarter from a selvedge, and now we’ve worked together to donate over 400 Quilts of Valor, 300 baby quilts and dozens of “comfort “quilts to chemo patients in our community. No quilts are assigned, no donation lists are prepared. Quilts just appear monthly from under the tables. When my Navy Seal son was killed in 2008, each guild member stitched a patriotic block into a beautiful wall hanging for my home. I hardly knew
many of the stitchers, but they helped heal my heart!

Our election of officers is a lesson in nonpartisan, anti-political, friendly voting—no nominating, no campaigning, no ballots. “Leanna, Loretta, Sue, will you be our officers again?”  “Sure”, they answer. Barb, who drives over the border from Canada says, “I’ll take notes.” Everyone claps; done in one minute. After show and tell and dessert, we bundle up. The temperature has dropped to –15F, but we’re warmed. On the drive home I’m thinking we should change our name to the International Ecumenical Sharing Caring Teaching Learning Laughing Helping, Oh Yes, Stitching Society—but that’s too many words to applique onto our show banner.

Life is a struggle. We have bills, children, work, home repairs, errands, and sick relatives. When I go to my monthly quilt meeting, I put my purse on the chair and am instantly transformed. I smile and hug the ladies I have longed to see all month. I make my way to the back of the auditorium slowly walking and saying hello to everyone. Now I am home. No obligations, just me time. I look out across the auditorium and know that here, I am understood. Here I am appreciated and surrounded by people who understand me.

Here in my guild I am at peace. Here I am content to dream and share. I make my way ever so slowly around the room. Am I working my audience or are they working me?  It doesn’t matter. Here we all have fun, here we are all safe. We talk about thread and fabric. We share with each other our passions for our most valued possessions, our sewing machines. We talk about getting together to build our stashes.

In my guild we are all quilters. We are not rich or poor, we are not young or old, we are not short or tall, slim or overweight. We are friends that are bound together in the strongest of sisterhoods. We are designers following in the footsteps of our ancestors. We are experiencing change and creativity at the same time we are appreciating our roots. We touch the fabric and with our fingers we caress the spirit of possibilities. We create life into the cotton we hold and cut and sew. We are the beginning of something greater and we belong.

I live in a big quilting town in Montana. The town is tiny, but it has a big quilt store and several quilt groups. For a quilt guild retreat several years ago, we all brought two fat quarters, of the “What was I thinking of!” type. The idea was to exchange them, without peeking, thinking that one person's trash might be for another's stash.The squares were distributed, to cheers, laughs, and groans. One member suggested we sew our “new” fabric into simple blocks to donate to the local charity quilt group. Soon the completed blocks were piling up. The fabrics I grabbed had pink southwest-style lizards, and since I dislike pink it was especially easy to let my blocks go to a good cause.

Months later, I was busy sewing a commissioned quilt when I smelled smoke. Soon I was standing in the snow watching a fire centering on the furnace and my sewing room. My 18 best quilts went up in smoke. So did the quilts hanging on the walls. The only quilts that survived were ones in process or on the bed. Or that I had sold or given away. My quilting friends donated lots of fabric to me, and supplies to get started. The local store even gave me a sewing machine. I cried. Then I made a quilt with a sample of every fabric given me.

Months after that, I was startled to receive a HUGE quilt, containing all the blocks made at the retreat, and more donated blocks that had come flooding in. I have to double-fold the quilt to use it at all! But I love my guild friends. And my love-filled quilt. Pink lizards and all.


Nine years ago when twelve members of another guild got together in the basement of a quilter here in Iola, Wisconsin, to discuss whether or not we should branch out into our own local quilt guild little did we know what lay in the future.

Over the years we have had an average of thirty members with twenty of them attending monthly meetings. We meet for three hours the first Monday of the month to have a short business meeting, a lively round of Show and Tell, and a demonstration or presentation of a new skill. There is probably nothing unusual about our club so far, right?

What makes these quilters unusual and why I love my Norske Needler guild is the spirit of volunteerism!  When elections for officers are held, members volunteer for positions. Even for the program committee, members volunteer. For major events such as retreat coordinators, members volunteer. This summer we hosted a very successful event called “Friendship Days” inviting guests from every guild in Central Wisconsin. Members were asked to volunteer for various positions prior to, during, and after the event. We had no problem filling the positions. However, when one out of town member arrived to help set up the night before, she stated that she had not been assigned to a committee and wondered why. She was immediately given an opportunity to volunteer.

Not only do these members volunteer, but they come with new visions for our club. In addition to the usual club activities held in other guilds such as Block of the Month, or other monthly program options, and service projects, we host an annual local retreat sometimes inviting outside teachers, but many times using our own talent. We held an outstanding quilt show on our fifth anniversary, and have already been given the preliminary vision for our ten year anniversary show in 2013!

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