Are quilt guild’s good? No, they’re great

BILLIE RUTH STANDBRIDGE | ‘The Quilt Lady’ - Lone Star Heritage Quilt Guild

Oct. 8, 2006 - Socialization is the basis of mankind, and creating is as natural as living, because we create to fill our needs. Socializing and creating are the cornerstones of quilting, and I think that’s why “quilting bees” were born.

But we’re not just born knowing how to quilt. Quilting was a skill primarily exercised by females for the benefit of the family, just as cooking was, and is, a skill that is assumed every young lady will be prepared to do for her family. But I can attest to the fallacy of that kind of thinking. I don’t like cooking. I’m not good at cooking, and I don’t anticipate ever learning to be a good cook. I cooked one time for George before we were married 46 years ago, and he never asked me to cook again.

I have known how to sew for many years, but I can assure you I did not know how to quilt before joining the quilt guild. Could I sew two blocks together? Certainly. And then more? Of course. But what about the big picture? I would have wanted a beautiful, finished product. If my interest had been great enough, I could certainly have bought a book and made a reasonable effort toward making a quilt. But when you’re raising a family, working full-time, making many of your own and your daughter’s clothes, there just isn’t time for everything. In moving back to Sulphur Springs, after retiring and having lived away for many years, my learning to quilt was really the outcome of socializing and bonding with a wonderful group of ladies just starting a brand new guild. The act of learning to quilt was a very desirable by-product. 

If there hadn’t been a social setting in which I could have learned to quilt, I probably wouldn’t be quilting. The guild serves such a distinct purpose, the most prominent being to provide ongoing meetings for people to gather for a common interest — our case being quilting.

The beauty is that it doesn’t matter what your level of skill is. Since I had never belonged to a guild before I really didn’t know exactly how a guild functioned. I thought everybody interested in learning to quilt came together and somebody taught us how to quilt. Seems logical, doesn’t it? But as the meetings went on, I learned that wasn’t how it operated. Learning does take place, but not in quite that manner. 

The organizational period of our guild, in 1998, was primarily directed by people of other guilds who had years of experience, both in quilting and organizing guilds. It seems that you’ve always got to have officers, rules, bylaws, dues, etc., etc. But when I would ask “When do we get to start sewing?” I was told that isn’t what guilds do. Naturally, I’m wondering then, how do you learn to quilt? It’s hard to believe that even in that first year, we, as a group, produced one of the most beautiful raffle quilts that our guild has done.

I didn’t know how it was going to come about, but in preparation for this quilt, M.J., one of the most experienced quilters guiding our group, had selected a feature fabric and each of us received a 6-inch square. It was assumed that we at least knew how to use a sewing machine, and we were told to make a 91/2-inch block that incorporated the use of this feature fabric in what ever way we wanted and bring it back to the next meeting. I thought this is going to be so embarrassing, for a hodgepodge of blocks to be put together, and ultimately we have to sell raffle tickets. I was even hesitant to turn a block in and be a part of this. But I did.

As we brought them in, M.J. began putting them up on a design board (a large piece of flannel). I could not believe the range of creativity that came back with the use of that common piece of fabric. I came to learn that this was a “Sampler” quilt. M.J. then used the feature fabric for sashing, (framing the blocks), and for the border. I imagine that she basted the top, batting and backing together, and it was then sent to a longarm quilter for the quilting. I had no idea what a longarm quilter was. I just knew that a hodgepodge of blocks came back as a stunning quilt. 

As our meetings progressed, some of the experienced quilters demonstrated techniques, and we had wonderful trunk shows where experienced quilters would bring their stash of quilts to inspire us and to show how some of the techniques we were learning were used in their designs. We became familiar with patterns and design names, how to select our fabrics, programs on how to use color and how to use a rotary cutter. And, because you’ve always got to have hands-on to actually put your learning into practice, we formed two “bees,” one during the day and one for the evening. The guild also sponsored workshops where we would bring our sewing machines, be taught a particular pattern, and actually put it together. And gradually, you feel you can begin to call yourself a quilter.  

I have to share an interesting bit of information. M.J., now widowed and living in the Plano area, continues to support us by entering her quilts in our Fall Festival Quilt Show and buying tickets for our raffle quilt. A wild shriek from the show floor was heard when her name was called as the winner of this year’s raffle quilt. What a full circle of events!

Just as I couldn’t have joined a guild at a much younger age, I know that we have many others who would like to quilt but can’t make it to meetings. Next week I will address that issue.

Another good program is planned by Tammy Olague for our upcoming meeting Oct. 23, the fourth Monday of the month. We’re at the Senior Citizens Center on Martin Luther King Blvd., opening the doors at 5:30 p.m. for what we do best: socializing and creating. Of course we put refreshments in that list, too. For the first two times you attend, you are our guests, but after that we will look forward to your becoming a member.

The Welcome sign will be out. 

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