- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
For some, they represent home, warmth, comfort, support.
Others marvel at the skill it takes to create one, the story told in its stitches, the history in its layers.
Quilts have long been an American art form, one that continues to live on in Charles County.
The Quilters Guild of Southern Maryland, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, was started in June 1993 with about 10 members.
Membership swelled to 130 members over the years before settling to the current about 57.
The guild is open to anyone with an interest in quilts or quilting.
The group doesn't teach the skills to make quilts; most join with a sewing background, and guild members offer tips, suggestions, advice and support to each other, said members Patsy Jarvis and Ann Smith.
“It became a big part of my life,” Smith said of the group. She joined the guild in 1999 after seeing information on the group at a fabric store.
“There were quilts in my family,” said Jarvis, one of the charter members of the guild. “But they were for warmth; they were utility quilts.”
She remembers going to her grandmother's house and sleeping on a feather mattress with quilts, some made from old feed bags, piled over her.
The guild members make quilts for use. Smith has made at least one for each of her grandchildren.
But some of the creations can be considered pieces of art.
Quilting “is an art form. It is the history of our country,” Smith said. “And the fabric feels so doggone good.”
In Robert Shaw's book, “American Quilts The Democratic Art, 1780-2007,” it is written that quilts are “central to the story of America.”
In the book's introduction, Shaw wrote, “Quilts are emblems of hope, infused with a host of meanings — some broad, national and patriotic; others subtle, familial and personal. They are also one of America's major art forms. Quilts are banners of self-realization and individual creativity, and the best quilts are significant works of visual art — objects of great beauty and expressive power.”
According to the book, quilting allowed women to express their creativity and skills, something guild members continue to do. “People have a certain look about their quilts,” Smith explained. “I tend to like bright colors.”
“I'm more traditional,” Jarvis said. Some quilters can have such a distinct style, that members can determine who the quilter of a piece is just by looking at a project, she said.
The guild is a way to socialize (“I've made so many friends at the guild,” Jarvis said.), and it also keeps a library for members, offers workshops and hosts nationally known guest speakers. The group holds demonstrations at the Charles County Fair and gets together to produce a raffle quilt each year as a fundraiser. It would like to attract new and younger members to join. But the time commitment to the hobby and the expense might deter some.
“It's not a cheap hobby,” Jarvis said, adding that quilters can invest hundreds of dollars in a project.
Quilt fabric tends to be of higher quality and the tools can be expensive too, Smith said.
There is also the allure of new projects, new fabrics and new designs for quilters to try out.
“I love traditional patterns using contemporary fabric,” Smith said. She also likes making quilts using reproductions of Civil War-era fabrics with muted colors like “cheddar yellow” and “turkey red.”
The guild does its fair share of community outreach, too.
The Quilts for Injured Soldiers program ran from 2003 to 2011 within the guild. Led by chairwoman Pat Baker, the program collected more than 14,000 quilts from 2,911 men, women and students around the world to be distributed to military members.
“The bulk of these quilts were given to Andrews Air Force Base,” Baker wrote in an email. “Over 900 quilts were sent to Fort Sam Houston in Texas, and deliveries were also made to the then Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Medical [Center]. Toward the end of our collection, quilts were sent directly to our injured troops overseas who were in need of support from home.”
Members of the guild not only made quilts for the program, Baker wrote, they helped unpack delivered boxes, took pictures and added letters to the packages before boxing them up for delivery.
The group donates quilts and afghans to the Hospice of Charles County and pillowcases, toiletries and other necessities to Angel's Watch Shelter in Hughesville. It donates to area food banks and gives fabric to the Richard R. Clark Senior Center for those working on projects at the center.
The guild meets once a month for a business meeting, show and tell, and to socialize.
“It's a good way to meet people,” Smith said. “And to get more involved in the community.”