Five women sat around the kitchen table. Four of them spoke of treats such as jelly rolls and layer cakes. The fifth one noticed her mouth watering.
The four also talked about a mini-patch (is someone trying just a little to stop smoking?); fussy cutting (which sounded dangerous); the Missouri Star (though we were firmly planted in the South Carolina Lowcountry; and a stash (let’s not even go there).
If you are chuckling at this point instead of scratching your head, chances are good that you understand quilting language.
The four avid quilters at the table (whose combined quilting experience totals 76 years) are members of the non-profit Maye River Quilters Guild, which started barely a year ago with 29 charter members. The group has grown to 104 members at last count.
Debi Bacon and Ann Godwin, both of Bluffton, started the group after attending other guilds. They wanted something a little closer to home, as well as a group that was a little more social. “Ann and I wanted to have a friendly guild,” Bacon said. “So we have Guild Friends, who meet you at the door. We always make sure people are welcomed.”
“This is the friendliest group,” Godwin said. “We hear that a lot.” In fact, friendliness is one of three principles written into the group’s by-laws.
In the first year, guild members created two large quilts and donated one to Osprey Village, a non-profit organization that serves developmentally challenged adults, and another to John Paul II School, as a token of appreciation for the use of a space for guild meetings.
This year, in keeping with their dedication to community service, another of the principles in the by-laws, the guild adopted a national effort called The EMbrace Project. Since June, members have been making 36-by-48-inch lap quilts to donate to local assisted living and nursing facilities. “It’s supposed to be the perfect size for wheelchairs,” said Joanne Moss, a charter member.
Sheila Wright, also a charter member, served as chairwoman for the project. “In June, I went to nursing homes and assisted livings, and asked about needs,” she said. “They asked for 168 quilts.”
As of early January, the group had created 194 quilts, well over the goal. Wright said they will return to the first homes they served to distribute the remaining quilts to new residents.
The quilt designs are simple, Wright said, and easy enough for even new quilters to be successful. Each month, a different “hostess” would choose a pattern and colors, and the committee would cut out the pattern pieces. They might be simple two-inch wide strips for one kind of quilt, or a fancier fussy cutting, which involves cutting out a particular part of a large print.
At each meeting, the pieces were distributed in baggies to members, who then created the quilt top and returned it at the next meeting. Quilters used fabric from their own stash to complete the pattern.
Some of the fabric had been donated by Granny’s Quilt Fabrics and More in Okatie, owned by charter member Edith Vestal. She also contacted one of her suppliers, fabric manufacturer Henry Glass & Company, who sold members $20-per-yard fabric for just $4 per yard. “Guild members have really stepped up with donations,” Godwin said.
Another accomplishment of the group was to host a small show of mini-quilts at the Society of Bluffton Artists gallery in Old Town during the annual Historic Bluffton Arts and Seafood Festival last October. “It gave us experience in hanging a show and marketing it,” Bacon said, “and we got to show our work.”
A larger quilt show might be a possibility in the future, she said, as the guild grows.
Education is another of the principles of the group, not just for members but for the community. “New people have learned a lot by working on these quilts,” Moss said.
In addition to long-time quilters mentoring newer stitchers, Godwin, a retired math teacher, sees a perfect opportunity to help school children learn. “Quilting is just a natural for children,” she said. “They have to use math, then they can write about it.”
For the members, meetings and projects include a certain amount of fun. Door prizes are the norm, and Bacon takes great pleasure in creating them. “They are always sewing related,” she said. A recent favorite was a handmade fabric bag packed with sewing needles, a jelly roll (a “wheel” of two-inch wide fabrics) and “a layer cake that wouldn’t fit in the bag,” Bacon said. She explained that a layer cake in quilter’s terms is a stack of pre-cut, 10-inch squares of fabric.
Before the kitchen table discussion ended, Wright asked what could be done with all the leftover fabric from the current project. Within five minutes, the four determined that a new project would commence that would involve an Ugly Quilt Contest, with quilted dog beds stuffed with scrap fabric being donated to a local animal rescue shelter.
The guild meets at 10 a.m. the first Saturday of each month at the Palmetto Electric Coop building in Hardeeville, on Hwy. 278 near Sun City Hilton Head. The next meeting is Feb. 4.
Guests are always welcome, with no fee, and membership is encouraged for all skill levels. Dues are $30 per year. For more information, call 843-757-2526.