Women and quilting have a long history. From the days of pioneer wagons to Miss Scarlett and Miss Melanie in Gone with the Wind, women have gathered to sew, to talk, and to create comfy quilts to keep their loved ones warm.
In today’s high-tech world, you might think quilting is becoming a lost art. Not so, say hundreds of local women who gather monthly to share their passion for quilting. On a recent stormy evening, members of the Tidewater Quilters’ Guild (TQG), along with a few guests, flocked to a local church with armloads of material, patterns, magazines, and ideas to exchange.
Started in 1979 with about 20 members, TQG now has more than 400. The daytime meeting grew too large for their space, so the guild started a night chapter and about a year ago added a Saturday chapter. The women gather once a month—to encourage, share ideas, and learn new techniques. “That’s what it’s all about,” said Collier Webb, 16-year TQG member and their community service officer.
“We have a large organization, and we do many service projects besides making our own quilts,” said Alice Brown, TQG’s publicity chair. “It is an amazing group of energetic women.” Alice said.
Myriad colors, textures, sizes, and themes spread throughout the church hall in quilts that some members brought for their show-and-tell portion of the meeting. The only common theme is the smile on each proud face. Their passion is evident when you ask a question about their work. Each is happy to describe the detail involved in every arduous and beautiful project.
TQG’s goal, said Collier, is to educate the public in the art of quilt making. This can be accomplished in many different ways, she said. As an area representative for Project Linus, she finds ways to provide blankets for children in crisis. Recently, local high school students created 20 blankets for the project. It’s also great for seniors on a fixed income, said Collier. They can do what they love and don’t have to spend money. “They’re keeping their skills honed and contributing to society,” she said. You don’t even have to complete the project yourself; you can just make the quilt top and someone else can finish it.
TQG also educates its members by bringing in nationally recognized quilters and crafters as guest lecturers. Many TQG members are invited to the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival in Hampton, said Collier. “They are regionally and nationally recognized for the beauty of their work,” she said. “Some of our members also teach classes at the show; we’re talking about a group of very talented women…I’m in awe.”
“We quilters have gifted everybody in the family,” said Collier, “so we’ve moved on to more utilitarian projects.”
Elaine Page is TQG’s Quilts of Valor (QOV) chairman. “The mission of the Quilts of Valor Foundation is to cover all those service-members and veterans touched by war with Wartime Quilts called Quilts of Valor,” she explained. During the past 6-8 years, TQG has provided Landstuhl Hospital in Germany with 1,300 quilts. This year the decision was made to keep future quilts in the local area. There is a large need right here. “So many of our military suffer wounds we can’t see, and we need to comfort them,” said Elaine.
She met recently with representatives of Tidewater Community College and Virginia Beach Community Development Corporation (VBCDC). She said that VBCDC is developing Vets 1st at Cedar Grove, a 32-apartments community for disabled vets and those without permanent affordable housing. They will collaborate with TQG to match quilters with TCC students. Completed quilts will go to apartment residents.
On June 16, TQG Quilts of Valor will be presenting quilts at their annual fundraiser to seven vets at the Vets House, which assists homeless veterans.
Besides community projects, there are always a multitude of meeting projects—door prizes of donated fabric from quilt shops; used quilting magazines that sell for a quarter; a “block of the month” kit for $2; patterns for $1; stencils; and a lending library. Near the meeting’s start they recognize visitors and attendees who are celebrating a birthday that month. “Happy birthday dear quilters….”
At meetings you usually see about five members turning the binding by hand, Collier said. There are a lot of fancy machines these days, but “most people go back to basics.”
Collier said the day chapter has a table in the back of the meeting hall for anyone who wants to donate fabric, and it’s free to anyone who wants it.
TQG’s biennial show, usually held in the fall, is June 22-24 this year and will be at the Khedive Shrine Center in Chesapeake. You can view more than 100 quilts and wearable art, bid in a silent auction, and enjoy door prizes, raffles, and a cafe. Freida Doubts, TQG’s quilt show chairman, said the show will include “memory quilts” made by members who have died since the last show.
“We refer to quilting as a disease,” Collier said. “Once you start, you don’t want to stop; there’s something very satisfying about it.” n
The TQG Tuesday day chapter is held in Norfolk at the Ocean View Senior Center. The Monday evening chapter meets in Virginia Beach at Community United Methodist Church, and the Saturday day chapter is held in Chesapeake at A Place for Girls. Dues are $25 annually. All area fabric shops have a TQG brochure with application. For more information, visit TQG’s website: tqgva.org.