Saturday, February 25, 2012

Making a Group Quilt, Part 1 - History

I thought I would give you a brief history of our church auction quilts before starting to give you some of the wisdom I have gained about making a group quilt with people who are not quilters. I will split it up into a couple different posts, so maybe it won't be so boring as if it were all in one post.

Our church holds an auction on the first Friday in December each year to raise money for the Lottie Moon Christmas offering. For more than 20 years, a quilt has been made and hand quilted to be auctioned off as one of the main draws for the auction. The amounts brought in by these quilts have ranged from $500 to $2200.

Up until 5 quilts ago (well, 6 if you count the one for this year which we've just begun), the quilts were planned and mostly made by women from the generation before mine. Yes, there were a few other people like me (and even a couple of women younger than I) who helped out, but it was all planned by these lovely women. They did much of their work at the church, but as the church grew, it became impossible to have a room set aside for the quilting frame, so they began doing the actual quilting at one of the women's homes.

Here are some pictures of the quilts they made:

This last one is one I really wished I could afford! It was stunning. These pictures are (obviously) scanned from one of the lovely ladies' scrapbook. Obviously these are not all of the quilts.

One summer day (when I was on vacation from teaching) I walked into the room where they were working. The ladies there thought that I was just there to say hi and were absolutely thrilled when I asked if there was anything I could do to help. That year's quilt was a Cathedral Window, so there were parts I could take home to work on and bring back. By the end of that afternoon, one of the women (who I consider my Quilt Mom) and I had arranged for her to meet with a group of us younger working women every Tuesday evening to work on showing us how to make theses blocks. Between all of us women, we made enough Cathedral Windows to make a twin sized quilt and two Christmas tree skirts, one of which is carefully stored with my Christmas decorations.

The following year I learned hand quilting during the summer while working on that year's quilt. Of course, lots of the working women couldn't quilt during the afternoon and the older women weren't excited about driving at night, so afternoons were the only quilting time available. 

Because the original quilters were the generation before mine and because there was no way for women who worked or cared for children during the day to help with the quilting, you can guess what happened. The quilting group got smaller and smaller, until the last year that before I became the quilt project manager, there were really only three women doing the actual hand quilting. 

The following February one of the women mentioned to me that they were not making a quilt that year. They had not told the pastor yet, so I figured I'd better tell him, thinking he might think that it was an opportunity to move in another direction. One look at his face told me that that was not going to be the case, and somehow I found myself assuring him that there would be a quilt.

In future posts, I will discuss how we planned that quilt, lessons we have learned, and how we have refined the process. Maybe someone out there can benefit from our learning curve.

First I will cover how we choose the quilt pattern and fabric. In the following post, I'll cover different ways we've found to involve as many people as possible - this includes the block assembly and arrangement. Then I'll cover the layering, quilting, and binding. In each post, I'll mention lessons learned and how we have improved the process as the years have passed. And, yes, there will be pictures.