Local quilting guilds and bees draw in passionate artisans
Written and photography by Cheryl A. Fallstead
Quilting can be an addictive hobby, explains Las Colcheras Quilt Guild leaders Judy Gillen and Linnea Egbert. This traditional craft of creating fiber art from smaller pieces of fabric has deep roots, both as a way to use scraps of fabric to create warm clothing or bed quilts and to design art.
Today’s quilters have a wide range of machines to help them sew their quilts as well as diverse fabrics from which to make them. Quilting has grown into a billion dollar industry that brings crafters to fabric stores, quilting guilds, bees, and shows across the country.
Even those who don’t quilt can appreciate the art by attending shows, such as the biennial Las Colcheras Quilt Guild show at the Las Cruces Convention Center February 16 and 17, featuring a traveling exhibit of 120 small quilts made for a challenge (challenges often have a specific fabric and theme that must be used) to use Cherrywood fabric (cotton with the appearance of suede) in a Lion King design. Also on display, about 150 judged quilts in 10 categories, including a division for young quilters. Judy encourages people to take advantage of the opportunity to see the Lion King exhibit, saying, “It is unique and highly sought after.”
Las Crucens who are inspired to start quilting will have a lot of support, starting with two local quilt stores that offer classes starting at step one, selecting fabric and threading the sewing machine, and later taking learners through more advanced techniques. The guild also offers classes throughout the year as well as quilting bee groups for on-going support and camaraderie, plus a committee of ladies who are ready to answer questions posed by quilters of any skill level.
Tools of the Trade
One of the first tools you’ll need is a sewing maching. This Bernina 350 is a more basic model that will help you create your first quilt.
Don’t Miss! The Las Colcheras Quilt Guild Show
February 16 and 17 at the Las Cruces Convention Center
People have to realize that women who are passionate about quilting, they seriously can spend six to eight hours a day doing their passion, just like other people do gardening.
Quilters learning tricks of the trade at a Sew What’s New class.
Quilts may be created to artfully cover a bed, as a wall hanging, or as attire. You can quilt placemats, tote bags, or just about anything that can be made from fabric. Some (ok, most) quilters have extensive collections of fabric waiting to be turned into the next project. Linnea has drawers for which she has developed an ingenious system of storing fabrics on end so she can tell by the number of layers how many yards she has on hand of each design.
Those who have yet to collect their first yard of fabric can visit Bernina Sewing and Design, Sew What’s New, or Jo-ann Fabrics, to get an idea of the wide range of fabrics and tools available. The list of tools you need to get started includes a cutting mat, a rotary cutter, a good pair of scissors, and a sewing machine. Judy said, “Quilt shops are there to help you get started with the correct tools. You could even come away with a new sewing machine when you only went in for a spool of thread.” She knows from experience because it happened to her.
Marsha Cowan, co-owner of Bernina, says, “People have to realize that women who are passionate about quilting, they seriously can spend six to eight hours a day doing their passion, just like other people do gardening, and they want tools that make it easy for them to do it. It’s not unusual for women to come in and spend $10,000 to $12,000 on a sewing machine. These are not your grandmother’s sewing machines…when you’re looking at machines that have over 1,700 stitches, it’s a big deal.”
And one mat or rotary cutter is not enough for dyed-in-the-wool quilters. You need different sized mats for different projects. Linnea has one large enough to cover her kitchen island and smaller mats for more diminutive tasks. Because quilters often take their machines with them to classes and bees, a special sewing machine cart is quite handy. And, of course, not all sewing machines are in the five-digit price range. There are starter models that are more affordable.
In fact, one sewing machine isn’t enough for serious quilters. A long-arm machine is especially useful for large projects and if you’re like Linnea, you need another one just to stay in the RV for quilting on the road. You may find other machines that you must have because they’re older and collectible. A great way to get your first one is to buy from a quilter who has upgraded and is thinning her collection.
“Her” is appropriate for most quilters, although there certainly are men who quilt and some who are so skilled and well known they teach quilting workshops. The Las Colcheras Quilt Guild has one honorary male member out of 153 in the group, which attracts members from around the area, including Alamogordo, Ruidoso, High Rolls, Mayhill, Silver City, and El Paso.
Quilting bees were traditionally not only a way to help one another work on a hand-sewn project, but a way for women who were isolated in their own homes to visit with friends. Las Colcheras Quilt Guild has 13 bee groups, which are sub-sets of the guild and are really no different from your great-grandmother’s bee. Judy explains, “We call them our very best support groups for everything. Somebody’s child is ill. Somebody has heart surgery. They’re my sisters. When I was in the hospital, I knew my whole quilting group was here for me.”
Linnea adds, “That’s nice when you have 153 people in the guild, that you have a close-knit group you can visit with, go shopping with, or take a meal to when they’re not feeling well.”
Quilting is an art, a social group, a way to offer something back to the community with quilts for charity, and an excuse to go shopping. Husbands of quilters have learned that when they travel, quilt stores are mandatory stops along the way. They also know to leave room in the car for impulse purchases.
If you want to know more about quilting, there are plenty of people in the Guild and local stores ready to help you thread your first needle. Or visit the show February 16 and 17 just to be in awe of what a quilter can do with fabric and thread.
Want to learn how?
Bernina Sewing and Design
1601 E. Lohman
Sew What’s New
3961 E. Lohman
1711 E. University
Las Colcheras Quilt Guild
Meetings: Third Monday
American Legion Hall Post 10
1185 E. Madrid Avenue
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