By Aileen Goldstein
What started three decades ago as a group of 15 women interested in piecing fabric together is now a group of 65 members, still connecting scraps of fabric. The Sea Island Quilters is celebrating 30 years of quilting together.
The group began in a dark corner in the back of a local fabric store in Beaufort. Several local women would gather and work on their own projects. Eventually, they began brainstorming on forming a guild to include all locals interested in quilting. The first meeting of the Sea Island Quilters was in May of 1987.
The rest, as they say, is history.
The guild will host a quilt show called Southern Comforts from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, May 5, and Saturday, May 6, at the Holiday Inn on Boundary Street in Beaufort.
The guild holds a quilt show every other year, and this show celebrates the group’s 30th anniversary.
Each show contains a theme which the quilt creators base their designs around. The theme for this show is “30 Years of Stitching Together” to commemorate the anniversary.
The quilters that make up the Sea Island Quilters include a wide variety of ages, skill levels and backgrounds.
The oldest member is 92 years old and still makes all her quilts completely by hand. On the other end of the scale, the youngest members are in their 30s.
According to Mary Campbell, an original member of the guild, quilting is experiencing a resurgence. She says there is a new modern quilt movement and younger people are taking an interest in wanting to sew.
Guild members attend monthly meeting that include a show and tell, club business and a monthly sewing project to learn new skills. The group also gathers one Saturday each month for a quilter’s day out, where they might work on individual projects or collaborate on a donation quilt.
The club offers public programs, including a monthly class available at St. Helena Library, to teach the community how to sew.
Outreach into the community is an important part of the guild’s purpose, according to Campbell. Collaborative quilts are created for children of domestic abuse, and given to organizations, including Child Abuse Prevention Association (CAPA) and Hopeful Horizons (formerly Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse). In the past, members have taught senior citizens and middle school students sewing skills.
At the quilt show, tickets will be available to purchase to enter into a raffle for a quilt made by members of the guild. The quilt, titled “Song of the Sea Islands,” is a vivid quilt, bursting with bright green, blue and sandy white. The quilt features the guild’s signature block, inspired from a contest held during September of 1987. The colors of the raffle quilt represent the colors found in the water, marshes and beaches of the Lowcountry.
There will also be gift baskets available through raffle tickets. All proceeds will fund the guild’s charitable causes.
According to Campbell, the raffles support the guild’s mission.
“Our goal is to be part of the community and grow the art of quilting,” she says.
All members of the Sea Island Quilters Guild are encouraged to submit a quilt into the show. This year’s show will be judged by Lorraine Covington, an accredited judge. All quilts submitted will be returned to the creator with an individual critique from the judge.
Campbell says the quilt show will include about 140 quilts, all made by members of the guild. There will also be vendors, demonstrations and door prizes.
Sea Island Quilters hope to inspire the next generation to preserve history through connecting scraps of fabric.
Campbell has advice to those wanting to start quilting: “Do what you like, buy the best tools you can afford, express yourself and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.”
Admission to the show is $6 and children under 12 years old are free.
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