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Guild members make quilts, donate pieces

The Western Alabama Quilters Guild seeks to advocate the appreciation and knowledge of all things relating to the art of quilting. Photo Courtesy of Charlotte Nix

Ray Allen

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Once a month, the Western Alabama Quilters Guild gathers in downtown Tuscaloosa to discuss its recent ventures with quilting, an art that is more popular than many people might think. One by one, members present their recent accomplishments in front of an average crowd of 40 or more members: new and old, men and women, novice and expert.

With 75 members, the WAQG mission is simple: to advocate the appreciation and knowledge of all things relating to the art of quilting.

The guild believes in educating the general public, so the beginning of each meeting starts with a beginner course called Basics and Beyond for those new to the guild. The course teaches rudimentary techniques that can be used 
in quilting.

The guild began in the early 1990s and has since become home to a number of quilters, including Hallie O’Kelley who has designed the quilt for the Kentuck Arts Festival for the past 15 years.

For many members of the WAQG, their quilting ranges from a hobby to a professional pursuit. Quilting is not limited to just flat pieces of fabric. During their show-and-tell presentations, many showcase their recent creations in different forms, including coats, aprons, tote bags and the 
basic quilt.

“I think that there is a misconception that people don’t appreciate the time that goes into making quilts,” said Charlotte Nix, the guild’s vice president. “When you put a price on them, they are thinking of something that is made thousands at a time. They are not looking at something that was made by a person, a one-of-a-kind item.”

Guild member Martha Lee Smith said quilting never gets old because they’re always working. She and her twin sister Marjorie Spence have only been with the guild for five years, but have since crafted more than a hundred quilts for the community and beyond. The twins said the guild is all about charity, but quilting is their life calling. The sisters both have fibromyalgia but continue to quilt using what they call their 
“heaven-sent gift.”

“We sit and sew to forget our pain so we help everyone,” Spence said. “We are Christians. That is what God called us to do.”

Every year WAQG members donate a large amount of their creations to charities like the Ronald McDonald House and Veteran’s Affairs. They also donate to places across the country devastated by natural disasters in response to the aid they received when many, including guild member Ana Schuber, lost their homes to the April 27, 2011, tornadoes.

In addition to their charity work, the guild hosts several mini-workshops and one large workshop, typically led by a professional quilter.

WAQG member Julie Townsend has been quilting for 19 years. She took up the skill after realizing she had nothing to pass on to her children 
and grandchildren.

“That is why I started quilting, because I had no heirlooms,” she said. “Now, all my grandchildren have at least one quilt. I love that they all got something that was made with love.”

Newcomers are encouraged to attend West Alabama Quilters Guild 
meetings, but are asked to pay dues after 
attending their third meeting.

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Guild members make quilts, donate pieces