by Peggy Purser Freeman
Photos provided by the Quilt Guild and taken by Riley Studio
In past centuries women came together out of necessity to create quilts for warmth and beauty. At the old-time quilting bees, they joined their fabric like they did their lives, their hopes, and their dreams. Memories intermingled with colors and fabrics. Joy and sorrow pieced together to form the friendship as intricate patterns and designs created something new from something old. Each quilt we see invokes memories of playing under grandma’s quilting frame, and those memories settle over us and into our hearts. The love and attention to detail stitched into each homemade quilt outlives the maker and surrounds the owners in beauty and warmth.
Celebrating twenty years as a guild, the members of Town ‘N Country Quilt Guild come together each month to share their lives and their love of quilting. The Guild began with 32 charter members. Their purpose remains the same today as it was then: To meet other quilters, to share, to learn, and teach anyone with the same interest. To preserve the heritage of beauty, diligence, and love embodied in those quilts handed down to us. To acknowledge and encourage a concern for excellence of design, craftsmanship, and quality of materials as we perpetuate this American folk art. To become a source of information, education, and inspiration.
The first annual quilt show was held November 21-22, 1998 at the Mark and Briar Patch on Belknap Street. In 2000 the quilt show, held at the TAMU Research Center, featured a quilt depicting da Vinci’s Last Supper. That quilt was made of 51,816 pieces of half-inch square fabric.
“In 2002 the quilt show became a bi-annual event and was held in the County Courthouse on the Square in Stephenville,” Judith Meador, Guild historian, explained. “At the time, few local quilt shows were held in such surroundings with the general public conducting business during the show.”
Over the years, group projects and individual projects by members have raised money for the community, honored heroes, and warmed those in need. Perhaps their most ambitious project shows the true miracle of quilts. The project, Quilts for Foster’s Home for Children, became the joy of many members. A driving force in that project was Mary Harris.
“We wanted there to be a couple of quilts on hand at the Foster’s Home for Children at all times so that each child would have a choice when they picked their quilt,” Mary explained. “On several occasions, when we took our quarterly group of quilts, we were able to be there when the child picked their quilt. On one occasion this young boy, who was approximately ten years of age, asked one of the quilt guild members if she knew why he had picked this particular quilt. She said no, she didn’t know why he had picked the quilt. The boy pointed to a particular fabric in the quilt and said, ‘That is because of this fabric. Because I had something at home that had this (fabric) in it.’”
In 2005 the guild members donated 55 quilts for the children at Foster’s Home, providing a quilt for each resident. The quilt belonged to the child to be used at Foster’s Home and to go with the child when he left. The chairperson organized a workday to make approximately 30 kits for members who stitched the tops. The group then held a workday to sack the quilts (put in batting and stitch on the backing). Approximately ten guild members work about six hours each workday. The quilts were then quilted and taken to Foster’s Home in groups of about nine per quarter so that quilts were always available as children arrived. At the Guild’s quilt show in October 2010, the Foster’s Home for Children presented the Town ‘N Country Quilt Guild with the Myrtie Foster “Spirit of Sacrifice” Award.
In 2014 and 2016 the quilt show was moved to St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Attendees can view beautiful quilts of all sizes and media, shop at vendor booths or the country store, have a quilt appraised, purchase a mini-quilt, have scissors sharpened, or enjoy a delicious lunch of chicken salad sandwiches, loaded baked potatoes and pie. Quilt shows are held only in even-numbered years.
In odd-number years the Guild has joined with Cross Timbers Fine Arts Center for the “Joy of Quilting” exhibit. This month-long exhibit provides an opportunity for the community to enjoy the quilts created by the Guild and for members to display their many talents.
Kathie Cherry, current Guild president, invites guests to attend a meeting. “The Town ‘N Country Quilt Guild currently meets at 1:00 on the first Saturday of each month at Texas A&M University’s AgriLife and Research Center. Prior to each meeting the members enjoy lunch, socialize, discuss their latest projects, or visit the library. During the meeting, members participate in an agenda, which takes care of the business. The Sunshine and Shadows chairperson relay the joys, illnesses, or sorrows of members and their families.”
The Block-of-the-Month chairperson explains the construction of a traditional or modern block. At times, the members may participate in a round robin; each member constructs the middle block and puts extra fabric in a bag. Each month the bag is given to another member, who will make an additional round. At a specified time, the quilts are revealed. Members also participate in charm, square or block exchanges.
A favorite event during each meeting is the Show and Share portion where members display their latest creations to the membership. Programs may be presented by members, local stitchers, or internationally known quilt instructors. Guild members also volunteer at 4-H Clothing Camp each July.
In 2003 the Guild became a member of Texas Association of Quilt Guilds. Each year at Rally Day the Town ‘N Country members have an opportunity to sell raffle tickets for their quilt, hear an internationally-known quilter/speaker, win door prizes, and enjoy fellowship with quilters from across the state.
Guild member Pat White proudly talks about many hours members give to charities. “Recently, a few of us were asked to create a t-shirt quilt for the legendary coach, Art Briles. I searched high and low and collected over 250 t-shirts from garage sales and more for t-shirts from the Briles coaching era. Judy Meador stitched the quilt and Kathie Cherry machine quilted it.” At a recent United Way fundraiser, Coach Briles received the quilt. The memories held in those old t-shirts touched him. Pat added, “We almost made him cry.”
The members of TNCQG have prepared baby items for newborns, bags of personal care items for battered women’s shelters, bibs for an orphanage in China, bags, totes, pillowcases, and pillows for Child Protective Services. They provided throws and adult bibs to local nursing homes, lap quilts for veterans, placemats and coasters for Meals on Wheels. Members made a quilt for Project Graduation 2007, cancer caps and pillows for cancer victims, and two quilts for Fisher House in Dallas. Each year the Guild prepares a quilt for raffles. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of raffle tickets is presented annually to a local charity.
In almost twenty years the Town ‘N Country Quilt Guild has grown in numbers. They remain active in the Guild, sharing their talent, their passion for the craft of quilting, and love for one another and their community.