Published August 16, 2011
Volume 19, Number 8

Amador Valley Quilters Keep Traditional Craft Fresh  

Almost 400 members strong, Amador Valley Quilters (AVQ) has been vigorously supporting an ambitious agenda of service, historical preservation, and education for 30 years.  “We are a quilt guild that honors the past and looks to the future,” says the group’s website.  It has successfully managed to combine the craft’s strong legacy with contemporary tastes and pastimes, attracting fans with all levels of sewing skills.

Community outreach is the guild’s predominant activity, according to president Jan Steinhoff. Last year the group gave away 900 member-made quilts, the highest number yet, to 11 different charitable agencies serving individuals of all ages, from premature babies to seniors in wheelchairs. They are distributed as gifts and items of comfort—what Steinhoff describes as “sharing the love through quilts.”  They take on even more significance during the holiday season, when new supplies are put on display in group homes and shelters for the children to select as presents for their mothers. “This is so heart-warming,” Steinhoff relates. “There is not a dry eye in the house” when this kind of event happens.

The preservation effort ranges from monetary contributions to places like San Jose’s Quilt Museum to participation in projects that keep the tradition of quilting in the public eye. For example, guild members are currently making an opportunity quilt—one that will be raffled as a fund-raiser—showcasing old patterns created by Ruby Short McKim, acclaimed as a top quilt designer in the 1920s and 1930s. In a collaboration with the designer’s descendants, AVQ will pass on directions for the quilt to be incorporated in a book of McKim’s designs that will be published next year. In all, some 50 to 60 members are working on the project, sewing appliquéd blocks, assembling the pieces, and doing the finishing.

Education comes primarily through monthly meetings and workshops. The meetings are held on the second Saturday afternoon of each month at Pleasanton Middle School, 5001 Case Ave. The program usually features a guest speaker who might present a trunk show of her handiwork or give an account of her journey as a quilter. This is followed by a sharing session, where members display their recently completed projects. As many as 200 people can be in attendance. On Sunday the invited expert leads a workshop offering instruction in specific patterns or techniques. For example, at the September 11 workshop, guest Jody Orht will explain how to “audition” designs for the quilt top and how to fill backgrounds, along with demonstrating “free motion ditch quilting techniques,” and providing “basting tips that will eliminate puckers on the back.”

Other AVQ activities include a fund-raising quilt show held in the spring of odd years, interspersed with a retreat during even years. The retreats, usually at a local hotel, provide an eagerly anticipated opportunity to spend a few days immersed in practicing the craft. Members bring their sewing machines and assemble in a common room to work on joint projects or learn new techniques.

Non-AVQ members are welcome to attend the monthly meetings. For more information on programs and activities, visit www.amadorvalleyquilters.org


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