The word “quilt” comes from the Latin culcita meaning a stuffed sack, but don’t tell that to the members of the Briar Hills (The Briars’ quilting group) in Alliston, Ontario. Fran Lawrie heads the group of sixteen women and she laughs at that description.
“Our group started in 2004 when a time slot became available at the Green Briar Community Centre and the time frame was quickly reserved”, she says. “But we do much more than stuff sacks.” We started with 8 members and, after much discussion, decided to call ourselves “The Quilting Bees”. As our members are residents of Green Briar and our sister community, Briar Hill, we now call ourselves “The Briars Quilting Bees”. Our members are all volunteers and we produce high quality quilts in many different themes.”
The group currently has 16 members, which is about the limit for space when everyone is working with sewing machines.
“Arlene Gibson one of our ladies is an award winning quilter,” explains Fran, “and she joined our group after moving to the area in 2005.
She is very generous with her time and knowledge and has brought out the best in all of us. She teaches a Block of the Month, after we have agreed on a pattern, and gives us all instruction on the latest tools and
techniques to make our quilting life easier and more fruitful.”
Quilters are a special breed it seems and the reasons they give for joining in the fun are many and varied. The chief one seems to be the camaraderie this close-knit group brings. And knit is the operative word. Working together, the group produces high quality quilted items for the semi-annual Quilt Show and Sale (next date will be October 2016) as well as for the many charities they support.
“Our charity work is awesome,” says Fran,” and the group does quilts, snuggle blankets, incubator linings and covers for Southlake Hospital in Newmarket, quilts for Matthews House Hospice in Alliston to raise funds at their Silent Auctions and My Sisters Place, a shelter for women and children suffering from domestic abuse and our local quilt shop which supports other smaller groups and individual families.”
Many members will tell you they joined because they were new to the community and it helped them make friends right away. “(It) provides me with a great hobby”, said one member, “and the completed quilts and other quilted items give me a sense of pride.”
Part of the bonding process is the tea/discussion period at the end of every session. Each member takes their turn in making the tea and providing goodies, and everyone knows who’s up for next week. Apart from quilting, the group provides an intimate atmosphere for iscussion and advice on any subject. It is also the time to organize special projects or road trips to visit new quilt shops.
The knitted baby bonnets produced by some of the members brings particular rewards. Two members tell of meeting a nurse waiting for an elevator when they were delivering quilts and baby bonnets and she recalled how pleased she was to receive one on the birth of her first child. She has it packed and ready for her second child.
When they arrived in the children’s wing they were surprised to see the nurses going through the quilts and knowing instinctively which child should receive which quilt. One particularly emotional story concerns a little girl suffering from terminal cancer. She was given a quilt that was wrapped around her. Sadly, she died a week later. The parents told how “her quilt” was draped on her coffin for the joy and comfort that it had given their little girl.
A story with a happier ending was about a young boy who was brought to the hospital in an extremely agitated state. Nothing seemed to calm him down until the nurses brought him a “horse-themed” quilt. He took it in his hands, checked it over, started talking to the horses in the quilt, and promptly fell asleep with the quilt wrapped around him. Needless to say the quilt went home with him, much to his parents’ delight and to the members who had created it when they heard.
The group of quilters are providing members with pleasure and creative fulfillment, plus the knowledge that what they do contributes to the community in so many ways. Interested in starting a Quilting Group?
Contact The Quilting Bees at Green Briar Community,
35 Parkette Drive, Alliston, Ontario, L9R 1R7 Telephone: 705-435-2345