Quilters in the Nechako valley have been stitching together more than sections of fabric. They have, for generations been threading together friendships and warming the people and the community where they live.
One group, the Vanderhoof Quilters Guild have made countless quilts as individual craftswomen and as a group.
“Last year we made quite a few quilts, around 20 I think,” Olive Silver said.
The long-time guild member said the quilts they’re making this year are going to various charities, including Bags of Love. The bags are a care package for children adjusting to social care.
One group that the guild has an on-going relationship with is the cancer treatment centre at St. John Hospital.
“When people go for treatments, like chemotherapy, they get a quilt and then when they’re done (their series of treatments) they get to take the quilt home,” Silver explained.
Along with the excellent care at the hospital, nothing expresses caring nearly as well as something hand made. To see the beautiful work that goes into each, it’s easy to understand the comfort they must give.
The quilting guild has been working together for a long time, Silver says, adding she doesn’t remember when they started.
Members have come and gone but now there’s fourteen in the regular group who meet at the Nechako View Senior’s common room a couple of days a month.
“We’re all retired, so meeting in the day time works for us,” Silver noted.
Vanderhoof Safe Home Society, is receiving quilts for the first time this year thanks to the quilters guild as well.
A lot of fabric is donated, Silver added, including from quilters themselves, as well as the Quilter’s Corner in Vanderhoof which makes efforts to collect pieces for them.
The Vanderhoof guild members are: Fran Sheeley, Anne Evans, Heather Grove, Lily Egli, Janette Lowen, Marg Letkemann, Olive Silver, Gerrie Ray, Cec Candeline, Marg Cook, Vi Larson, Peggy Grimm, Ellen Crimer and Dot James.
Another big quilting project was taken on by a number of Vanderhoof craftswomen nearly a decade ago to provide quilts for the 60 plus senior citizen residents of the Omineca Lodge when it was opened back in 2005.
Vanderhoof quilter, Monica Rach, who is given credit for instigating the project remembers it being a time when quilting was extremely popular in the area.
“It was around the time I started my shop and quilting started to boom,” Rach said.
Lots of people volunteered time to sew them and lots of serendipity helped in getting it done.
She praises the Quilting Nook in Vanderhoof for providing space to construct the quilts, saying,
“We put them all on Helen’s wall, pinning them onto hanging felt, I helped design them and then volunteers would come in and work on them.”
The ad-hoc group had an appointment book for volunteers, but it sort of organized itself, she remembers.
“It was quite lovely how it worked; when three quilts were ready to be put together, three people would show up to work on them that day,” she said, “it was amazing how people were tuned in to what needed to be done so many times.”
And finding supplies wasn’t really a problem, either, she notes.
“Lots of people donated fabric, I emptied out my studio as other people did,” Rach says.
They looked at what they were designing and incorporated the various pieces to make the designs. She notes Janet Bangs donated the batting, a crucial part of quilts.
Rach said it was merely days before the lodge opened that all the quilts were finished, one for each of the resident’s beds.
Since the project Rach said she continues to make quilts as it’s been her favourite fibre art, of the many she has tried.
“I have a passion for different cultural fabrics; one of my favourites is Japanese,” she explains, “I love colour … it is really important in my life.”
So important, that she collected special fabrics over many years, going on buying trips, even to other continents.
The Vanderhoof artist still donates quilts she has made, and as with the guild ladies, she takes many of hers to the St. John Hospital cancer clinic.
While she has a fine arts education, Rach notes she’s been around fabric all her life.
“I have always been exposed to arts and crafts, and at one time I travelled to quilting shows,” she explained, “and we held classes through the quilting store.”
Throughout that time the quilting was much more of a social thing, and very group oriented, she reflects.
“Now my quilting is a more solitary pursuit,” she observed, “I’ve taken my work in a different direction; it’s more personal, has lots of symbolic things that represent personal stories.”