This is a part of a series of stories on the history of Extension Homemakers Clubs. The statewide organization is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.
Born out of a desire and necessity to improve rural community EHC clubs of today have grown and changed to become more service-oriented. Still many of the newer clubs have been founded by ladies sharing a special interest rather than geographic proximity. One such club is known as the Town and Country Quilters Extension Homemakers Club.
The name, Town and Country EHC, was chosen because the club began with members from Monticello and the surrounding rural areas of Drew County. The club was organized around 1997 as a special interest EHC club with the original purpose of teaching members to quilt. Early meetings had 25-30 ladies in attendance ranging from beginning quilters’ status to already seasoned quilters. Since it was difficult to have programs that appealed to such a wide range of abilities among the early attendees, many of the more experienced quilters dropped out.
Town and Country Quilters has since become a club of quilt lovers who range in experience from extremely talented members who do intricate quilts to those members who do easy patterns. New quilters are introduced to the craft from time to time, and members learn much from each other. Special interest and new ideas programs are also presented from time to time at the monthly meetings. One such example was the programs done by Sylvia Ngar on Hawaiian quilting styles and patterns.
Ellen Thomas was the first president of Town and Country Quilters and she is still active today. Louise Godwin has also been a member from its founding and has mentored many beginning quilters who have come through the club. Others who have been active for many years now include Patricia Kulbeth, Bettye Kellum, Carol Dolberry, Evelyn Lawson, and Judy Murphy.
Club projects have included joint efforts with the Senior Citizens Center where club members “piece” a quilt and senior citizens hand quilt, then sell it. The two entities split the profits from the sales.
Another club project involved making bibs for the Kids First project in Warren where Katherine Mayers, a member now deceased, was a nurse.
For the last two years the club has been making baby quilts for Hope Place to use as awards/rewards in their programs. The club gives Hope Place six quilts every three months. Several people have donated fabric and/or sewing notions when they could no longer quilt or went out of business, so the baby quilts are the result of receiving several bolts of preprinted baby quilt fabric.
Occasionally Town and Country has workshops for other EHC members and the general public as well.
In 2007 the club received an award for the Kids First Project from the AEHC at their state meeting. Members also prepare a booth for the Drew County Fair each year complete with a quilt pattern for a handout. Two outstanding patterns presented have been “Quilters Gone Crazy Doing the Nine Patch” and “Celebrating 100 Years of Sunbonnet Sue”.
One of the club traditions is a Christmas quilt block exchange each year in December. Each person makes a 12 x 12 inch square block in Christmas colors, takes it to the meeting, and goes home with someone else’s block. Eventually enough blocks can be accumulated to piece a lovely Christmas quilt. Another tradition is to make a small quilt or wall hanging for each person who serves as least one term as president of the club. All the other members do some sewing on the gift quilt.
Favorite memories of Town and Country Quilters include trips taken as a group to many quilt shows and exhibitions. The club was fortunate to attend the Gee’s Bend Quilt Exhibit at the Memphis Museum of Art when the touring show was there in 2005. Members often go to Revel Days in Shreveport and attend their great quilt show each fall. On several occasions a group of members has gone to the April show in Paducah, Kentucky, a week-long event. The group has also taken day trips to the Arkansas Arts Center and the Historic Arkansas Museum when quilt exhibits are featured displays.
Town and Country Quilters Club meets the first Thursday of each month, except December, at 6:30 p.m. in the clubroom at the courthouse. Anyone can come as early as 5:30 and bring their current project with them. The December meeting is held in a member’s home for a potluck and our block exchange. Periodic Saturday workdays are held in the clubroom or the First Methodist Church Fellowship Hall and members bring their current project and stay as long as they can.
The project for 2012 is a new mystery quilt. This is the second time the club has done one of these. Each month the leader (in this case, Louise Godwin; the previous one was led by Carol Dolberry) provides written instructions for the block of the month. However, no one, except the mystery quilt organizer, knows what the quilt will look like until all blocks are assembled at the end of the year.
Members look forward to each meeting and always enjoy seeing the work each member has accomplished since the last meeting. The club does all the regular EHC program of work, but the monthly meetings are always devoted to quilting.
One of the early members penned these thoughts about quilting at an early meeting in 1997 and I thought it an appropriate ending for this club entry.
“A quilt is more than just a blanket; it is the security one feels when the finished product is wrapped around them. It reminds us of the wonderful days gone by.”
Salute, ladies! Keep on quilting!