By Evan Walsh, Contributing Writer
SHREWSBURY – Fabric and friendships.
That’s how members of Shrewsbury’s Schoolhouse Quilters described their group.
On the first Sunday of every month, dozens of avid quilters convene at the First Congregational Church of Shrewsbury for the group’s monthly meeting. There are over 60 members of the organization, and each meeting draws roughly 40 members.
What began as an informal “quilt talk” between two church members in 1980 quickly blossomed into an inter-state affair. While some quilters are local, the group is proud to have members from throughout New England. One member lives in Connecticut, group members said, while another commutes from the Boston area.
“I just think of all the friendships that I’ve made there,” said Ann Laura Wasgatt, who has been involved with the group for over 10 years. “I love all the interesting tips and learning… [People] always come in and tell me a new way to do something.”
The quilting group’s growth has been organic, relying primarily on word of mouth.
For instance, one member invited three friends to one month’s meeting. Shortly after, all three friends joined the group. Another member was talking to her dental hygienist about the group. Now the hygienist is joining.
It could be the refreshments available at some of the meetings. It could also be the ongoing recipe exchange between group members, but according to three longtime members of the quilting group the community truly makes the group special.
Members don’t actively quilt at the meetings. Instead, people share tips and tricks, give advice, and show their recent work to the group. The group members said that even those who have been quilting for decades benefit from the meetings.
“At quilt gatherings, [when] you forget something, there are 30 people trying to give you it,” said Deb Kelley, the group’s current president.
The group also occasionally hosts guest speakers and organizes workshops.
The Schoolhouse Quilters don’t just quilt – they also give. Charity is a pillar of the organization.
“It’s part of the mission. Our family members only need so many quilts, so it’s about giving them away now,” Susan Brown said. “There’s always something we’re working on.”
The group has previously made over 50 duffle bags for foster children at UMass. In June, the group donated 38 patchwork quilts to Abby’s House in Worcester.
“I think my favorite moment [of my time in the group] is that June meeting when we [came] together with everything we made and [were] about to give [to Abby’s House],” Brown said.
The group also donates to support the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell.
The Schoolhouse Quilters also award one scholarship to a graduating high school student pursuing an education in a field related to arts and crafts or home economics.
“We enjoy knowing that we’ve done something to make a statement to someone else,” Kelley said.
The group has more donations, philanthropy, and fun ahead.
“It’s a pride,” Kelley said. “People will look and say, ‘You buy this beautiful material and cut it up and put it back together. It doesn’t make any sense’ But, it’s a pride. Plus, you can pass it on. Hopefully somebody will look at my quilts one day and say, ‘Oh! I remember that person.’
“It’s a sisterhood. The love of fabric and friendship and creativity. That’s what it’s all about. I have goosebumps now,” Kelley added.
For more information about the Schoolhouse Quilters group, visit https://www.facebook.com/Schoolhousequilters.
Dance your way to fitness and friendship (fiftyplusadvocate.com)