The tradition of quilting bees is very much alive in Meaford. A core group of quilters gather once a week to carry on a long tradition of women coming together for camaraderie combined with community service, but with a twist.
Although the women sense that quilting bees may soon be a thing of the past, what with changes in lifestyles and technology, they do believe that needlework, quilting included, is thriving.
The Friendship Circle Quilters meet once a week at the Meaford Harvest Church to work on one of the group member’s personal quilt. Currently, they are hand-quilting a braid-patterned quilt that Joanne Inglis has pieced. When finished, Joanne will pay her ‘sister’ quilters for their services and they, in turn, will donate their pay back into the community to a mutually-agreed upon project.
The Friendship Circle Quilters are aware that young people may not be joining quilting bees but they are encouraged to see youth learning to sew, knit, and quilt through public library programs, 4-H Clubs, and commercial outlets such as knitters' coffee clubs. Among the circle’s members, there is an estimated 200 years of experience as quilters. Quilting bees go a long way back. The Friendship Circle Quilters date back approximately 80 years. At times Friendship Circle Quilters were war relief volunteers knitting socks for Canadian soldiers, other times raising funds for a particular community project, but always as friends supporting each other, according to member Cheryl Smith.
“These days, we just quilt for each other for pay and we donate our pay back to the community where needed. We may share quilting tips and learn from each other but mostly we are just here for one another,” she said.
Some members of the Friendship Circle Quilters are members of the Georgian Quilters Guild, a larger but different gathering of quilters with a focus on an instructional component through workshops, quilt shows, and quilting-related tours. The Georgian Quilters Guild members are, like the Friendship Circle, committed to giving back to the communities in which they live.
Community projects that have benefited from the quilters’ donations include the Meaford Library children’s puppet theatre and movies, Alzheimer aprons for care home residents with dementia, and quilts for Syrian families and local shelters.
Photo: Friendship Circle Quilters meet at the Meaford Harvest Church once a week to hand-quilt each other's quilts, share quilting tips, learn from each other, and offer support. Above: Friendship Circle Quilters (l-r) Valerie Shaw, Cheryl Smith, Trish Kant, Joanne Inglis, and Del Simpkins hand-quilt a braid-pattern quilt for Joanne’s step-great-granddaughter in memory of the great-granddaughter’s father.