Almost 24 years ago, Geneal Bailey, Mary Young, and Gerry Chapman, along with others such as Janet DeLong and Bobbi Fisher, started what they thought was going to be a quilt guild. Little did they know that it would be so much more. It would turn into deep friendship and feeling of family.

Chapman remembers that first meeting with fondness.

“We didn’t really even know what a guild was,” she recalled. “At that meeting we passed around a sheet to see what everyone wanted. What we did know is that we didn’t want to be very formal and we’ve sure lived up to that. We’re the most disorganized group ever but we get a lot done.”

The group meets at 9:30 a.m. each Thursday, at the First Presbyterian Church located on Cedar Lakes Drive in Ripley.

Teaching each other new skills is all part of the fun according to member Terri Hackney.

“We’ve had demonstrations on techniques I would never have tried on my own,” she said. “And sometimes it’s just one of us doing something and the others asking questions.”

All the members have their favorite styles and techniques and became interested in quilting in many different ways.

Penny Hermsdorfer credits her sister for getting her started.

“My mom was a quilter,” she said. “I wished I had been more interested then. My sister was the one who stirred my interest. Now I love piecing and machine quilting, particularly curved piecing.”

Sometimes the memories of learning to quilt are as important as the finished product.

“It was my boyfriend’s mother who taught me when I was in college,” Sharon Francis said. “I had to demonstrate for a class. That quilt was all by hand and all by heart. I still have that double wedding ring quilt and it’s precious to me.”

While each member enjoys the skills and the sharing of talent, when asked they all say that quilting is not the best part of this guild.

“It’s the hugs,” Chapman said with a smile. “It’s now a tradition that stems from one meeting where one of us just needed a hug. Now that’s how we greet each other at every meeting.”

Clare Butler says it’s all about the support system that the members provide each other. She said that they “have each other’s backs” while helping their fellow quilters through losing spouses, children ,and other emotional trials.

Young said when she lost her husband, the “girls got me through.” And for her 91st birthday, they gave her a party.

“I never expected anything like that,” she said.

The guild also helps the community by providing quilts to those families who have lost a home through fire.

“We’ve made several,” Hackney said. “And we have some ready to go now when needed. Some are quilted and others are knotted. But they sure help out and bring a comfort.”

The guild will be very active with the annual Jackson County Quilt Show, sponsored by the Community Education Outreach Service (CEOS,) which will be April 3-4 at Epworth United Methodist Church in Ripley.

“We measure, hang, and do demonstrations,” Hackney said. “And we have a table of handmade items to sell. We’ve been known to put the quilt racks together as well.”

One event the guild is particularly proud to be part of is the quilt show at the annual Mountain State Art & Craft Fair at Cedar Lakes.

“We organize that show,” Chapman said. “Probably the most popular thing we do is have a quilt there that the public can work on. One of our guild members will give us a quilt that we have permission to have at the fair. Folks seem to love taking part in that.”

In fact, that’s how one of the members came to join the guild.

“I saw them at Cedar Lakes,” Jo McHenry said. “They took me right in.”

The group has evolved its approach through the years as well.

“Anyone can come to our group,” said Hackney. “You don’t have to quilt. Bring sewing, embroidery, knitting. Everyone is welcome. And as far as quilting goes, we like to keep the traditions, but we’re open to new things too.”