Imagine a large, sunny room with a breathtaking view of the West Austin Hills; tables dotted with scraps of colored fabric; gossip about children and grandchildren, pets and life. Cutting scissors, smoking irons. The pleasure of chatting with friends while working together to create something satisfying, tactile and heartwarming.
It’s the quilting group that meets twice a month at Laura’s library. No sewing experience is necessary to register. This group welcomes new members of all experience levels, from those learning quilting to those who are true experts. Everyone is free to experience, learn and discover their own strengths. Some members are good at coordinating colors, some are precise pieces, and some contribute to the group simply by ironing the quilt units to look nice and flat.
Library boss Becky Roberts said that when she first joined in 2014, “I found myself running pieces of cloth from the iron to the sewers. It was such a small and simple job, but one that made all the difference.
Now Roberts is bringing her 3 year old daughter, Daisy, to the library to be part of the group.
“Daisy was welcomed into the group before she was born,” recalls Roberts. “They threw the sweetest baby shower and gave her the nicest baby duvet. They worked on it in secret! How could she not love this community of creative women who are always so happy to see her and bring her into the fold?
When she joins her mother at meetings, Daisy can help by threading needles, cutting threads, passing around materials and supplies, and having fun with fabric colors.
“I hope she knows the importance of contributing to big projects, learns to understand group dynamics and appreciates community involvement,” said Roberts. “It’s important to me that she knows that sometimes the most meaningful work goes unpaid. “
The library’s quilts group started over 20 years ago. In the beginning, everyone worked on their own individual projects. But about 15 years ago, they started collaborating on the library raffle quilt. The group has since designed and created a quilt to raffle at the end of each summer as a fundraiser for the library. Proceeds from the raffle fund college scholarships for some of the library’s teenage volunteers.
Roberts said his favorite part of making the raffle quilt is “seeing it come together – the project and the people.”
Come together as a group and work together on a common goal, ”she said. “Completing each quilt block is so satisfying. Everyone in the group makes small contributions that add up to a big, beautiful quilt.
Community Librarian Cristen Darcus commented, “As a quilter myself, I know the satisfaction of creating long term projects for others. The feeling of a job well done when you’ve finished cutting the last thread and the look of joy on the recipient’s face.
Another quilter agreed that the best part of making the raffle quilt is seeing the smile on the face of the person who wins the raffle – and seeing the smile of the student volunteers who receive the scholarship money.
Until last year, the group was led by Sharon Cole, who managed the group’s meetings, organized social gatherings and field trips, and was the driving force behind the training courses. In recent years, Cole has encouraged the group to stretch by making more modern quilts (the Fancy Forest and Hedgehog quilts were particularly popular), and even woven art quilts which now hang in bookshelves.
When Cole passed away this summer, the Quilts attended a memorial in her honor at Laura’s Library, contributing one of the group’s quilts to decorate the room with some of Cole’s finest quilts.
Since then, Roberts has taken over the coordination of the group.
“I am very happy that Becky is assuming the leadership role after the devastating loss of Sharon,” said Darcus.
After meeting online for over a year during the pandemic, the group is now back to meet in person at the library and are just starting a new project. They’ve chosen a pattern for their next quilt and are choosing the fabric to go with it.
“Drop by and see what we’re working on,” said Roberts. “We meet the second and fourth Thursday of every month at Laura’s library. We are a multigenerational group with members of all ages.
Maureen Turner Carey is the Civil Service and Public Relations Librarian at the Westbank Community Library District.