45 years in the making
Why six chapters?
MARKING OUR 45TH ANNIVERSARY YEAR: WE WERE BORN
If you were a quilter in Richmond before 1978 and wished to meet others of like interests your options were few. The Virginia Guild of needlewomen occasionally offered programs pertaining to quilting, some church groups quilted together, and more recently a small group of quilters had been collected to create two bicentennial quilts, one for the Valentine Museum and the other for Virginia Commonwealth University. But things were about to change.
Several Richmond women attended the First Continental Quilting Congress held in Arlington, VA, in July 1978, and came home inspired to establish a quilting organization here. Participants in the first organizational meeting of what was to become the Richmond Quilters' Guild differ in their memories of exactly how this happened. One
says that a notice was placed in the newspaper announcing to those interested of the proposed group; others say that personal invitations were mailed to those Richmonders who had attended the Quilting Congress. Possibly both are true. In any event, eight ladies met at the home of Reverdy (“Ditty”) Howley in 1978. These charter members were Ditty Howley, Marge Wolfe, Vicki Arnette, Ruth Ann Puckett, Frances Calhoun, Geneva Herod, Miriam Page, and Margaret Pecawicz.
Everyone interviewed for this article volunteered the comment that Ditty was the real “spark-plug” for the group, and she became its first president.
It was agreed that in order to publicize the new group and enlarge its membership a gala quilt program should be held offering lunch and inspiring speakers. Accordingly arrangements were made to reserve the auditorium at the Thalhimer's in downtown Richmond. Drawing upon talent from the Quilting Congress, Jinny Beyer and Marcia
Aasmundstad were invited as speakers. [A personal aside: I had heard quilters at the Virginia Guild of Needlewomen talking about their new quilt group, but my life was quite busy and I resisted joining it until I saw how the new organization was going to turn out. My first experience with the Guild was attending the program at Thalhimer's that day, September 29, 1979. I was so inspired by the speakers and the quilts that were
shared that I knew I had to join.] Another meeting was held downtown on October 20, and then in November the group met at the Tuckahoe branch library.
The Guild's membership ebbs and flows and is currently about 300 members. It began as one chapter, grew to 7, decreased to 5, then to 6, then 5, and currently stands at 6 chapters again. Many similar organizations form, thrive for a few years, and then wither away from lack of interest. We can congratulate ourselves that the Richmond Quilter’s Guild has not only survived, but grown, and can now celebrate 45 years of activities.
-This article was originally written by Ann Shibut and published in the guild newsletter on their 25th anniversary-
If you’re unfamiliar with quilting groups in other localities it may never have occurred to you that the Richmond Quilters' Guild is organized in a somewhat unusual way. Large Guilds often have sub-divisions, or
“bees” that assemble between the whole group’s monthly meeting to reflect particular interests or make it easier for members to get to know each other. The Quilt Guild of Dallas (TX) uses that format, in which everyone belongs to the Guild, without necessarily having to belong to a smaller “bee.” In the RQG it is possible for a chapter member to attend and enjoy monthly chapter meetings and barely realize that a larger entity even exists.
Almost from the very beginning it became obvious to members of the newly organized Richmond Quilters' Guild that they should split into smaller groups in order to meet their needs for different meeting times. Women working outside the home obviously could not attend weekday meetings and wanted to continue the Saturday afternoon meetings, while others preferred a weeknight evening time. Geography also played a
part in the division, with the original group, named Friendship Circle, meeting on the north side of the river and a newer evening group  meeting south of the James. They called themselves James River Heritage
It developed that the Guild as a whole ordinarily met only twice a year: at a “Fall Seminar” using the format of the meetings which had so successfully provided momentum for the creation of the Guild, and at an Annual Meeting in the spring where the business of electing new Guild officers could take place. (For a number of years there also was a special “Summer workshop” offered when a particular teacher was available to teach.)
The early leaders of the Guild stressed the importance of those two Guild-wide meetings, where everyone could gather and feel a part of the organization as a whole.
The five Guild officer’s main duties were to plan and organize those two meetings, to prepare a Guild membership list, and to issue periodic newsletters to keep all the members informed. Guild Board meetings were relatively few. Details of how chapters would organize and run themselves were left pretty much up to them, though early on it was decided that members’ dues would mostly remain in the chapter treasury to
cover the cost of their programs, etc., with a portion sent to the Guild primarily to pay for the newsletter.
In 1987 the Board recommended, and the Guild voted to become incorporated, and the constitution and by-laws were adjusted to gain approval of the State Corporation Commission. By 1982 “members of the Guild have felt that a weekday chapter should be considered to give quilters the option of joining a chapter that would meet at a time best suited to their needs, thus reaching some who are not able to attend a night or weekend chapter meeting” (from May 1982 Threads of Thought).
Hospitality Chapter organized on April 7, 1982, with 15 dues-paying members. Vi Tetterton, since elected a Life Member of the RQG, offered the chapter the use of the family room in her home for Hospitality meetings. The group enjoyed her hospitality for several years.
Notice was taken of the exciting quilting activities in Richmond, and a previously organized group of quilters in Colonial Heights decided in the summer of 1982 to seek affiliation with the RQG. Colonial Quilters with 28 members became the 4th chapter of the Guild in September 1982. Several Guild Annual Meetings were held in Colonial Heights during these years.
In May 1996, Colonial Quilters voted to withdraw from the Guild. In part this was because it had become increasingly onerous to their officers to drive the distances to attend Guild Board meetings and their members to come to Richmond to participate in Guild events. Meanwhile, another chapter was added to the Guild when 20 women formed Piecemakers Chapter in
August, 1985. This group’s daytime meeting met the needs of many Mechanicsville area quilters.
Growth continued with the addition of the Bits & Pieces chapter in June 1989. This east end group planned to meet in the evenings. They were followed closely by Country School Quilters who were formally added to the Guild in September 1989. Their members were drawn from western Hanover County and also chose to have evening meetings.
Following the departure of Colonial Quilters, the number of chapters remained at six until 2003 when Crazy Quilters organized and joined the Guild. This active group consisted of 33 enthusiastic ladies from the
Since 2003, Friendship Circle departed the RQG, and West End (WE) Quilt Chapter was added and departed. However, the popularity in quilting actually expanded during COVID and in August 2023, a new chapter was accepted into the guild from the Midlothian area. They are aptly named the Swift Creek Sew 'n' Sews due to their meeting proximity to the Swift Creek Reservoir.
The RQG continues today with six active chapters and over 300 members! Chapter formations and departures are par for the course as member needs ebb and flow.
Friendship Circle - Departed
James River Heritage (1980)
Colonial Quilters (1982) - Departed
Bits & Pieces (1989)
Crazy Quilters (2003)
WE Quilt (2018) - Departed
Swift Creek Sew 'n' Sews (2023)