Anita Winkle was having lunch with two friends back in Toronto a few years ago — one was a quilter, the other was not.
Winkle and the quilter friend started talking about their textile art passion, leaving the other friend to stare in awe.
“(She) looked at us and said, ‘who knew quilting could be so exciting?’” Winkle recalled.
At least 40 locals who are members of the Whistler Valley Quilters’ Guild are in on the secret. With the start of a new year, the guild is inviting new members to join the group, which meets the first and third Tuesday of the month (except during the summer).
“That’s more of a get together with a demonstration of something, or someone will come in and give a talk or an update on a new technique,” said Winkle, president of the guild. “Then we always wrap up the meeting with a show and tell.”
The uninitiated might not know it, but quilting is an evolving and complex art, she added. “There’s always a new technique or method. What we’re making now, it’s not your grandmother’s quilt anymore. The methods are becoming easier, fabrics can be anything you want, but they can be a lot more fun. Quilts are becoming modern,” she said.
But aside from helping its members develop technique and skill, the guild also creates quilts to give to people in the community who might benefit from both a warm blanket and a heartfelt gift. “We make community quilts that are donated to anyone in the community who’s going through a time where they might need a ‘comfort quilt,’” Winkle added. “We’re constantly replenishing our stock of community quilts.”
While the number varies each year, between May 2016 and March 2017 the group gave away 21 quilts. Recipients have included people recovering from surgery, those going through cancer treatment, newly arrived refugees and victims of house fires.
“People are taken aback that total strangers would give them something so beautiful that they can put over themselves while they’re recuperating,” Winkle said. “It’s something they can use and feel comforted by being wrapped up in it. It’s a wonderful, wonderful feeling to be able to do this for people. It feels good on our side, but we’ve had thank you notes from people saying they’re so touched that complete strangers would give them something.”
For that project, the group has received funding in the past from the Resort Municipality of Whistler’s (RMOW) Community Enrichment Program, as well as from the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, but many members also donate out of pocket.
Last year, the guild also took part in a Canada 150 project initiated by the Canadian Quilters Association to help create 1,000 quilts for Ronald McDonald Houses across the country. “It was neat to contribute to that,” Winkle said.
As they gear up for their next meeting of 2018 on Jan. 16 — from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Maury Young Arts Centre — the group is also keeping an eye out for a new space to work on those community quilts. “In February we’ll have one day where we get together and we’re looking for venues to do quilting,” Winkle said, adding the space has to be big enough to accommodate everyone’s sewing machine and have enough electrical outlets. “We spend one weekend every year to specifically work on community quilt projects. We love doing it.”
For more information about the Whistler Valley Quilters’ Guild visit whistlerquilters.com.