A Creative Sisterhood of Quilters
By Kimberly Boney
Story by Kimberly Bonéy
Photos by Emily Miranda
ON EVERY MONDAY, before her friends begin filling the space within her quilting studio with their creative projects, their laughter, love and conversation, Jacque White says a prayer: “Lord, please bring the people we can accommodate here today – those who really need to be here.” Somehow, says White, “we’ve never had a problem making sure there was enough space for everyone.”
Three years after moving from Dunsmuir into a small log cabin in Bella Vista, White found herself missing the fellowship she shared with a creative group of women that met regularly to quilt and sew together. She asked a few church members at Trinity Alliance in Redding if they might be interested in coming over to work on something creative. It took a while to garner momentum. At first, only a few women came. But then, friends began inviting friends and what started as just a few women gathering to spend creative time together became a solid core group of 15 women who think of each other as family.
“We knew it wasn’t big enough to accommodate everyone who wanted to be a part of the group. We only had two rooms then – and I really needed a studio. I convinced my husband, Eldon, to make a 400-square-foot addition to our home. The space has tables, sewing machines and a television. As the group has grown over the years, we’ve even outgrown that space, so we have begun to spread back into my dining room, as well,” White says with a laugh.
The group of women range in age from their late 40s to 76 years old. They happily spend their Mondays together, working on their own creative projects and enjoying the potluck-style dishes that are customary at each meeting. The meeting place is typically White’s home, but on occasion, another group member will take on the role of hostess. No matter where they meet, the love is the same. The conversation meanders through talks of their families, their vacations, special experiences they have had and opportunities that are coming up in the community.
“We make quilts for cancer patients, friends who have lost their husbands and, recently, fire victims. We look for opportunities to share with people,” White says.
Recently, at a function outside of their regularly scheduled Monday, White was sharing the fact that her husband had built her a studio for her quilting. Sherrie Widner, a group member for 11 years, quickly chimed in: “He didn’t build it for you – he built it for us.” White laughed, recognizing the truth in her friend’s words. Just as she shares the space in her home with her “sisters,” the unofficial name they have coined for themselves, White is honored to share so much more with them.
“It’s an outreach group. We are there to share the joys and burdens of life with each other. If someone is in need, we are right there to help them. If I have a problem, I know someone is there. We just need each other. In the old days, women would gather at the river to wash clothes – and it was also a time for fellowship. We need that as women,” says White.
White’s creativity blossomed as a child. Her mother would always let White and her sister paint their bedroom walls and decorate as they liked. “It was nice having that kind of freedom,” says White. That creative carte blanche – and having been taught to sew as a little girl – played a large part in White’s interest in making her own clothes, and even some for her daughters. White’s sister, who grew up to become an artist, is frequently her co-pilot as she ventures into new creative territory. Their most recent undertaking is eco-printing with leaves, a technique she’s eager to share with the group. “I don’t ever feel like I’m just learning for me. There is a joy that comes in sharing it with my sisters,” says White.
“Our skillsets are all different and we have the opportunity to teach each other. We get to share our work with one another – and we get to ask for help,” says Widner. “This group means everything to me. We share with, pray for and encourage one another. It’s more than just a support system that makes a difference in the lives of its members – it’s a lifeline.”