At Twenty-Five, Cape Girardeau’s Quilt Guild More Popular Than Ever

Jul 17, 2014

The River Heritage Quilters’ Guild is just 25 years old and it is more popular than ever.

The Quilt Guild meets the second Monday of every month at the Cape Girardeau Public Library. It has about 135 members, and during the meetings there is usually an average of 70 to 80 people present.

“The quilt guild is my family,” Madeline Gieselman said. She has been a member of the guild for 23 years, and served as its president. She said to quilt something can take forever - it is both a hobby and art, and it takes inspiration and dedication.

“We all start and stop, we have a lot of things is process. I have some quilts that took me 15 years to finish just because of that reason,” she added.

The current president it Christina Ludwig, who has been in the guild for the past 6 years. She credits friendships within the guild for its longevity.

“My favorite thing about it is just listening to the individual stories that the women have, about how they came to quilt and what is their inspiration,” said Ludwig.

She learned how to sew from her father but got interested in quilting through her husband’s grandmother. She is not the only one who got into quilting like that and said the Quilt Guild not only counts many female members but also a few men, who started to join in the past few years.

Dan Freed started his earliest quilt when he was about 13.

“I visited my grandparents in Arkansas and my grandmother had made a quilt with a sewing machine that my dad had bought for his mom and that kind of gave me the bug,” Freed said.

He has been quilting for about 50 years, and joined the guild about a year and a half ago. To him, it was the opportunity to learn new techniques and tips about quilting.

Anastasia Gonzales, who has been a member for 7 years, joined because of another reason. After moving to town, she wanted to meet new people and decided to be part of the guild to make new friends. To her, the comradery is the best part of the group. She has been quilting for 20 years, and she said the guild is definitely bigger now than it was when she joined. She thinks it can still grow as young people find interest in it

“I think people think when you join a quilt guild you have to know how to quilt, and you don’t! You don’t have to know how to quilt and I think there are a few people that come that don’t quilt at all, they just come for the social time, for the friendship and to see the quilt that people make for inspiration,” Gonzales said.

She thinks people have a misconception of the guild and believe it to be like a class, “but it’s not like that at all, it’s just a group of people who enjoy quilts,” Gonzales said.

Ludwig is on the same page and thinks people see quilting as a hobby for old people.

“Many people have a traditional view of quilters. They think of them as older woman or their grandmothers and they consider it in the context they were raised with. But we have a lot of really young members,” Ludwig added.

Since the guild has been around from a long time, new members can appreciate the fact that the experienced ones know what they are doing. When you hear them talk about their quilts, it is an art form. There is a lot of creativity put into it and an inspiration.

Another source for that inspiration is the guest speaker the guild receives during their monthly meetings.

“We always have a speaker at our meetings and usually it’s someone fairly close, within a couple hundred miles or so, that has either written a book or they have a fabric line or they have a store and they come and talk about their products,” explains Gonzales. She said guild members will be the speaker about five times per year.

After the speakers’ presentation there is a break, a social time. Then it’s time for some “show and tell” when guild members bring work they just finished to show it to the others.

“You learn from others,” Gonzales explained. “That’s one of the reasons to join a quilt guild is that you learn a lot of things from other people.”

Last March, the quilters celebrated the 25th birthday with a cake. Special pins were given to about 15 women, the members who started the guild.

“We are also in the process of having a challenge, a quilt challenge for our 25th year. It’s going to be a small art quilt and anybody can do it and it has rules. It has to have 25 of something for the 25 years, and it has to be a certain size, and it has to have a heart in it somewhere and it’s due in July,” said Gonzales.

The River Heritage Quilters’ Guild has all kinds of events throughout the year. They have a picnic in the summer, a Christmas dinner during the winter and quilt retreats, according to Merle Deneke. She has been a member of the guild since it started in 1989.

“We have a quilt retreat every year in March and it’s usually several days before St. Patrick’s Day,” Deneke said. “It’s about 17 years that we’ve been doing this and it started out that many years ago with just three cabins of 6 to 8 people per cabin and right now we are up to eleven cabins. It’s really a lot of fun because we go over to Kentucky Lake and we are supposed to do some sewing but we do a lot of shopping, a lot of visiting.”

Every two years, the guild hosts a quilt show on the first weekend of October at the Arena Building.

About 100 quilts are on display, and a jury judges them according to different categories. Various vendors come and there is a bed turning on the stage of the Arena Building where members tell a story about the quilt.

“They put a bed up on the stage and just stack it up with quilts and then they just show them one at a time, how it was made. They have a theme every year,” said Gieselman.

The two-day shows will be held this October at the Arena building.

“We will also have two booths during the show. One of them is called ‘make it, take it’ where members of the guild have made small items, that people who come to the show can just buy for two, three, four or five dollars and we’ll also have a silent auction of bigger things,” Ludwig said.

Ludwig added that all the profit goes to breast cancer and support local women in Cape Girardeau County for mammograms.