There has been a long tradition of quilting in the United States when early settlers couldn’t afford to throw used blankets or fabric away and used them to make patchwork quilts.
Centuries later, a group of modern quilters is keeping this art alive and giving back to the community. In 2005, former North Lake Tahoe resident Maggi Davis created the Bee Inclined Quilters, a small group of friends who share a love of quilting. Now more than a decade later, the Bee Inclined Quilters have more than 30 active members who meet once a month at the Incline Village Library to share patterns, projects and sew together.
“All of us have a closet full of quilts,” says member Millie Szerman, who is the group’s spokesperson.
“And we also have closets full of fabrics, so we look for projects that focus on scrappy quilts,” adds fellow member Roxanna Dunn.
“I can’t walk into a fabric store without buying something, but I think most quilters are like that; we’re very tactile.” –Millie Szerman
“People who love to make quilts tend to end up with many of them and so we started giving them away to friends, family and whoever they can benefit,” Szerman says.
Szerman has been sewing all of her life but didn’t take up quilting until after she retired in 2014. When a friend invited her to a quilting class in Reno, she bought all of the materials needed to make it and then joined Bee Inclined Quilters.
In Szerman’s sewing and growing room, swatches of fabric and a large cutting board are on one side and rows of orchids are on the other, including a bolt of batting against a wall that she cuts for whoever needs it in the group. She says she currently has about 12 quilting projects in the works, both personal and for group projects.
“There’s a faction of our group that makes quilts for veterans, donating them to the Quilts of Valor,” she says.
The Bee Inclined Quilters also make quilts for Casa de Vida, a safe place for pregnant young women in need; Northern Nevada Children’s Cancer Foundation and Tahoe SAFE Alliance; dresses for the Dress a Girl Around the World campaign and kitty pillows for the Pet Network Humane Society — to name a few. Davis admits that since its inception, the Bee Inclined Quilters have lost track of all of the organizations they have donated quilts to over the years.
“I can’t walk into a fabric store without buying something, but I think most quilters are like that; we’re very tactile,” Szerman says.
Meets third Thursday of the month | 1-4 p.m.
Incline Village Library | Incline Village, Nev.
The group mainly makes quilts out of donated fabric and the membership fees of $15 a year go toward buying materials. When the Bee Inclined Quilters connect once a month at the library, they’ll come armed with their sewing machines and spend three to four hours together.
There’s a show-and-tell element to the meeting; members will display a particularly favorite piece and if other members are interested, the quilter will teach the block. Members are free to work on individual projects or join in to contribute to a group project or charity.
“We have a project at each meeting. It’s either something for yourself and in some cases we will make an extra one for the group project,” says Szerman.
“One project was to share how many UFOs [unfinished projects] you did in a year,” Dunn says.
Another was to make a beehive-themed nametag and the person who had the best one got a raffle ticket to win a quilting-related prize at the end of the year. Szerman brought out a quilted origami bowl or vase holder or wine bottle koozie — or whatever you want to make of it.
“It’s a project searching for a purpose,” says Dunn.
Another favorite group project was to make an ugly quilt; members brought in their ugliest swatch of fabric, swapped the pieces with each other and sewed a block for the group quilt. When it all came together it was lovely and sold in a recent quilt sale.
“Everyone in this group is motivated to sew. Doing handmade things is what juices us,” Szerman says. | [email protected]