The early meetings attracted members from Grand Forks, Crookston, Valley City, Wahpeton and other RRV towns. We were all starved for conversation with other quilters–there weren’t so many of us in those days, only a few books and one or two magazines on the subject. Show and Tell featured plenty of antique quilts. In fact, our early quilt shows had a category for antique quilts.
The first Indian Summer Quilt Show was held that fall, at the request of West Acres shopping center. It took all of us to patrol the show wearing white gloves, reminding people not to touch the quilts.
Looking Back While Moving Ahead
a series of articles written by Marcia Retzer to celebrate the 30th anniversary of QGNDJanuary, 2010
Our roots go back to August, 1979 at Pioneer Days at Bonanzaville in West Fargo. A woman named Helen Anton had a quilt display, and collected names of those interested in forming a group. In November Helen, Char Smith and Kim Baird met at Kim’s to discuss plans. They decided to begin after the holidays, in January of 1980.
The first meeting was held on January 12, 1980 on the 4th floor of Block 6, the deLendrecies building, 620 Main Avenue, Fargo. One hundred women attended, from as far away as Crookston, Grand Forks and Wahpeton. Monthly meetings continued to be held at Block 6 on the third Saturday. Eventually, meetings moved to the lower level Community Room at West Acres. Later, QGND met in the chapel at Bethany Homes until that room underwent renovation. Meetings were held at Lutheran Church of the Cross in West Fargo before moving to our current home at the Skills and Technology Training Center.
With so many people showing interest, early on the need for formal organization was recognized. Char Smith became the first president, and Helen Anton began putting out a monthly newsletter. Helen also did the paperwork to become a nonprofit corporation in ND. Fundraising was mainly a white elephant sale held at each meeting.
Helen Anton grew up in Hawley, MN. She was a horsewoman for many years, but gave up riding due to arthritis. Helen sewed clothes and embroidered and made a few quilts, but it wasn’t until she took quilting lessons from Cheryl Olson that she really became a quilter. She was also interested in the history of quilts, and amassed a sizable library on the subject.
Char Smith grew up in Minneapolis, studied English Literature and broadcasting, and worked in radio stations.
In 1975 she opened Fargo’s first store for quilters, The Patchworks. Although the business remained open only 2-1/2 years, Char was the true pioneer of quilting in Fargo, teaching it through adult education.
Kim Baird began quilting when she moved to Fargo in June of 1978. By 1979, she was teaching others to quilt, and that fall she joined Nancy Hass and Linda Danielson to open Country Arts Collective, in Block 6. The shop had primitive pine furniture, rugs, accessories, weavings by Linda, and a few bolts of fabric. Classes were offered. Over the years, the business was sold, moved to 604 Main, and eventually became Quilters Quarters, owned by Kim and Barb Bunnell, then solely by Barb.
* * * * * * * * *February, 2010
Mary Ann Waxler kindly shared with me copies of the early newsletters published by the Guild. While reading through the first issues, I was struck by the President’s Message in June, 1980. It followed the May meeting where the first officers were elected and ‘Quilters’ Guild of North Dakota’ was chosen as the name of the organization.
President Char Smith wrote these words:
“The Quilters’ Guild of North Dakota! This is a dream come true . . .and you, dear members, made it happen. Quilters are very special people. We can work alone – -but what a joy to at last share our thoughts and ideas with others.”
It struck me that this is what the Guild is all about. In a nutshell, it is about fellowship. It is about the chance to come together, to learn from one another, to share with one another. It was at the February 1980 meeting, only the second one of the early members, that:‘Show and Tell’ was “presented. . . with an amazing number of beautiful quilts (both old and new), pillows, patterns, and various other works. This was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone present. It was unanimously decided to repeat this at all of our meetings”. Not only show and tell (which remains a regular part of our monthly meetings) but from the inception of the Guild it has been a vehicle for advertising and sponsoring lasses and workshops, notifying members of shows and opportunities in other towns and states, sharing information about tools and techniques, books and patterns. In the early newsletters, one quickly detects a thirst for knowledge and for expanding skills and learning new ones; for benefiting from others’ expertise and experiences.
Note this March 1980 newsletter blurb: “When anyone travels to quilt shows, museums, unusual shops,
or visits quilters in other parts of the country, could you take time to write it up for us? We’d all enjoy sharing your experiences”.
Yes, we can learn so much from each other. I think this idea struck such a chord with me because I recently
attended a quilting seminar where at the lunch break several people at my table asked those of us who were Guild members what was the advantage for joining. Without hesitation I replied that the biggest benefit I could think of was the number of people I have had the chance to meet and to learn from. Thirty years later, Char Smith’s words still ring true. . . . . quilters ARE very special people and it is a pure joy and a privilege to share with and learn from one another.
charter members: *known to be deceased
Anderson, Mrs. Art
Baab, Rose Marie
Baird, Kim R. L.
Bogart, Vicky Jo
Erickstad, Mrs. Curtis
Friley, Mary Lou
Honek, Lou Ann
Knecht F. Lorraine
Knoll, Mrs Wilbur
Nagle, Mary Ann
Nelson, Mrs. Harry
Nichols, Mary Ann
Stewart, Mary Jane
Uhlman, Betty Lou
Van Walter, Del
Waxler, Mary Ann
Wong, Zella Lee
Zarrett, Mary Ann