PANAMA CITY — The parish hall at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church was busy on a recent morning, as members of the St. Andrew Bay Quilters' Guild worked on nap quilts for children in the Head Start program.

"We kind of fill in wherever we see a need in the community," said Beverly Pierzchala, one of the co-chairwomen for the group's annual Quilt Show. "We spread out all over the community doing things."

"Quilts from the Heart" is the theme of this year's show, which will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 16 and 17, at the Holley Academic Center, Florida State University Panama City, 4750 Collegiate Drive. Admission to the show is $7. For details, call 850-271-8913 or visit the group's website, SABQG.com.

On this morning, the sound of sewing machines, soft banter and the flutter of fabric made for a gentle background noise. Rotary cutters on a cutting board made almost no sound at all. One woman pressed cloth on an ironing board, and another sorted multi-colored squares of remnant cloth.

"I don't know what I'm looking for," she admitted. "It's one of those things, like a woman in a dress shop: A woman can walk into a dress store and go, 'Nah, there's nothing here.' It's just the way we do things."

The women of the Guild wear their hearts on their quilts, which go to many community organizations and charities. They've supplied bibs as well as quilts to Head Start; bed quilts for veterans residing at Clifford Chester Sims State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Springfield, as well as "fidget quilts" for use by residents suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia and catheter bag covers to maintain dignity for the residents.

Another ongoing project is providing quilts and other newborn items for Catholic Social Services' "Matthew’s Room," which provides layette kits filled with products to help new mothers with a new baby. The Guild also collects food items in October and November to help supply the Catholic food pantry. And a recent project provides PTSD mats for veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

"The ladies do it because they love quilting and the have very giving hearts," Pierzchala said. "For us, it's just part of the game. We like it, and we like to share it."

 

ANNUAL QUILT SHOW

"Quilts from the Heart" will include displays of more than 135 quilts completed by Guild members. A nationally-certified judge will rank the entries anonymously nine categories. The theme for the challenge is "40th Anniversary," as 2018 marks the 40th year since the Guild's founding. Winners in each category and Best of Show will receive handmade ribbons.

"We love the venue, it's gorgeous there," said co-chairwoman Jo-Ellen Rogers, referring to the FSU Holley Center. "We use the Seminole Room and the rotunda, and we fill every inch."

At least 11 vendors from across the nation will be on-site with products related to quilting ans sewing. A Silent Auction will feature items handmade by members and offered for sale. Auction Baskets will include a variety of quilting items gathered together to entice ticket-buyers. A Quilt Boutique will also include items made by Guild members. And a Sewing Machine Raffle is popular among visitors, the members said. Raffle tickets are $1 each.

"For us, (the show) is a culmination of the year, a way for all the members to show the quilts they've made throughout the year," Pierzchala said. "It's also a way of communicating with the community as a whole. It is a lot of work, but it is a lot of fun, too."

There will be a raffle drawing for the 2018 Opportunity Quilt, "Our Family Tree," which was made by Guild members. Tickets are $2 each, or three for $5. The drawing will take place at 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 17.

 

GUILD ORIGINS

Established in March 1978, SABQG is a non-profit organization that strives to promote the education of its members and the public in the art of quilting. According to a mission statement at their website, the Guild is committed to encouraging, inspiring and challenging self-expression and creativity in all quilters.

General meetings are held the third Wednesday of each month at 9:30 a.m. and the third Thursday at 7 p.m. at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church Parish Hall, 1608 Baker Court, Panama City.

"Once a month, we gather for a workday, and we have 'Sit and Stitch' at homes," Rogers said. "We do quilts, quilts and more quilts."

Only about 20 women made up the original group, and they decided to form a "guild" because of the historic role guilds played in teaching trades or skills to the next generation. The guild is open to all ages, both male and female, and has grown to more than 150 members. It is now a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.