By Rebecca Carlson

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*This article originally appeared in print and online in the Pensacola News Journal on March 7, 2018.

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One of many quilts dropped off Saturday, March 3, 2018, at Hillcrest Baptist Church in preparation for the Pensacola Quilters Guild 17th biennial show at the Pensacola Interstate Fairgrounds. (Photo: John Blackie/jblackie@pnj.com)

Since 1983, the Pensacola Quilters Guild has sewn together friendship and community service while creating one-of-a-kind quilts that go beyond the traditional utilitarian coverings to become intricate art pieces.

Charitable contributions to the community have been a part of the organization since the beginning, starting with quilts made for Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Members have made more than 1,000 quilts this past year, giving away 327 of those to area nonprofit organizations like Sacred Heart Hospital, Habitat for Humanity, the Pregnancy Resource Center and Safe Harbor Pregnancy Medical Center.

Quilt shows are also a large part of the community outreach aspect of the guild’s mission with none as important as the group’s biennial show.

The theme for this year’s show is “Pensacola Quilts, All-Stars 2018.” This will be the guild’s 17th biennial show.

Quilt show co-chairs Joyce Thompson and Joyce Cobb (known as “the two Joyces”) hope the event will expose the public to the artistry and tradition of quilting.

“We want the art of quilting to continue. We want new people and young people to come,” Thompson said.

On Friday and Saturday, March 9-10, the public can view painstakingly detailed guild-made quilts at the Pensacola Interstate Fairgrounds. Vendors from across the nation will also be on site selling fabrics, vintage linens and sewing machines.

“These aren’t your grandmother’s quilts anymore, it’s an art form,” said Karen Gardner, a guild member and show coordinator.

Eligible guild members submitted up to five works created in the last two years for the show. Entries were judged by Molly Waddell of the National Association of Certified Quilt Judges at Hillcrest Baptist Church.

Show quilts can take six to 12 months to complete due to the high level of craftsmanship. The top awards — Best of Show and Meticulous Workmanship —  for the biennial show will be presented at 10 a.m. Friday.

An interactive “Reading is Quiltamental” exhibit will invite guests to match quilts with the classic children’s book they represent. In addition, quilts from the 2017 “Starry, Starry Black and White” guild challenge will be on display. These quilts were made using only black and white fabrics, adding in one accent color in a star block pattern.

A special exhibit will display designs by heritage members — a title given to those who have contributed significantly to the guild over the years, but who are unable to participate as much for various reasons.

On Saturday at the conclusion of the show, a drawing will be held for this year’s opportunity quilt, made by Voe Nelson, Cena Harmon and Ingrid Whitcher, and appraised at $3,500.

The guild now has approximately 180 members (including a few men), who range from beginners to experts.

“For a lot of quilters, their grandmothers and mothers had done it, but not me,” said Thompson, who joined the guild after moving to the area from Seattle, Washington.  “I’ve been quilting ever since.”

“We just love to be around each other,” Thompson said. “Especially like-minded people who love the same thing.”

Cobb attended the 2002 quilting show and immediately fell in love with the art form.

“I never thought of quilts as art before. It knocked my socks off,” Cobb said. “I knew when I left that quilt show that that’s what I was going to do for the rest of my life.”

Dixie Haywood, a founding member of the guild and president from 1989-1990, mailed a hand-quilted rainbow pineapple variation quilt for the Pensacola show from her current home in South Carolina. She insured the package for $4,000.

“It would appraise for that,” Haywood said. “It’s been published a number of times. It’s a very good quilt.”

Haywood is a self-taught quilter who has lectured and judged shows across the country for many years. Since 1976 she’s authored two books on her own and co-authored seven more with Jane Hall from Raleigh, North Carolina, whom she met through quilting conferences.

She moved to Pensacola in 1983 and began teaching at The Wooden Spool.

Haywood believes that shows and judges’ feedback are important for members to gauge their work and learn how to improve. As a judge, she looks for three things: the overall design, how the color works, and the workmanship.

“You can have a beautiful color and design but if you don’t have good workmanship, it’s hardly worth it,” she said.

Haywood is also a heritage member and believes that it’s a great honor to be recognized.

“Pensacola Quilters’ Guild is just a wonderful guild,” Haywood said. “I traveled around the country for years talking to guilds at conferences and I always thought that we were one of the best there was.”

Guild meetings are on the third Thursday of the month for a day meeting and the third Monday for a night meeting. For more information, visit pensacolaquiltersguild.org.

Want to go?

WHAT: Pensacola Quilters Guild 17th biennial show, “Pensacola Quilts, All-Stars 2018”

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 9-10

WHERE: Pensacola Interstate Fairgrounds, 6655 Mobile Highway

ADMISSION: $7 per day; $10 for both days

DETAILS: Visit pensacolaquiltersguild.org or email 2018pensacolaquiltshow.com