Keep Calm and Quilt On

Beginning quilting class, left to right: Chris Wojnarowicz, Mary Shirey, Anna Miller, Judy Keefer, and Camille Esterman.

Mary Shirey

Anyone who knows a quilter can tell you that despite the challenges of the past two years, those sewing machines never stopped humming! During the pandemic, quilters nationwide reported that working at their hobby provided them a positive focus. When masks were in short supply, quilters across the nation answered the call. Many set aside personal projects to turn to mask-making and donated countless masks to their communities.

Research shows 10 to 12 million active and new quilters spend an average of six hours per week on their craft. While the average quilter is age 65, the popularity of the hobby continues to increase (12% in 2020) even with the younger set. According to the Craft Industry Alliance Quilting Trends Survey Results 2021, the industry expects to grow to $5 billion by 2026.

Here at SaddleBrooke Ranch, the quilting club (aka the “Ranch Piecemakers”) is an energetic group whose membership tallies 78 now in its fifth year. Although in-person gatherings were impacted by the pandemic, members were not deterred in pursuing the club’s mission: to provide a safe creative space for like-minded quilters who enjoy sharing their passion through giving, teaching, and commemorating.

The coordinated efforts and vision of the club leadership kept the group cohesive and active despite COVID challenges. The board collaborated with leading members to continue offering long arm machine training; a “Block Party” (12 monthly blocks culminating in a complete quilt); a beginning quilting course; and the latest “tuxedo challenge,” five black-and-white quilts to be donated to charity this April.

General meetings resumed in November and committees began planning for the new year. One highlight is the club’s recent acquisition, the AccuQuilt, a fabric die-cutting system designed to make cutting physically easier, more accurate, and more efficient. The AccuQuilt tool also aims to make quilting faster, which could not come at a better time, as requests for quilts throughout the county remain high. For the third year, Piecemakers will donate to Pinal County Foster kids and the Casa de Paz Women’s shelter to which they have donated over 200 quilts in total. Charitable giving remains a cornerstone of the club, which includes in-reach, the gifting of quilts to fellow SBR residents who have lost a loved one.

On behalf of the SBR community, two of the club’s gifted quilters presented quilts to Linda Shannon-Hills and Brianne Spaeth in gratitude for spearheading the vaccine drive. One of these desert-themed quilts can be seen prominently displayed in the Desert Life Pharmacy.

The Ranch Piecemakers club operates out of the Needle Arts Room in the Arts and Technology Building. They welcome new members, encourage visitors to view their window display, and are happy to answer questions. For further inquiries, go to Groupworks or contact Mary Shirey at 503-545-8185.

The next time you find yourself snuggled under a beautiful handmade quilt, remember: Blessed are the Piecemakers—for they keep you cozy on a cold winter’s night!