Capitalizing on quilting
Capitalizing on quilting 041713 AE 1 Capital City Weekly Capitalizing on quilting

Photo By Amanda Compton / Capital City Weekly

Sheila Box, a member of the Capital City Quilters Guild and one of the organizers of the guild's upcoming show, displays one of the diagrams that will be present at the show.

Photo By Amanda Compton / Capital City Weekly

Sheila Box, a member of the Capital City Quilters Guild and one of the organizers of the guild's upcoming show, stands in front of the stash of fabrics she's developed over the years.

Photo By Amanda Compton / Capital City Weekly

Six members of the Capital City Quilters Guild meet to talk about the logistics of their upcoming show. From left to right are: Judy Morely, Ginger Blaisdele, Patricia Wherry, Nancy Slook, Charmaine Weeks and Sheila Box.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Story last updated at 4/17/2013 - 2:14 pm

Capitalizing on quilting

Capitalizing on quilting

Local quilt guild to host bi-annual show

By Amanda Compton

Capital City Weekly

If you never thought to associate acronyms like "UFO" or "BYOH" ("H" for husband) or word choices like "opium," with a group of quilters, think again.

On a recent Friday night, six members of the Capital City Quilters Guild sat around a table at Sheila Box's house. On the table sat a metal tin with tea bags organized into a rainbow color scheme, a bowl of Chex Mix, pretzel chips and artichoke-spinach dip. They were there to discuss and plan the Guild's upcoming bi-annual Quilt Show. While phrases one might typically find more in alignment with banter at a quilt meeting, (think "Pin Cushion Challenge") were spouted out, the six women were really pretty fresh and sassy.

"Alright cupcakes," Box said to the group, who had started, several times, only to chart off course. "Alright kids. We do need to do some work."

The quilt show occurs twice annually, and is a chance for members of the guild to display their handiwork. The public is encouraged to attend, though submissions are limited to members. There are 10 categories like "contemporary" and "miniature" and two challenge categories. One of the challenge categories is selected by the guild's president, and one by the organizing committee. This spring the president's challenge is: "Juneau, Inside and Out," and the committee chose a pincushion challenge.

"Members vote on their favorite in each category," Box said. "Then we have a panel of secret judges who are quilters and/or artisans from the community but not members of the guild. They come Saturday night, under the cloak of darkness, and choose a Best in Show from all the First Placers."

Box said there's a People's Choice award, in which the public votes on their favorite piece. There was some faux anxiety among the organizational group, which consisted of Box, Judy Morley, Ginger Blaisdele, Patricia Wherry, Nancy Slook and Charmaine Weeks. Weeks furrowed her brows and fired a wily nod at Blaisdele.

"I'm planning your demise as you hit the sidewalk," Weeks told her (they both have entries in the show).

Blaisdele couldn't care less. She's the one who's designing and creating the prize ribbons.

"Fine, I'm going to make 20 ribbons and pin them on every quilt I've ever made," Blaisdele said, adding, "These ribbons can destroy friendships."

Everyone laughed, prompting Box to reign the team back in. They discussed where to place the silent auction items (40 to 50 items are donated for sale), where to have the live demonstrations and what tools would be needed to hang the quilts, (assuming all pieces are finished in time, there will be around 150 items in the show).

Though the meeting was a planning party, each member was there because of a love of the craft of quilting. In a spare bedroom on the top floor of Box's house was her "stash." A stash is a quilter's supply of fabrics, and Box's contained well over a few hundred.

"We call it a stash because it's like an opium of choice," Morely said.

Box is a born and raised Juneau resident. Her mother and a friend owned a fabric store on top of the current location of Western Auto when she was growing up. A friend helped her make her first quilt.

"Like most quilters it was a giant king-sized quilt," Box said. "Way too much quilt. It was for a girlfriend of mine that was getting married, but she ended up getting divorced before the quilt was finished."

The guild, a nonprofit, has between 70 and 80 members, who pay an annual fee of $35. In addition to meeting as a whole group once a month, there are Unfinished Objects (UFO) meetings once a month, that begin at 9 a.m.

"You can just bring your stuff, there'll be a bunch of other people there, you can get help, chat, or just sew all day," Box said. "It goes until the wee hours, midnight, sometimes later."

There's a catch here though. Quilting isn't for the lackadaisical or the procrastinator; one project involves a lot of steps and can take as much time as the quilter wants to put in. So Slook gets financial commitments from members, that is, she tracks the progress of members who have signed contracts pledging to finish a particular project, or face a fine. One woman has been paying on an outstanding contract for three consecutive years. This year Slook's tracking 11 contracts. Those that do finish pieces each year get in the running for prizes: gift certificates to fabric stores, fancy scissors and other quilting-related items. The UFO meetings allow unadulterated time for the members to devote to quilting - and guilt-tripping, haggling and help. Slook, who, after brain surgery, only has full use of one hand, devotes her time to help people finish their projects.

Besides their monthly regular and UFO meetings, the guild engages in other activities. There are Round Robbins, where quilters in groups of six to eight each begin a piece, then hand it off to another group member. There are rules to each round, such as, "Add a border made of triangles," and after all the rounds are completed the originator takes it home.

"At the end, when everyone's had a chance to work on everyone's quilt, you get to see it," Box said. "It's very fun. Your center might take a totally different direction than what you thought. You get inspired by how other people think about it. You go in with an idea of what it might look like at the end, and it always ends up to be completely different."

The guild has been donating pillowcases to the local safe shelter, Aiding Women And Rape Emergencies, for years.

"We must have made thousands," Box said. "If people have to go to the shelter they don't always have time to pack. Kids get pillowcases with maybe trains or animals, fun prints. Then they can put their stuff in it when they leave."

They recently started making receiving blankets and bed quilts for AWARE as well. Once every year or two they bring up visiting instructors, skilled in a specific category, like Hawaiian quilting, or a process, like appliqué.

As the meeting hour wound up, Weeks went over her responsibility: the newsletter. She was asked if she was going to include where members could drop off their entries.

"No, and I'll tell you why," Weeks said.

"You're the boss," Blaisdele said.

"I'm not the boss, I'm just bossy," Weeks said. "People don't read long emails."

So no, don't expect anything but the imperative, apparently. Though Weeks digressed. It was suggested to her that she add, in her newsletter, that members show up with their husbands. BYOH. She started complaining about how her husband was able to lose weight with one visit to the gym, where as she had to work a lot harder.

"I found a way around it; I lace his breakfast with fat," she said.

There was talk of Slook's superior binder clipping talents, how Weeks has paid for some landscaping all out of change she collected and how one of Box's quilt entries wasn't finished yet.

"Our meetings aren't always like this," Morely said. "They're usually more directed."

"That's not true," Box retorted.

But the one thread that was present in all the women's testimonials of why they had been drawn to quilting, was the approachability and the camaraderie.

"It's not like learning to watercolor or paint with oils," Box said. "With a pretty basic skill set, anybody can make fantastic quilts with squares, triangles, millions of patters and options. Everyone puts their own spin on it with the colors they like. That's what's really cool about it: it's so accessible and limitless as an art form."

"Whenever you sit down with a needle and thread, and that's all you're doing, you've got your mind to talk and gossip and clarify," Morely said. "Once you talk to everyone else about their husbands and children, you think, 'God, I'm pretty lucky.'"

The Capital City Quilters Guild Quilt Show will be held on Friday, April 19 from noon to 5 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday, April 20 and 21, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The show is free, open to the public, and will take place at Centennial Hall. For more information visit

Amanda Compton is the staff writer for Capital City Weekly. She can be reached at