Like the brightly colored pieces of fabric they put together, the women have created a patchwork of friendship and support that sustains and lifts them.
"We call ourselves Gone to Pieces because we are totally addicted to quilting," says Lorraine Day, one of the founding members of the group. But it's easy to see that while they enjoy quilts, they also enjoy each other.
"This is a very cohesive group," she says. "There's no gossip, no back-biting. We give. We share. We love."
It's like family, says Jolene Chytraus. "These women are like sisters. After my husband died, after my kids all married and moved away, this group has become my Tuesday family. We stay in touch on other days. But problems don't look so bad when you're here."
The group meets once a week for show-and-tell, for a luncheon and to work on quilts. Right now they are putting finishing touches on quilts that will be part of their every-other-year quilt show, which will take place on Saturday, Sept. 25, in the barn at the home on Walker Lane of group member Nancy Lamm.
All proceeds from the show will be donated to The Road Home, which provides support and help for homeless families in the Salt Lake area.
There will be about 150 quilts in the show, of all sizes and styles. There will also be an "opportunity quilt," which will be given away in a drawing. Tickets are $2 each or three for $5. And this year, there will be a boutique offering homemade items such as pillowcases, trick-or-treat bags, pin cushions, luggage tags and more. Proceeds from the quilt and the boutique also go the The Road Home.
Because of limited parking at the barn, a shuttle will pick up visitors at the junction of Cottonwood Lane and Walker Lane. Follow the signs, they say; there will be lots of signs.
The quilt show is one of the charities Gone to Pieces supports. But there are others. As any quilter knows, the joy of making quilts often exceeds the room for storing them. "We all give a lot of them away to family and friends, but also to hospitals and care centers and other places," says Janet Peterson, president of the group.
There are about 35 members of Gone to Pieces. From time to time, some leave and new members are invited to join. "But we try to keep it at a size that will fit in someone's living room," Bobby Coltin says.
She has been a member of the group for about six years.
"I moved into the neighborhood and went walking in the morning with some of the women. They asked me if I quilted. I said I had one I'd been working on for 17 years. It was the first one I finished after joining the group."
She actually came to quilting through her grandmother. "She had 36 grandchildren and she made a quilt for each one. I have one of those. And I remember when I was growing up, we sewed our own clothes and saved all the scraps to send to grandma. I loved it when they came back as a quilt. I still like to do scrap quilts."
That's a great heritage, Coltin says, "that stretches back to pioneer times. I just love making something beautiful out of something else."
She now has her own grandmother quilt collection. "None of my grandchildren are married yet, but when they get married, they will all get to choose a quilt."
Pam Pierce, who will have 13 quilts in the show — "every time, it seems like I have 13 quilts, that must be my magic number" — also came to love quilting because of her grandmother. "She did this years ago. With her, it was all about appreciating handwork. She raised us to appreciate fine handwork. She'd be proud of what we do here."
Now, of course, many of the quilts are machine-quilted. But there is still that same sense of artistry and creativity that goes into each one. Quilting is very therapeutic, Chytraus says. "I just love the feeling I get from looking at colors and patterns, from feeling the fabric. It makes you feel good inside."
Day agrees. "Quilting is relaxing. It's creative. And it stays done — unlike washing dishes and mopping floors. This group totally satisfies my passion for making things."
The group was started in 1992, when Day was a local LDS ward Relief Society president. "We did some quilts for charity, and I loved being with those women, but it eliminated some of the others in the neighborhood, so we decided to start an independent quilting group. We started with nine members, and we met once a month. That lasted for one month, and we decided to meet twice a month. That lasted for another month, and we started meeting once a week. We've done that ever since."
They call their luncheon "the best lunch in town. Its always potluck and always fabulous. We've even had a couple of cookbooks come out of it," she says.
They occasionally bring in designers and other teachers and often go on quilting retreats with each other.
When Flamm was asked to join, "I thought, how can we meet every week? But my youngest child had just entered kindergarten, so it was a good time in my life." She's hardly missed a week since. "It has really enriched my life," she says.
It took Peterson a while to get involved, too. "My sister tried for two years to convince me to join. I finally came to one meeting, and went right out and bought a new sewing machine."
She couldn't ask for a better group to be with, she says. "We share joys and problems. We've been there for each other, as members have gone through illnesses and the death of spouses. We ooh and aah over each other's work."
A quilt that Coltin is finishing for the show is an exchange quilt, where each block was made by a different member of the group. Called "Friends and Flowers," each block shares a bit of wisdom as well as a floral design. "Perfect's good enough," says one. "Each new day brings another reason to quilt," says another. And, "The angels in our lives are our friends." In many ways, the quilt captures the essence of Gone to Pieces.
"It's all about quilting," Peterson says, "but it's even more about friendship."
Gone to Pieces Quilt Show1 comment on this story
Where: 2520 Walker Lane
When: Sept. 25, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
How much: $5, at the door. Proceeds go to The Road Home