By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Saturday, November 17, 2018 is going to be a big day in Athens-Limestone County. We are turning 200, we are throwing a city-wide party, and our three quilt guilds have come together to celebrate the glorious artisan craft of quilt making! Quilting in Alabama is legendary, has been the subject of award-winning documentaries and books, and is one of the most effective ways there is to preserve history while creating stunning pieces of domestic practical art. I spoke with Teddy Wolcott, who is with the Athens Dixie Stitchers, and learned of her own long and loving history with quilting. “I started with making doll clothes,” she said. That moved on to dress making and then quilting. “There is something about being able to touch and smooth fabric,” she said. Teddy went on to tell me how, especially in less affluent times, quilters collected little bits of fabric to make what was known as “family treasure quilts.” This essentially showed the history of the now worn out clothes of the family while repurposing them into something that looked pretty and gave comfort. There is a saying amongst long-time quilters, which is, “He who dies with the most fabric wins.”
The three Athens guilds that have come together for the bicentennial celebration are the Athens Dixie Stitchers, the Athens Friendship Quilters, and the North Alabama Modern Quilt Guild. A little bit of history regarding each guild follows below:
• Athens Friendship Quilters meets during the day, is headed up by Bettinna Carter, and uses traditional quilting patterns such as a wedding ring, log cabin, or just plain scrappy.
• Athens Dixie Stitchers also uses traditional patterns, and they meet at night. Teddy Wolcott and Sharon Griffis serve as the co-presidents. The Dixie Stitchers are members of the Chamber of Commerce
• North Alabama Modern Quilt Guild is a quilt guild that uses modern patterns, and their president is Debbie Yff, (pronounced “ ?fe” as in “life”)
All three of the guilds meet once a month, and are busy on their own in between times working on a number of projects. They make pillows for Camp Hope, a local summer camp that helps children who have suffered bereavement. They also make quilts for babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and for babies whose parents don’t have enough money for a blanket. You can learn more about each on their Facebook pages. You can also learn more by going to their websites at
The guilds kick off the weekend Friday night the 16th by displaying raffle quilts at the Merry Market in the Center for Lifelong Learning. They will be on display from 4-8 a.m., and you can buy raffle tickets for the chance to own one of these lovingly made quilts. Fifteen percent of the proceeds from the raffle go to the building project at the Alabama Veterans Museum. On Saturday, the guilds are going to be displaying their table runners and wall art inside the Rogers Center and the quilts will be draped over the pews inside the sanctuary. Some of the quilts will be for sale, and there will be “white-gloved docents” on duty to show you the quilts without you having to touch them. In the Rogers Center Fellowship Hall, there will be a bake sale and something called a “quilt bed turning.” A “bed turning” is a special unfolding of a quilt that is part of a stack with the history of the quilt explained. For example, in Teddy’s family, quilting was done by everyone, including both of her grandmothers. One grandmother was very wealthy, and the fabric that was collected and used to make quilts was of the finest quality, and reflected their family’s story. Teddy’s other grandmother was quite poor, and the fabric for her quilts often came in very small pieces, which were then made into intricate patterns that became the basis for the “treasured family quilts.”
The quilters have a desire beyond this grand quilt celebration, and that is to re-acquaint all of us with what has become nearly a lost art. There is something about the quiet contentment of needlework and quilting, the anticipation of the finished project, and the camaraderie that comes with creating something together that is just unmatched. Some of the plans of the guilds for strengthening the community include teaching local Girl Scout troops how to quilt, and participating in the Mother’s Day Tea to be held at Isom’s Orchard.
Admission for the event is FREE and all areas are open Friday 4-7:30 p.m. and Sat. 10 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. So come out and enjoy some history, food, a birthday party that will never happen again in our lifetime, and discover the beauty of quilting. You’ll be so glad you did.
For More Information About Us: Athens Dixie Stitchers – 256-729-1049 or our website: AthensDixieStitchers.Com
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner