South West Quilters’ Newsletter is 30 years old – how did it begin?
By Jane Syers

The Bigger Picture

A revival of interest in patchwork, applique and quilting during the 1970s led to the formation of a national organisation, the Quilters’ Guild, in 1979. A network of Guild Regional Co-ordinators and Representatives was developed across the country. In those days very few books, cotton fabrics or specialist gadgets were available – most people thought of patchwork as hexagons stitched together over papers, and were not aware of applique and quilting. However the South West was a particularly active area with teachers, quiltmakers and businesses all contributing. Angela Axbey, Nancy Gidley, Jenny Hutchison, Daphne Turner and Helen Tynan were the principal enthusiasts who started to organise Quilters’ Guild events in Exeter – the first was a lecture on 2 May 1983 at Spacex Gallery by Michael James, a visiting American quiltmaker, teacher and author.

People who attended were keen to do more together so a Quilters’ Guild ‘Southwest Area Day’ was held, also at Spacex Gallery, on 5 November 1983. At this event there was the opportunity to sign up for a quarterly newssheet (£1 a year) ‘Quilting Events in the Southwest’ which listed quilting groups, classes, workshops, suppliers and exhibitions in Devon and Cornwall. Newsheet No. 1 was printed in January 1984 – it all fitted on two sides of A4 paper and there were only five groups across the two counties!

Branching Out

March 1984 saw the touring Quilters’ Guild National Exhibition at Spacex Gallery for two weeks. The local Guild Representatives organised Saturday workshops during the exhibition and once a month thereafter, at Exeter Community Centre. In order to use the Centre, we had to become an affiliated group. The Guild’s Executive Committee felt that the organisation was not ready to take responsibility for regional activities, so Southwest Quilters was born.
Initially it was seen as “an umbrella for all members of quilting groups in the Southwest”. There was no membership fee – just the £1 per year for the Newsheet. Quilters’ Guild members got concessionary rates at workshops and other events. However costs increased and at the first AGM in April 1985 the decision was made to introduce an annual subscription (£2.50) and to encourage people who attended events to subscribe individually.

Rapid Growth

Membership increased quickly and at the next AGM (April 1986) the founding members decided that a more structured organisation and communication network was needed. Joyce Cooke became the first Chairman of South West Quilters with Liz Hawkins as Secretary and Cicely Coates as Treasurer.

First phase :

The September 1986 Newsletter was the first to have a cover sheet with our now familiar logo and South West Quilters name. It had 12 pages and a format we would all recognise with a Chairman’s letter, reports from exhibitions and workshops, listings of courses, workshops, suppliers and groups, and ‘how-to’ articles. In May 1988 Pamela McDowell became the first Editor of the Newsletter – she energetically continued its development increasing the size to 24 pages.

So, the thriving regional organisation through which we learn and share so much grew from the enthusiasm and commitment of a handful of Quilters’ Guild members in the early 1980s and the Newsletter we love came from a very basic news-sheet thirty years ago. Our Constitution acknowledges our origins in its final clause, “In the event of dissolution of South West Quilters, funds and assets to be transferred to The Quilters’ Guild” and indeed many of us are members of both organisations.

Secondary phase :

By Jeanette Cox

In 1992 the Chairman at the time, Dorrie Shorthose, asked for volunteers to “help” with the newsletter. Joan Smith and I volunteered to help with the typing as we had access to computers which was rare in those far off days.

We then discovered that Dorrie’s idea of ‘helping’ was for us to become the editors and we took over from the previous editor for the Autumn 1992 issue, typing up the handwritten articles received from members.

We roped in our friend Pip Hawkins and got together in her sitting room to put the newsletter together, involving some good-natured arguments’ or ‘friendly discussions’ helped along with coffee (and cake). The theme was decided upon and pictures found to illustrate the theme, occasionally calling upon Pip to draw this or that if by chance there was not just what is wanted. The pictures were cut and pasted (the old fashioned way with scissors and glue) into the newsletter pages.

We then left the draft with Pip to proof read and (following any corrections necessary) the resulting newsletter was sent to Dorrie who arranged for the newsletter to be photocopied at St. Peters School being returned collated, folded and stapled. The boxes of newsletters were then collected and with the aid of a team of volunteers from Exeter inserted in envelopes, sealed, labelled, stamped and delivered to the central sorting office for distribution to members.

Third phase : The last 10 years

In 2003 it was decided to get the newsletter professionally printed by Carthew Printers of Newton Abbot who also arranged for the collation and distribution of the finished newsletter. In Autumn 2004 we had the first cover with coloured photographs and the newsletter became a magazine.

Due to the increased use of emails not so many hand written articles are received these days and photographs are received from members to accompany articles. I can now compose the magazine and send it over the internet via Dropbox to Delyse Upton who proof reads the draft and returns it by the same method direct to my computer where I copy it to a pen (flash) drive and deliver it to the printers.

Despite the advances in the process there is still the dilemma of not receiving enough articles by the deadline date and having to ask for more, or having too much and having to re-arrange everything, which is the reason why the deadline may seem a long time in advance of the date you receive your magazine.


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