Skip to content

A show three decades in the making

The Chilliwack Quilter's Guild celebrates its 30th anniversary at the Alliance Church on Oct. 23 and 24.
The Chilliwack Quilter's Guild celebrates its 30th anniversary Oct. 23 and 24 at the Alliance Church. This year's show will honour Jeanne Harmer (right) and Penny Siddons

Thirty years of stitches lead to incredible stories.

It all started on a car ride home from a Fraser Valley Quilter's Guild meeting in 1985.

Jeanne Harmer carpooled with two of her students, Helena Braun and Rita Hertogg. "We were saying, 'too bad we don't have a guild in Chilliwack'," Jeanne began. She had always thought of starting one, but worried it would be too much to take on in combination with her work as a quilt teacher.

They then asked each other, "why don't we do it together?" And that they did.

It was at their first meeting less than a month later that Jeanne and Penny Siddons met for the first time. Throughout the guild's now thirty year history, they are the only two who have been consistent guild members from the very first day.

As Jeanne and Penny spent the morning in the Sardis Library finishing each other's sentences and recalling fond memories from their 30 years in the guild, many others were busily sewing and chatting around them in the drop-in sewing class.

Janet Skulsky, co-chair of the Chillwack Quilters Guild show, was also present to make sure these two special women weren't too humble.

The first meeting in 1985 was held at the Chilliwack Art Centre. Through word of mouth and just a small ad in the paper, Jeanne was amazed by the turnout, of which Penny guessed there were 60 in attendance.

It didn't take long for the guild to get down to business, forming a committee and constitution. Put simply, the guild goals are to bring quilters together, to continually teach and learn through monthly workshops, and to promote enjoyment, support, and community appreciation for the craft.

It's the learning that Jeanne still values most. "I love exchanging ideas with people. There's so much to learn and share and do."

Penny interjects that, for her, it's the friendship.

"Yes, the friendship, that's high on my list too." Jeanne agreed. And with a gentle nudge and a burst of laughter, the friendship between these two is clearly like none other.

Like any social group, newcomers to Chilliwack can quickly find belonging with like-minded people by joining the guild, as Janet had done upon arrival from England.

And you're level of quilting experience doesn't matter.

"We love the beginner, we really welcome them." Jeanne stressed.

In fact, while Jeanne had been an avid quilter since 1972, Penny had never quilted before that first guild meeting. It was a mutual friend whom Penny bowled with that extended the invitation.

The weekend show will feature 205 guild member quilts on display, ranging from king-size bed quilts to small table runners. Each demonstrate the diligent work and creativity of its artist. All member quilts were accepted without judgement.

"If you become competitive, you take the joy out of it," Jeanne put plainly.

As they duo told stories of the incredible effort and skill of their fellow artisans, they also discussed their own most memorable projects.

For Penny, it was a king-size white on white, with an entirely hand-quilted design, which will be on display at this years show.

Jeanne's greatest challenge was finding just the right fabric to complete a project that was five years in the making.

Penny laughed with her old friend, "you would think that we would have more things to do with our time!"

But it's the time spent on these projects that is the most impressive of all, which non-quilters rarely realize.

Janet estimated that the fabric and supplies for the queen-size raffle quilt which hung behind them cost roughly $500, not including the countless hours that members volunteered to put it together.

The guild also generously donates at least 100 'We Care' quilts per year into various community organizations, including the Chilliwack hospice and Ann Davis transition societies.

Jeanne and Penny have made their fair share of raffle and We Care quilts together, often without the speed of a machine, but they had a great time doing it.

"We really got to know each other too! Sitting around the table quilting together you hear many a story…" Jeanne laughed.

Anyone with an interest in quilting is invited to visit the show to hear a story or two, view the incredible quilts, and learn more about the guild.

There will also be demonstrations, vendors, live music, prize draws and tea room refreshments.

The 30th anniversary Chilliwack Quilters Guild Show is Friday, Oct. 23 from 5 to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Alliance Church (8700 Young Road).  Admission is $5. Men are admitted for free.

Read more at:

2013 Quilt Show

2015 Art Room Quilt Show