Three days a week you can find a small group of women hard at work around an old-fashioned quilting frame in a back room of the First Methodist Church in Gordon. They are the Fellowship Quilters and members of their group have been meeting like this for almost 25 years.
It all started when a woman named Virginia O’Conner wanted to make a quilt but did not have enough space in her own home to spread it out and work. She approached the Rev. Art Torpey who was pastor at First Methodist then and received permission to set up in the church annex. Other women in the church joined in to help and they soon started other quilting projects. Mr R B Strain, who was the agriculture teacher at Gordon High School in those days, built a quilting frame for them to use. Oma Sperling, the only “charter member” who still participates, said that at times they had as many as 14 regular quilters as well as some non-quilters who came in to fix lunch and keep them company.
Their numbers may have dwindled but most days you can still find five or six quilters keeping the tradition alive. They do handwork on their own projects or on quilts that their friends and neighbors bring in. Some of the pieces are new and some are old “quilt tops” that were never finished. While the top layer of a quilt can be “pieced,” or sewn together on a regular sewing machine or by hand in a living room, it takes a lot of space to fasten it to a backing with batting in between. Most quilt shops have machines now that can complete this step. However people who have old unfinished quilt tops that have been passed down in their family often prefer for them to be hand-quilted in order to preserve the old-fashioned look. Bobbye Hicks said they had once quilted a top that had originally been pieced in 1912. It was typical back then for young girls to make quilts and put them away for when they were married, and Bobbye surmises that’s why that one had been made.
The Fellowship Quilters charge for their work but the money is all donated to charity. Lois Strain said that much of the money goes to the Methodist Children’s Home in Waco, although they also contribute to local causes such as the emergency response team and the new community center being built in Gordon. Once a year they make an extra-special quilt which they donate to the Lord’s Acre and is auctioned off to help support the local church and its missions.
It’s not all about work though. Leona Roberts, who became involved with the group after she retired, said that the women enjoyed the fellowship as much as they enjoyed completing their projects. Over the years, they have “managed to solve most of the world’s problems” while sitting around the quilting frame.
And they will even give lessons! Oma promises that they will teach anyone to quilt who wants to learn, “even if they have never picked up a needle.”