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North Carolina group invests in Black quilt history

The African American Quilt Guild of Gaston County takes pride in maintaining Black history in quilting and supporting the community with their work.

Barbara Hart, 80, started the quilt guild in April 2005 as a Christian organization with the intent to foster the love of quilting within the local African American community.

“I wanted to carry on the legacy of what our ancestors did,” said Hart.

She began sewing when she was about 7 or 8 years old. She later learned how to quilt from her grandmother and started seriously quilting in her 40s.

The initial meeting in 2005 started with five ladies and over the last 17 years the group has grown to 22 members of various talents through word-of-mouth and Facebook.

Members are mainly from North Carolina with some traveling over 400 miles round-trip from Nashville, North Carolina, to meet for the group’s monthly meetings.

The group has not met within the last two years due to COVID, but still take safety precautions if pursuing a project together.

Hart says that the group values keeping a small size to maintain the close-knit fellowship and comradery among each other.

The guild has supported the local community with its work through donations to the Salvation Army in downtown Gastonia, providing more than $5,000 in scholarships to students.

“We really love having such a close relationship with each other,” said Hart.

The group’s most recent project included creating a Black history quilt for the African American museum at Loray Mill that highlights the legacy of Black entrepreneurs in Gaston County.

Many quilt members have more than 10 years of quilting experience and are self-taught.

“It’s amazing the work that these phenomenal women do,” said Dot Guthrie, the African American museum founder.

Quilt Guild Member Melissa Reeves, 74, says that the key to making a nice quilt Is jumping on any creative idea that you have.

“It takes a lot of patience,” said Reeves. “It’s like woodworking but we are cutting up the fabric and sewing it back together.”

Another member, Antonia Slaybaugh, 73, started quilting three years ago and joined the guild around the same time she started quilting.

“I enjoy putting different colors together,” said Slaybaugh. “I take a stack of fabric and pick out what I think will go nice together.”

Slaybaugh says the organization gets lots of fabric donations and teaches one another how to quilt different blocks.

“There’s so many patterns out there,” said Slaybaugh. “You can take a pattern, change it out and make something completely different in one quilt.”

Hart hopes to encourage younger generations to learn the art of quilting.

“We love having such a close relationship with one another in this group,” she said.

The guild hopes to display their work at an upcoming festival hosted by the African American Museum.

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