Our roots go back to August 1979 during Pioneer Days at Bonanzaville in West Fargo. A woman named Helen Anton had a quilt display, and collected names of those interested in forming a group. In November Helen Anton, Charlotte (Char) Smith and Kim Baird met at Kim’s house to discuss plans. They decided to begin holding regular meetings after the holidays in January of 1980, and scheduled the first meeting on the third Saturday in January at the Block 6 DeLendricies building in downtown Fargo.
The first meeting passed everyone’s expectations. More than fifty women attended from towns throughout the Red River Valley; some from as far away as Crookston, Grand Forks, and Wahpeton. Monthly meetings continued to be held on the third Saturday of each month.
“We were all starved for conversation with other quilters–there weren’t so many of us in those days, only a few books and one or two magazines on the subject. Show and Tell featured plenty of antique quilts. In fact, our early quilt shows had a category for antique quilts” according to Baird.
Very soon with as many as 100 women attending meetings, the need for formal organization was recognized and the guild became a nonprofit corporation. The organization held its first annual meeting, where officers were elected and Quilters’ Guild of North Dakota was chosen as the name of the organization. Charlotte (Char) Smith became the first president, and Helen Anton began putting out a monthly newsletter. Helen also did the paperwork required to register as a nonprofit corporation in North Dakota.
President Char Smith wrote these words in the June 1980 newsletter: “The Quilters’ Guild of North Dakota! This is a dream come true . . .and you, dear members, made it happen. Quilters are very special people. We can work alone — but what a joy to at last share our thoughts and ideas with others.”
According to Marcia Retzer who researched guild history for our 30 year anniversary “It struck me that this is what the Guild is all about. In a nutshell, it is about fellowship. It is about the chance to come together, to learn from one another, to share with one another.”
Show And Tell
At the guild’s second meeting in February 1980. Helen Anton reported in the newsletter the first Show and Tell was presented “with an amazing number of beautiful quilts (both old and new), pillows, patterns, and various other works. This was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone present. It was unanimously decided to repeat this at all of our meetings”.
Show and Tell is still one of our favorite parts of the monthly get togethers.
Our monthly newsletter has been a vehicle for advertising and sponsoring classes and workshops, notifying members of shows and opportunities in other towns and states, sharing information about tools and techniques, books and patterns. In the early newsletters, one quickly detects a thirst for knowledge and for expanding skills and learning new ones, and for benefiting from others’ expertise and experiences.
Note this March 1980 newsletter blurb: “When anyone travels to quilt shows, museums, unusual shops, or visits quilters in other parts of the country, could you take time to write it up for us? We’d all enjoy sharing your experiences”.
Marcia Retzer wrote in the guild history “Yes, we can learn so much from each other. I think this idea struck such a chord with me because I recently attended a quilting seminar where at the lunch break several people at my table asked those of us who were Guild members what was the advantage for joining. Without hesitation I replied that the biggest benefit I could think of was the number of people I have had the chance to meet and to learn from. Thirty years later, Char Smith’s words still ring true. . . . . quilters ARE very special people and it is a pure joy and a privilege to share with and learn from one another.”
In the early years, fundraising was mainly a white elephant sale held at each meeting. Over time, the guild has raised money for projects through continuing white elephants sales which were renamed Bodacious Bazaar, silent auctions, and an annual quilt raffle. Because of restrictions enforced by Covid 19, the quilt raffle was discontinued and replaced by a very popular new basket raffle.
Funds from our fundraising activities have allowed us to sponsor the traveling exhibit of Quilt National for many years, bringing the finest art quilts to the community.
We have held quilt shows from the very beginning of our history. The first Indian Summer Quilt Show was held in the fall of our first year, at the request of West Acres shopping center. It took all of us to patrol the show wearing white gloves, reminding people not to touch the quilts. As can be imagined, the reality of displaying quilts in an environment of full of people carrying drinks, snacks, and children was incredibly difficult although rewarding.
In time, our quilt show evolved into the Indian Summer Quilt Show and Conference held yearly during the last weekend of September at the Holiday Inn Conference Center. In addition to the public quilt show, we held a 3 day conference of lectures, classes and workshops which drew hundreds of quilters from the region including Canada.
Unfortunately the quilt show and conference conflicted with homecomings at area schools and alumni events of the four colleges in the community, making it difficult to find a facility large enough to host our event. After many years, we decided to move our event to spring and rebranded it the Metro Quilt Expo, and to suspend the conference portion of the event. After a 3 year hiatus caused by Covid 19 restrictions, the quilt show is once again in operation.
We have had a nomadic existence through our history making several changes in our venue. The guild started meeting on the 4th floor of Block 6/DeLendrecies Building for some time until we outgrew the space. Eventually, meetings moved to the lower level Community Room at West Acres. Later, QGND met in the chapel at Bethany Homes until that room underwent renovation, then at Lutheran Church of the Cross in West Fargo before moving to our current home at the NDSCS Skills and Technology Training Center near the NDSU campus across from the Fargodome.
Helen Anton grew up in Hawley, MN. She was a horsewoman for many years, but gave up riding due to arthritis. Helen sewed clothes and embroidered and made a few quilts, but it wasn’t until she took quilting lessons from Cheryl Olson that she really became a quilter. She was also interested in the history of quilts, and amassed a sizable library on the subject.
Char Smith grew up in Minneapolis, studied English Literature and broadcasting, and worked in radio stations.
In 1975 she opened Fargo’s first store for quilters, The Patchworks. Although the business remained open only 2-1/2 years, Char was the true pioneer of quilting in Fargo, teaching it through the school district’s adult education program.
Kim Baird began quilting when she moved to Fargo in June of 1978. By 1979, she was teaching others to quilt, and that fall she joined Nancy Hass and Linda Danielson to open Country Arts Collective, in Block 6. The shop had primitive pine furniture, rugs, accessories, weavings by Linda, and a few bolts of fabric. Classes were offered. Over the years, the business was sold, moved to 604 Main, and eventually became Quilters Quarters, owned by Kim and Barb Bunnell, then solely by Barb. Many of our current members became skilled quilters through the hundreds of classes taught at Quilters Quarters and mentored by Kim and Barb.
Anderson, Mrs. Art
Baab, Rose Marie
Baird, Kim R. L.
Bogart, Vicky Jo
Erickstad, Mrs. Curtis
Friley, Mary Lou
Honek, Lou Ann
Knecht F. Lorraine
Knoll, Mrs Wilbur
Nagle, Mary Ann
Nelson, Mrs. Harry
Nichols, Mary Ann
Stewart, Mary Jane
Straley (Pavek), Monica
Uhlman, Betty Lou
Van Walter, Del
Waxler, Mary Ann
Wong, Zella Lee
Zarrett, Mary Ann
Wong, Zella Lee
Zarrett, Mary Ann
*known to be deceased