Shadrach Michaels photo

Ely Times

Thirty-one years ago a local group took shape in White Pine County, and they have been stitching together community service and commaradare ever since.  The Sagebrush Quilters Guild, is bursting at the seams with talent and they put that talent on display this past weekend hosting their annual Quilt Show as part of the events of Arts in the Park.  If you missed it, make sure you put in on your to do list next year and be sure to make plans to see a selection of their work on Display at the White Pine County Library this October.

While many might think quilts are just quilts, they’d be very, very wrong.  These guild members make art.  Stunning art, to be exact.  Since 1988, the Sagebrush Quilters have been creating breathtaking pieces that are labors of both love and extraordinary skill.  Margaret Thiel, this year’s quilt show coordinator and the guild’s treasurer, detailed the accomplishments that were on display in the WhitePine Middle School gymnasium over the weekend, “32 quilters created 125 quilts for this year’s show. Every year our guild selects a project.  This year we are making little quilts for every baby born at William Bee Ririe Hospital, that accompanies a book to emphasise the importance of reading to children, since a lot of us are educators.”  From large quilts to small quilts to quilted rugs every handmade masterpiece was impressive in their construction.

Thiel went on to detail community contributions in previous years, all of which make this guild so important to the local community, “We have donated quilts to Head Start and we’ve worked to provide quilts to Sanderling Dialysis Center for patients there as well. We choose a cause at the beginning of the year, every year, and work at it together every Thursday evening at the Episcopal church.  We meet every second Saturday, for what’s lovingly referred to as “stichin’ and bitchin’,’and we sew and help each other for the whole day.”  Senses of humor are part of the guild’s dynamic and Thiel continued on a more serious note, “We are happy to welcome everyone into the fold, old and young, beginner to advanced.  You come in with a desire to learn and we’ll be happy to teach and learn together.”  With the intent of having fun while making a difference in the community the Guild is always eager to have new members. 

Patty Ellifritz and her happy-to-help husband, Mike, of  Mad Hatters, in Winnemucca, were this year’s vendor and were on hand at the quilt show to sell supplies and provide support.  “It’s not just for women.  Men are more than welcome to join in the fun,” Ellifritz said.

Donna Gubler a long time member of the guild was also on hand during the show to provide insights and information for all of the quilts on display.  “For anyone wanting to learn, joining the guild is a great place to start, since everyone began somewhere.  You can really see each artisan’s personality  in their quilting.  Scrap quilting, pannel, block, each quilt takes a heck of a lot of time and patience.”  Walking the aisles of the pop-up gallery one witnesses stitched history passed down from generation to generation.  Gubler continued, “On top of the community projects, we also challenge ourselves for the year. This year we did an exchange and made quilts for each other.  What was amazing was everyone who made a quilt for the exchange used a different pattern, but you can still tell who made which one just by their own unique style.” It is easy to get lost in rows and rows of emmaculate beauty hanging before you. 

Gubler, in coordination with Paula Nicholes, a key member of the guild before her passing, got the Quilt show into the WPMS several years ago, and the event has been growing ever since. With the White Pine School District as a loyal sponsor, this was one of the biggest years for the guild’s exhibition.  

Next year, they plan on making the event even bigger with a new group challenge and community minded focus to benefit the surrounding area.  If you would like to join, annual dues are $75 a year, and you can enter at any skill level.  Thiel wants folks to know, “Men make great quilters, they’ve got that precision-based engineering mind.But, it’s also a great way for everyone to meet people and get involved in the community in a creative way.”  Handmade local art that brings people together is exactly what Ely and White Pine County are celebrating every year with Arts in the Park.  This is one group putting those elements into practice with warm and vibrant creations. More than quilts, the Sagebrush Quilters are stitching together Ely’s history and weaving a legacy of which all of White Pine County should support.