Quilt guild makes a difference crafting heirlooms

Guild President Danielle Greene pictured with a group of Girl Scouts showing their sewing project. Photo courtesy of Danielle Greene.

By Laura Cambiago Spangler
USAG Stuttgart Community Relations Office

The unusual and beautiful craft of quilting has been a vital part of the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart community for more than 25 years. The work of the Black Forest Quilt Guild Stuttgart may have gone unnoticed to many, but it only takes a conversation with Guild President Danielle Greene to set the record straight.

Greene is a military spouse, the mother of two girls, and an experienced, enthusiastic needle-worker. In less than one year, she has found a new “extended family” of 150 like-minded pals, and a source of fun and intercultural engagements within the USAG Stuttgart. It is also a way to give back to the military and host-nation communities, while carrying on a long-standing tradition.

The Black Forest Quilt Guild’s 20th anniversary quilt crafted by hand by the group in 2016. Photo by Danielle Greene.

“A quarter century ago, the guild was started by American ladies, who invited local counterparts to join them at Kelley and Patch Barracks. After 9/11, German members could not come on base anymore, so the “old firehouse,” now the Panzer Community Club, became their new meeting place,” Greene said.

Socializing in a cross-cultural environment is a benefit that comes with guild membership. “U.S. guild members rotate constantly, so our core group of Germans married to military retirees provides stability,” she added.

The latter tend to have a strong Swabian background and a somewhat different approach to fabric types and patterns. Also, Germans members cannot make purchases at the Army Arts and Crafts Center, and fabric is much costlier on the economy. Therefore “they don’t waste anything and are very creative at making great things with scraps.” The German character of the guild is underscored in its name, too, as the Black Forest is iconic for Germany in the U.S.

“We still have an original local member, Anneliese Preiss. She is in her 90s now, lives in the area, and still keeps in touch,” said Greene.

The guild meets every third Friday of the month to talk about projects, share skills and sew demos. The actual work, though, is done at their weekend gatherings, which also take place once a month.

“When you are a quilter or sewer, there is nothing better than being in a group: it gives you appreciation,” said Greene. “We are grateful to the Garrison that offers us a space to work together.”

And guild members return the favor. Apart from donating beautiful handcrafts to children’s’ hospitals and orphanages in the host nation region, members also contribute community services within USAG Stuttgart. Greene, for instance, offers free sewing classes at the HUB, Youth Center on Patch Barracks, Mondays from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. Here, teens can learn basic machine-sewing skills and complete small project in one session, even if they are total beginners. Everyone is welcome to attend – boys, too. Presently, teens are encouraged to make Halloween tote bags to give to younger children, friends and neighbors, or thank you gifts. As Greene puts it, it’s very important, “to teach how you can give back to the community.”

This lesson is handed down along with needle skills. In fact, many quilters’ children become members, as well. “Quilting can touch the lives of people. I feel like I am making a difference through my handiwork skills, I can incorporate what I do in my community – and we donate hundreds of dollars to local American and German charities, as well as thousands of hours of work,” Greene said.

It goes without saying that the Black Forest Quilt Guild members are happy to exhibit their work to the general public to reach potential future quilters. Their next show is planned for 2017, however, the congress Centers of Böblingen-Sindelfingen invited them to participate in the arts and crafts exhibit, KunstGenuss, Nov. 5-6. The group’s masterpieces will be on display, and smaller objects will be offered for sale at the Kongreshalle in Böblingen. Military community members planning to visit the exhibit will be granted free admission by showing their military ID card.