Quilters find friendship, inspiration in Black Forest Guild

Some international relationships are forged through diplomatic meetings.
Others are sewn together with a needle and thread.

In the Stuttgart community, men and women from Germany, the United States, England, Scotland, France and other countries meet together with a common goal: to “quilt ’til you wilt.”

They are part of the Black Forest Quilt Guild, a 130-member international group that meets not only to share patterns and techniques, but for cultural exchange and a chance to make new friends.

The guild held its bi-annual local retreat Jan. 30-31 at Panzer Hall in Böblingen and gave members time to catch up on projects, and with each other.

“It’s therapy and it’s fun,” said Rachel Childress, military spouse.

Members also worked on 15 to 20 Soldier-themed quilts — some made with pieces of an old camouflage uniform — for the Wounded Warrior Transition Unit. The quilts will be presented to the Red Cross Feb. 26, which will give the quilts to Soldiers.
“Every other year, we try to do charitable projects,” said Diane Murtha, American president for the guild.

Guild members don’t just work on their own projects; they help each other create group-effort quilts. One guild member may embroider blocks of fabric, then hand them over to other members for bordering and quilting.

During the retreat, Billa Mack, a German guild member, and Helen Liebe, an international member from Scotland, pinned a colorful, zigzag-patterned quilt together.

“This quilt is going to my son-in-law in Iraq,” Liebe said. “Billa’s helping me right now, and I’ll help her baste hers.”

The extra help — and companionship — is welcomed by quilters, who can spend hundreds of hours working on a single quilt.

That’s not to say they don’t enjoy it, however.

“It’s the satisfaction of making something beautiful,” said Carol Waters, a civilian spouse. “It’s something that will last forever and be passed on through generations.”

The Black Forest Quilt Guild began in 1992 when an Air Force spouse and a German national met at a local quilt show, Murtha said. Since then, it has grown so large that it has a waiting list, she added. This is mainly because 51 percent of its members must have  Status of Forces Agreement status.

The guild isn’t just for veterans of the trade either, said newbie quilter and American guild member Barbara Schweitzer, now on her second quilt.

“The ladies have been a tremendous help,” she said. “That’s what’s motivating me to continue.”