Barbara Hart speaks at a meeting of the African American Pigtails Guild on Saturday afternoon, April 23, 2022 at Loray Mill on South Firestone Street in Gastonia, North Carolina (Mike Hensdill/The Gaston Gazette via AP)

Barbara Hart speaks at a meeting of the African American Pigtails Guild on Saturday afternoon, April 23, 2022 at Loray Mill on South Firestone Street in Gastonia, North Carolina (Mike Hensdill/The Gaston Gazette via AP)

PA

The African American Quilt Guild of Gaston County is proud to keep black history in quilting and support the community in its work.

Barbara Hart, 80, started the Quilting Guild in April 2005 as a Christian organization with the goal of fostering a love of quilting within the local African-American community.

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

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

The initial reunion in 2005 started with five ladies and over the past 17 years the group has grown to 22 members of varying talents through word of mouth and Facebook.

Members come primarily from North Carolina, with some traveling more than 400 miles round trip from Nashville, North Carolina to meet at monthly group meetings.

The band hasn’t met for the past two years due to COVID, but always take safety precautions if pursuing a project together.

Hart says the group enjoys keeping the size small to maintain the close camaraderie and camaraderie between them.

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

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

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

Many quilting members have over 10 years of quilting experience and are self-taught.

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

Quilt Guild member Melissa Reeves, 74, says the key to making a great quilt is to jump on any creative idea you have.

“It takes a lot of patience,” Reeves said. “It’s like woodworking, but we cut the fabric and sew 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 like to put different colors together,” Slaybaugh said. “I take a stack of fabrics and choose what I think will go well together.”

Slaybaugh says the organization gets a lot of fabric donations and teaches itself how to sew different blocks.

“There are so many role models out there,” Slaybaugh said. “You can take a pattern, change it, and create something completely different in a quilt.”

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

“We love having such a close relationship with each other in this band,” she said.

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