In the early 1980s, Charlene McNally and Hope Wingert decided to gather friends interested in quilting, and the first meeting was held in Charlene’s living room in Benicia. “Hope and I sent out invitations to some quilting friends to start a group, and boom! Who knew it would still be alive and kicking after all these years,” Charlene recently stated. They realized the interest in the craft was growing, and soon it expanded to an organization—the Carquinez Strait Stitchers, or CSS.
From the original thirteen attendees, the group has grown to a guild of over 90 members, and is among 50 or so guilds in the Bay Area. Quilting guilds promote the long history of the American quilt. However, with sophisticated technology in sewing and quilting machines in the 70s and 80s, designated quilt shops stocked with gorgeous fabrics, tools and classes have made a huge difference in the craft. Quilts have evolved over the centuries from an item that was strictly utilitarian, to a modern day artistic medium. The main purpose of the guild is to perpetuate the art of quilting through education and the exchange of ideas.
Community outreach is an important component of the organization, which is happy to make an important difference in the community. For over 36 years, members of CSS have been reaching out to lighten the burden of those in need, by providing comforting quilts and other items to hundreds of Solano County men, women and children. CSS is currently making quilts that are donated to Books ‘n Blankies, a program promoting literacy for children under the age of 5. Over the years, the group has donated quilts to Solano County veterans, Napa-Solano Holiday Connection, the Benicia Police Department, the Family Resource Center and Johanna’s House. In 2017, quilts were given to teens and pre-teens spending the year-end holidays at a Vallejo psychiatric facility, and recently, to victims of wildfires.
Each year CSS makes holiday gifts such as tote bags, place mats and other specialty items for the Benicia Community Action Council to distribute to participants of Meals-On Wheels and Holiday Connection for low-income seniors. Other regular projects include making colorful pillowcases provided to Camp Royal, a summer camp program for foster children, and flannel baby blankets for the Intensive Care Nursery at Kaiser, Vallejo. CSS has also provided Friends of Animals with much needed beds for our canine and feline friends.
At The Foot Of First Street, Quilts by Judy Arrants
One of the events the organization is most proud of is its biennial quilt show. This year’s featured artist is Judy Arrants. “I began sewing as a young teenager, and started quilting 20 years ago. I enjoy trying new techniques and style. My husband and I retired early with a goal to travel. We have been to all 7 continents and over 60 countries. If I can find a quilt shop or show, I am there, even if it means a long walk or a Tuktuk ride. Travel and quilting are my adventures in life,” Judy said.
Spring on the Straits will also feature a raffle for an Opportunity Quilt, Traditionally Modern, which was pieced and quilted by members. The winning ticket will be drawn at the end of the show. Tickets can be purchased at the door or from members at $1 each or 6 tickets for $5. There will be quilts and other art made and displayed by members. The event also includes vendors selling fabric and supplies, food booths, sewing machines and the organizations own Country Store packed with member items for sale.
Spring on the Straits Quilt Show
May 18, 10am-5pm and May 19, 10am-4pm
1189 Washington Street, Benicia
CSS is a non-profit organization open to anyone interested in quilts and related fabric arts. Members represent a range of ages and interests. People of all skill levels are invited to join; guests are always welcome. Meetings are at 7pm first Thursdays at the Benicia Senior Center, 187 East L Street. Come visit us or check out the guild’s website cssquilter.org.