Kat Potter had an idea.
For weeks, she had been thinking of new ways to get public exposure for her group, the Ridge Meadows Quilters’ Guild.
At a meeting earlier this spring, Potter suggested the guild’s roughly 50 current members march in the upcoming Pitt Meadows Day Parade.
“I was met with blank stares,” said Potter, the guild president.
The group was founded in the early 1980s by a group of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows women with the goal of giving back to the community, not promoting themselves.
The Ridge Meadows Quilters’ Guild have been an integral part of the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows communities. They’ve sewn community quilts for Ukrainians following the Russian invasion in 2022. They raised thousands of dollars in a raffle for Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue.
They currently have dozens of quilts to give away before the end of this year.
But they had never marched in a local parade.
After the pandemic halved their membership numbers and threatened the future of the guild, Potter was met with a question: How do we stay relevant as the years tick by?
They had to let the community know the group was still alive and well and attracting new members, Potter realized.
She wanted the guild to be in that parade.
First, she had to thread the needle with her fellow quilters.
Although the popularity of quilting surged in the pandemic, the four-decade old guild didn’t reap the benefits of all the new people who were learning how to sew and knit for the first time.
“Before COVID, I think we had 60 to 80 members at one point in 2018/19, then it went down to about 40,” said Potter.
The group meets on the second Tuesday of every month at St. George’s Anglican Church in Maple Ridge.
As a non-profit group built on social outings and giving back to the community, the fact that they weren’t able to meet in person throughout the pandemic hampered their membership numbers.
The low membership simultaneously impacted their ability to pay for rent and insurance, as their primary source of income is through membership fees.
Potter even stopped quilting herself for months in 2020.
“I quit for part of the first year in 2020,” Potter said. “I was like ‘what’s the point?’”
A history of quilting
Potter had been interested in quilting since she was a little girl.
She loved the tactile feeling of fabric, turning a piece of cloth into something soft, something warm, and something you can wrap around yourself.
“There’s so many different kinds of quilting. It connects people,” she said. “It sounds funny saying it, but when you gift a quilt, you’re gifting a piece of yourself.”
Her grandmother taught her how to sew, and she dabbled in sewing throughout her adolescence, but didn’t make her first quilt until she was 22.
“I was very proud of it,” Potter said. “It was two pieces of flannel sewn together, with some batting in it, and tied with yarn, I just thought it was the best thing.”
She joined the Ridge Meadows Quilters’ Guild in 1996. Immediately, she loved the social aspect of the group and how everyone shared a desire to give back to the community.
“I retired early, and the goal has always been when I retire . . . I wanted to get more involved in the guild,” Potter said.
As the group started to meet on Zoom throughout the pandemic, Potter returned and eventually became president.
“We’d go on Zoom for a couple hours on a Saturday and just socialize,” she said. “That kept the group going through the dark days of COVID.”
With the pandemic fading, the collective also started to host in-person meetups and create quilts for the community again.
“We’ve already given 13 or 14 quilts to Community Services,” Potter said. “We’ve also donated 13 quilts to Elders of the Katzie [First Nation] who are residential school survivors.”
Currently, the guild has over 40 quilts in storage that they will be donating to various other local organizations in the coming months.
Although their membership is back up into the mid-fifties, Potter said, they are still looking for more members to join their group.
When Potter suggested the collective take part in the Pitt Meadows Day Parade, there was silence. And then a senior member of the guild, Lois, put her hand up.
“Kat?” she said. “I’ll go to the parade, if I can ride in a convertible.”
Knowing that another member of the guild was also a member of a classic car club, Potter agreed to her wish and the remaining group members followed.
One guild member, who graduated high school in the 1960s, even gave Lois her old corsage, completing an outfit that included a tiara and white gloves.
“Once [Lois] put it out there, she confided in me: ‘we’re followers Kat, it just takes one of us to put their hands up and say they’ll do it, and then the rest will follow.’”
Following the parade, which saw the guild drape their own quilts over five classic cars, Potter said they have received a swath of new interest from locals in the community.
More than 20 people stopped by their exhibit, including several men who collected information for their wives to join the non-profit club.
As the festivities from the celebration winded down, Potter found a sense of optimism for the future of the guild.
She said the club — through new initiatives like the parade — will be able to adapt and keep the local guild in business for decades to come.
Although they may experiment with other innovative outreach methods in the future, Potter said, the heart of the club will always be to give back to the community.
And share a love of quilting.
“We’re putting ourselves out there in new and creative ways,” Potter said. “And just letting people know that we’re a place for socializing and connecting with others.”