Quilters Day Out—How It All Began
In the spring of 1989, then KHQS President Phyllis Miller was working in her garden, picking green peas and her mind was working as furiously as her hands. There had to be a way, she mused, that would really “involve” the 200 or so members of the organization and extend the membership state-wide. She wanted to take KHQS to the members. “What can happen”, she thought, “to make KHQS active across the state”? Random thoughts began to take seed and Phyllis went to work.
Up to this time, virtually all KHQS activities were centered in Lexington (where the organization was originally formed) and Louisville. Members in the rest of the state had to travel to participate in classes, shows, retreats, etc. Thus, the west, east, south central and northern regions of the state were seldom actively involved in sponsored events. Many members did not want to, or could not, travel that far from their home area.
Phyllis took a map of Kentucky and started dividing the state into districts, similar to what state government had done years before, and came up with 15 geographical districts. Membership Records Chair, Karen Swartz helped by providing a list of members in each of these districts. Phyllis then set to work calling members in each of these areas, these “Districts”, until she had acquired a “District Leader” in each. This local contact was asked to help distribute KHQS information to members in her area and promote new membership as well. In other words, take KHQS to the members. BUT this was just the beginning, Phyllis had more ideas.
At this time, there were still some “quilting bees” around but few organized quilt clubs, although quilting was in the early stage of a strong resurgence. Phyllis felt there should be a special day for quilters to come together, acquaint with each other and share projects and ideas. This day needed a name and inspired by local church and community groups that sponsored “Mother Day Out” (which gave mothers of young children a day off by sharing babysitting duties), she chose “Quilters Day Out”! What a perfect way to bring KHQS members together and promote new membership! What better way to uphold the KHQS PURPOSE—“To promote understanding, appreciation and knowledge of the art and craft of quilt making; to support and expand the collection and preservation of Kentucky quilt makers art and craft of quilt makers and their work ; and to undertake such activities as shows , contests and educational workshops”.
All that remained was to choose a date. The third Saturday in March was chosen, quite simply, because it was generally after the threat of winter snow, yet before the onset of various quilt shows.
The November 9, 1989 KHQS Board Meeting in Berea, KY made it official. Quilters Day Out was born. Phyllis called all 15 District Leaders across the state and all 15 agreed to sponsor a QDO activity in their district. These leaders were encouraged to host the day in a free location and could ask other quilters or a local quilt club to help. The idea was to invite quilters to bring a project they were working on, a bag lunch, show and tell and ideas to share.
The first Quilters Day Out was held on March 17, 1990 and the result was monumental. That original event, developed over just a four month period, brought together 514 quilters across the state and it virtually doubled the KHQS membership, mostly due to District Leaders’ distribution of KHQS flyers.
In the following years, the event strengthened. District Leaders jovially competed with each other to increase attendance and encourage membership. The 15 original districts were reorganized to 18 districts and QDO became firmly entrenched in every part of the state. By 1993, after just three years, state-wide attendance had increased to over 1300 quilters. KHQS membership surged to over 600 quilters.
Sharing Phyllis’s enthusiasm and support for this new event was her good friend, Marie Salazar. In addition to being extremely active in KHQS, Marie was also President of the National Quilting Society (NQA). Marie took Kentucky’s Quilters Day Out concept to the Board of NQA and encouraged them to adopt the third Saturday in March as “National Quilting Day”. From that point, the event swept the nation and eventually covered the globe. There is really no way to calculate how many quilters across the world now enjoy this event!
Such a long reach from a garden in Murray, Kentucky to a world-wide event, leaving a lasting legacy for quilters everywhere! Well done, Phyllis, well done and THANK YOU!
Contributed by Karen Templeton