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Celebrating OCQG's 40th Anniversary in 2021

Each month during the 2020-2021 membership year, we are running short articles in the Old Capitol Quilters Guild newsletter featuring interesting events, personal stories, or nuggets of inspiration preserved by previous OCQG Historians. Some will highlight how much things have changed, while others will show how much is still the same. We are also posting them here to make them readily accessible to all. The most recent article will appear near the top.

Don't miss "Members Remember,"
the video oral history featuring long-time members o
recorded in late 2020 to celebrate the Guild's 40th anniversary.

Watch it on You Tube at

From the May 2021 OCQG Newsletter

Tips and Tricks from the OCQG Newsletters

By Meredith Sewell

The first “Tip” I spotted in a newsletter was part of the newsletter editor’s notes. “Tips” became a semi-regular feature starting in June of 1985 with them appearing and disappearing over the years. It’s interesting to see how our esthetics, interests and quilting methods have grown and evolved over the years. Some of these items would stifle the modern or art quilter, and others seem no longer relevant to the way we work today.

As a teaser, here are a few that I found of particular interest. To view many more tips and tricks on a wide variety of topics shared over the years, download the full Tips & Tricks document (18 pages!).

April 1992—Possibly Lauren Tiffany
Antique Quilt Care

For those antique quilts that you are too afraid to wash here is the method used by museums to clean their quilts. Lay a clean sheet on the floor and lay the quilt on it. Take a piece of plastic window screen and lay it on the quilt. Now thoroughly vacuum the quilt through the screen. When you refold the quilt fold it in thirds rather than in half. Many old quilts have a permanent crease down the middle from always being folded in the same spot.

June 1992—Sharon Somers
Machine Washing Narrow Yardage

Have you ever washed a ¼ yard of fabric and have it come out twisted up like a rope? Often you end up with permanent crease marks. To prevent this all you have to do is fold the fabric in half, pin the layers together with a brass safety pin, and wash. (Brass doesn’t rust)

October 2009—Credit not given
Nicked Rotary Cutter Blades

If your rotary cutter blade has a nick on the edge and skips threads with every turn, turn the blade over in the rotary cutter and it will often work better. 

November 2009—Credit not given
Storing Quilts

Roll quilts on “swim noodles” and lay flat for storage. Your quilts will have fewer creases than if folded for storage. 

October 2011—Credit not given.
Choosing Thread Colors

Choose a color of thread that matches the most dominant color in your fabric. If you are unable to find a perfect match, select a thread that is one or two shades darker. Stitches made with a lighter shade of thread will stand out more.

From the April 2021 OCQG Newsletter

The Challenges

By Meredith Sewell

Our annual guild challenge began in 1989 and it is a guild activity that I look forward to each year. For me these challenges have resulted in quilts that I would never have created without the challenge with several being my favorites. I wanted to get this in the newsletter and on our website in hopes that it would spur everyone to participate in the 2020 and 2021 challenges (both due at the July 2021 meeting) and other
challenges to come.

Here are the challenge themes from the past 33 years. For a more complete description, including the rules, the winners, and many pictures, download a PDF of “The History of OCQG Challenges, 1985-2021.”

We are missing information for several years, including names of winners and/or photos of the quilts. If you have details or images to fill in the gaps, please let me know (

1989— A Fabric Packet Challenge

1990— Square and Star Quilt Block

1991— Rainbow Challenge

1992— Two Fabrics

1993— Charm Quilt

1994— Embellishment

1995— Name Tag

1996— Animal Theme

1997— Migration

1998— Fabric Challenge

1999— Round Robin

2000— Miniature Quilt

2001— Ugly Fabric Quilt

2002— Nine-patch

2003— Gettysburg Fabrics

2004— All Things Old are New Again

2005— My Happy Home

2006— Twenty-five

2007— Expand Your Horizons

2008— Color My World & Finished Workshop Projects

2009— “What is black and white and ______all over?”

2010— To Leaf or Not to Leaf?

2011— Two Options—Group Round Robin & A Two Block Quilt

2012— Two Options—Orphan Block & Red and White

2013— Two Options—Fabric Quilt Block Challenge & Art Quilt Challenge

2014— Miniature

2015— Solids

2016— Iowa–From River to River

2017— Winter in July

2018— Medallion

2019— Workshop Quilts

2020— Words  (ongoing)  see guidelines

2021— Vintage Made New (ongoing) see guidelines

From the March 2021 OCQG Newsletter

30 Years Ago — Our Guild Made (and Preserved!) History

By Laurie Robinson Tiffany

Over pepperoni pizza at the July 1991 Quilting for Fun [original name of the OCQG] meeting, members Karen Ackerman, Kathy Grove, Karin Dabney, and Meredith Sewell hatched an idea.  Inspired by state and national quilt documentation projects happening all over the U.S., the four thought a quilt documentation project in Johnson County would be a perfect guild service activity.  Brainstorming after the meeting in Our Redeemer’s parking lot, they roughed out a plan.  The next month, QFF president Kathy Grove sold the idea to the members, and Karen Ackerman approached the Johnson County Historical Society, where I was then director. JCHS staff, volunteers and board members loved the idea, too, and our two groups were off and running!

Quilters from QFF pieced a gorgeous blue and white Ocean Waves raffle quilt from member-donated fabrics to raise money for project expenses.  JCHS staff and QFF members sold raffle tickets, ultimately raising $2102.  QFF quilters set up a large frame and hand-quilted the raffle quilt at the JCHS Heritage Museum in early 1992.  [Kathy Grove later referred to “...those marathon Saturdays in January!”]  Both the guild and the JCHS signed up new members as people popped in to the museum to get a look at some real, live quilters and learn more about quilting.

Through the 1992 spring and summer, a steering committee including Karen Ackerman, Kathy Grove, Jane Jones, Sugar Mark, Ruth Miller, Kathy Mueller, Anna Murphy, me, and Meredith Sewell articulated three goals for the project: (1) to photograph county quilts to preserve their colors and patterns; (2) to record the makers’ names and stories associated with each quilt, and (3) to teach people how to preserve vintage quilts. We also secured a site for the registration days [Thank you, Our Redeemer!], found a photographer, invented procedures, created forms, recruited volunteers, held the raffle drawing on July 4th [the quilt went to 82-year-old Nell Joy of Hannibal, MO] and planned, planned, planned.

The planning paid off. In autumn, 1992, the Johnson County Historic Quilt Registration Project [JCHQRP] proved a marvel of efficiency and showcased the mighty power of volunteers.  Working on a first-come, first-served basis, well-trained guild and museum volunteers welcomed each quilt owner, logged in each quilt, interviewed each owner about their quilt(s), completed forms describing materials and patterns, assisted the photographer to depict each quilt, sewed JCHQRP labels on each quilt back, and returned each quilt to its owner with preservation information.  Many participants brought just one cherished family quilt to register, but others brought basketsful! After all the months of planning, watching the project unfold so smoothly was deeply gratifying.

And the project was a grand success! Over three days, powered by more than 45 volunteers who gave a total of 452 hours, the JCHQRP documented and photographed 418 pre-1950 Johnson County quilts.


The project’s resulting documents and slide photographs are still safely held in the collections of the Heritage Museum, although the museum has moved three times since 1992, and is currently undergoing a move to Coralville’s Xtream Arena.  Leigh Ann Randak, former curator, recalls the JCHQRP archive being used several times during her years at the museum, sometimes by quilt researchers, sometimes by people looking into their own family histories as told by the registered quilts.  Three of the registered quilts were even donated to the museum by one registrant’s heirs, who were alerted to the quilts’ historic value by the JCHQRP labels on the back.  

Thanks to our history-making project, the stories of those 418 registered quilts live on.  We truly did make history – by chronicling our time and place, adding to the history of our treasured artform, and celebrating hundreds of individual quilt artists.

Well done, Quilters.

From the February 2021 OCQG Newsletter

Quilts for the Coralville Public Library

Service to the community has taken many forms over the years for the Old Capitol Quilters Guild. Occasionally we mark an achievement or anniversary of some kind. In the November 2020 newsletter, we focused on a quilt honoring Iowa City’s sesquicentennial completed in 1989. This month we’re highlighting quilts made when the current Coralville Public Library building opened in 1987. The quilts were made specifically for permanent display in the Schwab Auditorium, the largest of the meeting rooms in the library. It’s possible that you may have attended meetings in this space – including several OCQG workshops – without realizing the connection to the Guild.

A plaque on the wall reads: “The quilts were created by the Old Capitol Quilters Guild for the new Coralville Public Library building in 1987. Jean Schwab and Pat Dee chose the colors for the quilts, and the pattern is called the Coralville Star. Each member of the group pieced a block and others did the quilting.” Jean Schwab helped start and became the director of the Coralville Public Library, serving until her retirement in 1991. Pat Dee also helped found the library and was a long-time volunteer and trustee.

The OCQG committee that organized the effort included Karen Ackerman, Darlene Chapman, Marge Reese, Geneva Shannon, Sharon Stubbs, and Barb Voss. They designed the “Coralville Star” block which resembles the traditional Iowa Star block pattern with a little extra twist in the center. The committee then prepared and distributed fabric packets to OCQG members that included the pattern, templates for each piece, and enough fabric to complete one block. Each quilt was hand-quilted by members. We’ve posted a copy of the project instructions online.

Guild members contributed enough blocks to create 1 larger wall quilt with 18 blocks, 4 medium wall quilts with 9 blocks each, and 1 smaller quilt with 4 blocks, The Guild also purchased the rods from which the quilts have hung for the last 34 years.

Six quilts created by OCQG members in 1986-87 still hang in the Schwab Auditorium of the Coralville Public Library.

Pam Ehrhardt during a workshop presented by Candyce Grisham in May 2019 with two of the OCQG Coralville Star quilts behind her.

Days for Girls session in January 2019 held in the Schwab Auditorium with several of the OCQG Coralville Star quilts visible on the wall.

From the December 2020 OCQG Newsletter

Holidays and the Winter Season


As we look through the binders assembled by earlier OCQG Historians, it’s clear that every year about this time, quilters get busy making quilted gifts for themselves and for others and sewing decorations for their homes. Occasionally members of the Guild have been called upon to contribute to exhibits or displays.

In 2006 a nationwide call went out from Washington DC asking makers of all kinds in each state to send handmade ornaments to decorate a display of 50 state trees near the White House. The October OCQG newsletter that year reported that the Guild would be sending 42 ornaments (4”x4” quilted squares) for the Iowa tree thanks to 16+ members, several of whom have remained active for many more years: Helen Dietrich, Barb Fisher-Krueger, “Diedre Fleener’s small group,” Connie Funk, Jean Hospodarsky, Twila Meder, Linda Nudd, Nancy Rehling, and Barb Voss. 

Shannon Hunger, the local coordinator for the effort, said that the DC “organizer for the state trees has sent word the Iowa tree was the favorite of the people who set up the display in the part near the White House.”

Although the December 2006 newsletter carried three photos of the ornaments, it was printed in black-and-white. So far we haven’t found any color versions. The February newsletter also noted that the tree organizers in DC would be sending a photo of the Iowa tree that would be “published on the website soon,” but if that happened, we no longer have access to it.

Other ways we’ve had holiday and winter fun over the years. 

  • The creative organizers of the February Service Days in 2001 and 2002 (including Janann Schiele, Twila Meder, and Diane Lohr) were inspired by the coming Winter Olympics as they made their plans for the “Winter Sewing Olympics.” All participants were organized into teams that worked together to create the quilts. In 2002, teams of five were encouraged to “skate through 9 patches, race to the design wall, and cross the finish line with tops ready to be quilted.”​


  • Make it/take it sessions for Christmas ornaments can be a quick but productive way to spread some holiday cheer. A “Cathedral Window Christmas Ornament” designed by OCQG member Kim Haigh had special appeal, appearing first at the December 1990 evening meeting (led by Sharon Somer), again during an activity carnival in June 1994, then for a third time at the December 2004 evening meeting. It’s worth repeating again, so we encourage you to download the pattern from the website.​

  • For many years, Winter Retreats have been held in February. They have been a great way to get away after the holidays and focus on some relaxing time with our sewing machines and quilting friends. Twila Meder even made a small quilt to celebrate the one in 2000. 

From the November 2020 OCQG Newsletter

Quilters Helped Celebrate Iowa City’s Sesquicentennial in 1989

When Iowa City celebrated its Sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) in 1989, members of the quilt guild, then known as “Quilting for Fun (QFF),” helped commemorate the event by creating a quilt with images from the city’s past. In the photo, below, you can see Old Capitol and the county fair in the large center block, surrounded by landmarks such as “Lean-back Hall,” an early tavern (3); Terrell Mill (6); a Mormon Handcart (8); the Coralville School House (9); and the Black Angel (10).

Iowa City Sesquicenntenial quilt.jpg
Sesquicentennial Quilt grid.jpg

Photo (left) of quilt created by the members of "Quilting for Fun" to commemorate the sesquicentennial of Iowa City in 1989.

The quilt came together very quickly. In February 1989, QFF received an invitation to display at least two quilts for the Iowa City Sesquicentennial celebration that was scheduled for May 4-5-6. QFF member, Marge Reese, designed the blocks and got started on the applique work right away. By late March the QFF newsletter reported that the quilt top was ready for quilting (by hand, of course!). On April 10 they set up a quilting frame and invited QFF members to bring their own needles and thimbles to help. By the time the next newsletter was distributed a month later, all the quilting was done and only the binding was left to finish.

The quilt was displayed at the Johnson County Heritage Museum during the celebration in early May and later donated to the Museum by the QFF.

Help us learn more about this quilt!

The accounts in the QFF newsletters only talk about the process of getting the work done but not about the content of the quilt. The one image of it preserved in the Guild’s history notebooks (see above) is not easy to read.

1. Can you identify any of the other images? (We’ve posted a copy of the scanned photo on the website to make it easier for you to zoom in on details.)

2. Do any of our current members remember working on the quilt and/or do you have a better photo of the quilt?

3. If the OCQG undertakes a similar project for the city's Bicentennial in 2039, which of these historic images would change?

Please contact the History Committee if you can provide answers (or guesses?) to any of these questions!

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