The Threads that Bind

by Amy Groh

The men and women of the Gems of the Prairie Quilt Guild have two things in common: a love of quilting and the need to be creative. They welcome newcomers, whether young or old, at workshops year-round, focusing much of their time and energy on philanthropic commitments to local non-profit organizations, making everything from quilts for premature babies to art quilts for display in homes and galleries.

When asked who the “average” Gems of the Prairie Quilter is, Guild President Michelle Wildenradt replied, “There is no such thing as average with our guild members.” The group includes both men and women who range professionally from nurses to engineers, editors to administrators, homemakers to physical therapists. It was founded in 1990 by 21 original members of the Peoria Area Stitcher’s Guild, and has since grown to a membership of more than 230.

One of the main charitable endeavors undertaken by the guild is Tiny Gems—36-inch square quilts made to strict specifications for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center. These quilts are designed to be extra soft on babies’ sensitive skin and can withstand frequent washings in hot water. Over 270 Tiny Gems were donated last year alone.

Gems of the Prairie also hosts the annual Autumn Gems Quilt Show, to be held this year at the East Peoria Event Center on September 27th and 28th. Laurie Baker, co-chair for publicity, said the guild plans to have 500 quilts made by members in the main show. Attendees will vote on their favorites, and ribbons will be awarded to the winners of each category. As many as 200 additional quilts will be shown in special exhibits ranging from traditional pieced and appliquéd quilts to art quilts of a more contemporary nature.

“The majority of the proceeds raised from ticket sales go toward education and charitable causes,” reported Baker. A portion of the proceeds from the live auction of guild members’ Little Gems—quilts that are no more than 28 square inches—go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. For the third year in a row, former Peoria Mayor Jim Maloof will serve as emcee.

For more information on Gems of the Prairie Quilt Guild or its Autumn Gems Quilt Show, visit gemsoftheprairie.com. a&s

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