Quilting dates back millennia, perhaps as far back as the ancient Egyptians, with the practice of sewing together layers of padding and fabric to be used through the centuries as clothing and bedding. Here in the US, quilting pre-dates the country itself. Quilts in Colonial America were predominantly utilitarian (hardly the decorative quilts we’ve come to appreciate today) and were not only used for bedding but as added insulation throughout the home, covering drafty windows and doors during the colder months.
None of this is news to Gail Palazzolo, president of Quilters by the Sea, who has been quilting for more than 20 years (though more seriously since 2014). “That makes me a piker in this guild, a newbie,” she says. “There are members who have been quilting for 45, 50 years.”
Established in the late 1970s, the 100 or so members of this nonprofit dedicated to the art of quilting meets monthly in Portsmouth in addition to hosting workshops, lectures, and making quilts for worthy organizations including the Ronald McDonald House, Robert Potter League for Animals, Hasbro Children’s Hospital, Portsmouth Police Department, and Lucy’s Hearth, a 24-hour emergency and transitional shelter in Middletown for homeless women, women in crisis, and their children.
Gail says that what sets Quilters by the Sea apart is its members, whose skill levels vary from novice to expert, and whose specialties are far reaching. “It truly is a diverse guild in the sense it is not a modern guild, it’s not an art quilting guild, or a strictly traditional guild or collage guild. We have all of those things,” she says. “There’s a lot of variety in our guild and not every guild has that – a lot of variety in style and in level of expertise.”
But the guild comes together in its entirety for what can be described as their Super Bowl: The Biennial Quilt Show. This year’s show, entitled “A Bouquet of Quilts,” unfolds May 4-5 at the Pennfield School in Portsmouth. Showcasing more than 100 handmade quilts made by members, the event is a site to behold with swaths of color, interesting patterns, and myriad styles of quilts. Some are just for show, others for sale, but all are spectacular.
Quilters by the Sea’s 17th Biennial Quilt Show will run May 4-5 at the Pennfield School in Portsmouth.