40th BIRTHDAY 1984-2024


As we embark on our 40th year, I thought it was time to look back and acknowledge those who came before us, and whose insight and hard work paved the way for the amazing organisation we have today – SA Quilters. Right from the beginning those activities which are the bedrock of what we offer our members today were being put in place. Monthly meetings, Library, Newsletter, Workshops, Exhibitions, Sit and Sew days and the desire to involve and include our rural sisters. Not to mention being incorporated, a logo and banner.

In January 1984 a meeting was held at the home of Rachel Dettman to discuss the formation of a “Quilters Guild” in South Australia. In attendance were Rachel Dettman (from the Embroiderers’ Guild), Elaine Gardner (from the Embroiderers’ Guild), Julie Abbott and Jude Adams (from the Experimental Arts Foundation). They formed a steering committee and with help from the Crafts Council of SA, other State Guilds, the Embroiderer’s Guild of SA and Inge Schwerdtfeger from the Arts Council and many others, an inaugural meeting of the Quilters’ Group was held on March 29, of that year.

That public meeting convened by Rachel Dettman and Elaine Gardner held at the Contemporary Arts Society, saw 36 people attend and a larger steering committee was formed. Those on the Charter Steering Committee of March 1984 included Rachel Dettman, Elaine Gardner, Beryl Norman, Julie Abbott, Inge Schwerdtfeger, Di Richards, Deidre Scott, Janice Irvine, Betty O’Brien, Jude Adams, Maggie Woodroffe, Marilyn Jelfs, Sally Plummer, Maree Gebhardt, Anthea Martin, Lesley Morris, Jean Lange, Wendy Harbard, Dominic Crosby, Robyn Messner, Lynne Zakarevicius.

Very quickly in the ensuing twelve months a design for a logo (submitted by Una Lawson) was chosen, with a banner to follow.

A Newsletter was a high priority, with the first one launched in May 1984 and a Library for members was also established. Una also suggested the name “Patches” for the newsletter

A very busy Steering Committee saw the drawing up of a Constitution and following its approval, the initiation of proceedings to become an Incorporated body.

An Educational Programme – including a programme of films, slides and speakers was followed by the very first workshop, 2 days with Sonja Lee Barrington in May 1985. The workshop subcommittee actively sought interstate and international expertise to expand members’ quilting horizons.

The Steering Committee realised the importance of promoting QGSA to the wider community and mounted displays where possible at events such as the Royal Show.

Exhibitions were being discussed and in early 1985 a small exhibition was mounted in the foyer of the Crafts Council premises.

With the knowledge that many country women were meeting to quilt, contact was made with the view to having affiliated groups.

Membership steadily grew over the year and saw a move to a larger venue, Gartrell Uniting Church where regular General Meetings, Steering Committee meetings and a day time sewing meeting were held. By May 1985 membership stood at 75, by October it was 109 and at the end of the year there were 13 affiliated country groups.

Heather Ford
President SA Quilters 2024

Information sourced from:

  • The Steering Committee Report of 2nd May 1985
  • A Decade of Quilting 1994, the inaugural newsletter of May 1984
  • The Charter Steering Committee list

Over the course of this special year, we will be conducting interviews with some of those pioneering women who saw the potential for a formal group to share friendship and their mutual love of quilting.   So the Quilters’ Guild of South Australia Inc was formed which has grown over the past 40 years and continues to grow as a creative, supportive and learning organisation for all its members.  Please enjoy the video interviews: