After hearing about the Diablo Valley Quilters from her former next-door neighbor, Catherine Jarett joined the nonprofit group in 2001 when her daughter went off to college and she longed to try something new.
While Jarett was no stranger to sewing -- she sewed her own clothes as a teen and in her 20s -- quilts were a new territory for her except for one she made in the 1980s.
"When I went to the quilt show, I was so fascinated by how people used fabrics," said Jarett.
So she bought books and patterns and mastered her craft and soon was able to make quilts not only for herself but for her two sisters and six brothers.
"They've all gotten quilts and their children, too," said Jarett, who personalizes a quilt according to a person's interests and personality.
Quilting has become more than a serious hobby. With DVQ, Jarett has quilted for women in homeless shelters as well as made quilts for people going through chemotherapy. Outreach has been a tradition for DVQ and the quilters not only enjoy each other's company, they continue to create quilts for a good cause.
Jarett and fellow DVQ members celebrate the group's 30 years of quilting, friendship and philanthropy in its upcoming show Sept. 14-15 at the Tice Valley Community Gym in Walnut Creek.
Now, Jarett, on to her second career as a practicing attorney, will be featuring her modern quilts at the show.
"I don't have a particular style I can actually describe," said Jarett.
She's made reproduction quilts and contemporary quilts, but doesn't do appliqué.
"It's relaxing and meditative," she said. "I miss it when I'm away from it too long. Quilting fulfills a lot of needs for me."
Those needs include helping young patients at local children's hospitals. Jarett said she's happy to be part of such a talented and generous group of quilters.
"They're people doing what they love and giving to people who appreciate the quilts," she said.
Valerie Helgren-Lempesis joined DVQ two years ago and has been hooked on quilting ever since -- a far cry from her childhood and young adult years when she wasn't fond of sewing.
"I wasn't a sewer when I was growing up," she said. "I didn't own a sewing machine."
All that changed when she attended the DVQ's quilt show and was overcome with the beauty of the colorful designs and variety of quilts, and touched by the generosity of the women who took time to make quilts and blankets for the ill and less fortunate.
"The women were leaving a piece of themselves behind for their families," she said. "So, I'm leaving a piece of me for my family."
For Helgren-Lempesis, CSU East Bay graduate coordinator in the Department of Teacher Education, making quilts has been a therapeutic activity that's been comforting during challenging times and a nice way to unwind in the evenings. Immersed in her quilting project, she would work from 11 p.m. until 2 a.m., she said.
And she's been learning a lot about her craft thanks to DVQ meetings held on the third Wednesday of each month at the Danville Congregational Church. Helgren-Lempesis, who made a quilt out of fabric graced with the image of her daughter's college professor's dog, said that quilting is more than just sewing fabric together.
"It's a way of creating something unique and personal," she said. "It's a tangible piece of history and love."
WHAT: Diablo Valley Quilters quilt show
WHEN: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 14; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sept. 15
WHERE: Tice Valley Community Gym, 2055 Tice Valley Blvd., Walnut Creek
INFORMATION: $10 admission both days. Visit www.diablovalleyquilters.com