Smoky Mountain Quilters Guild was founded in 1982 by 30 women who wished to share their love and knowledge of quilting with each other and who wished to perpetuate the art of quilting. The first meeting was held May 25,1982 at the Macon Public Library with Laurel Horton presiding. Laura Nelle Estes was elected the first president. Guild meetings were held the 2nd Monday of each month at 7:00pm alternating between Franklin and Sylva. Dues were $4 per year.
The first quilt show, “Quilts, Yesterday and Today”, was held at the Macon County Community Facilities Building (Robert Carpenter Building) in the gym. There were 191 entries in categories Antique, Pieced, Clothing, Pillows, Baby Items, and Wall Hangings. A People’s Choice Award of $25 was the only prize given. The guild raffled a quilt–an original design by Jean Gregory-Evans—named “Smoky Mountain Star”. The NC Quilt Symposium loaned the guild $570 as seed money for its first show. The show netted a profit of $1700.
The second quilt show was held in 1984, “Threads of Time”, and included a fashion show on Friday night. It was decided to have a show every even numbered year after that. In the off years an exhibit would be held in the libraries or at the gazebo in Heritage Hollow. The guild was very busy in the community—doing several mini-shows and demos at Belk Department Store, participating in the Macon County Fair, quilting quilts for other people for profit for the guild, attending the NC Quilt Symposium AND making 385 quilted name tags for the attendees, traveling to the Asheville Folk Art Center for Quilt Sharing Day. Every two years we held our quilt show at the Carpenter Building at the Recreation Park.
In the following years the Guild grew to 150 members and in 2006 incorporated into a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the art of quilting. For many years before 2006 we met in what was known as the JC Building (now Franklin Memorial Recreation Center on West Main). In 2006 we moved our meetings to the First Presbyterian Church’s Tartan Hall, where we met until 2021. During these years we hand quilted for hire, earning money for the guild to use for programs and other endeavors. Some of our noted hand quilters include, Yvonne Gray, Joyce Harris, Ardelle Baer, Carlie Nichols, Hester Able, Susan Carr, and Cheryl Kiker.
In 2012, Smoky Mountain Quilters hosted the North Carolina Quilt Symposium at Western Carolina University. Over 250 quilters from across the state and elsewhere attended the classes and lectures and enjoyed a quilt show and vendors. We made a profit of about $20,000 which we are still using 10 years later to pay for lecturers and teachers. In 2014 and 2016 we continued to hold our quilt show at the Ramsey Center at Western Carolina University.
In addition to continuing our quilting skills, we are a very charitable organization. In 2013, with the help of a grant from the National Quilting Association, we donated 8 new sewing machines and 8 sets of quilting tools to Macon County’s Extension Service where they are teaching beginning lessons to children, immigrants, and others who wish to learn to sew and quilt. In 2014 we donated 4 machines to the Jackson County Extension Service to augment the machines they already had. We also volunteer to help with their classes.
Currently we have about 90 members who participate in many classes and activities in our new location at Cowee School Arts and Heritage Center:
We participate regularly in Pumpkin Fest, Greening up the Mountain in Jackson County, Macon County Fair, and many Cowee School festivals. In 2018 we held our quilt show at various churches in Franklin—a Heavenly Walk of quilts along Church Street.
Every year we donate over 400 kids quilts to Macon and Jackson County Head Starts,
We make comfort quilts for our members with serious illnesses or who experience loss in their families,
We have a very active Quilts of Valor Bee in our Guild. We began in 2008 and registered with the national organization, Quilts of Valor® the same year. This year we will have donated over 1400 quilts to veterans from WWII, Viet Nam, and the Middle East conflicts, including a quilt to each of our area’s entire National Guard unit upon their return from Afghanistan.
1982-84 Laura Nelle Estes (Goebel)
1984-86 Michelle Norris (Laura Nelle completed term)
1986-87 Jill Wakenshaw
1987-89 Joyce Harris
1989-1990 Laura Nelle Estes/Joyce Harris
1990-1992 Barbara Nelson
1992-1996 Sharon Stokes
1996-1998 Carolyn Smitherman
1998-2000 Margaret Andrews
2000- 2002 Lillian Yeats
July 2002 – June 2004 Maggie Slack
July 2004 – June 2006 Margaret Andrews
June 2006 – March 2008 Rosalie Nieznalski
April 2008 – March 2011 Nancilee Dills
April 2011 – March 2013 Cindy Williams
April 2013 – March 2015 Wayne Wingett
April 2015 – March 2017 Nancilee Dills
April 2017 – March 2019 Wayne and Suzanne Wingett
April 2019 – March 2022 Susan Roper
April 2022 – March 2024 Linda Kocur
Quilt Shows through the years
1982 Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
1984 Threads of Time
1986 Pride in Carolina
1988 Festival of Quilted Gems
1990 Today’s Pleasures-Tomorrow’s Treasures
1992 A Gem of a Quilt Show
1994 Stars on Parade
1996 Moments in Time
1998 Quilted Gardens
2000 Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
2002 Mountain Treasures
2004 Mountain Music (canceled due to hurricane)
2006 Mountain Memories
2008 Mountain Traditions
2010 Quilting New Trails
2012 Stars over the Smokies (NCQSI symposium)
2014 The Smoky Mountain Quilt Show
2016 Smoky Mountain Splendor
2018 Heavenly Quilt Walk