By Janice De Jesus
After hearing about the Diablo Valley Quilters from her former next door neighbor, Catherine Jarett joined the nonprofit group in 2001. Her daughter had just gone 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 -- except for one quilt she made in the 1980s, quilts were relatively new territory for her.
"When I went to the quilt show, I was so fascinated by how people used fabrics," said Jarett, a Walnut Creek resident.
So Jarett 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 the quilting group, Jarett has quilted for women in homeless shelters as well as made quilts for people going through chemotherapy. Outreach has been a tradition for Diablo Valley Quilters, 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 and 15 at the Tice Valley Community Gym in Walnut Creek.
Now, Jarett, onto her second career as an attorney and practicing in Walnut Creek, will feature her modern quilts at the show. her work shows off her love of color and design.
"I don't have a particular style I can actually describe," said Jarett, who has 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."
This includes the need to help others, including 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 of Alamo joined Diablo Valley Quilters 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," said Helgren-Lempesis, CSU East Bay's Department of Teacher Education graduate coordinator. "I didn't own a sewing machine."
All that changed when she attended the DVQ's quilt show when she 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, 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 quilt 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 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."