Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Legend of the Brown Baggers

The origins of the Brown Baggers are shrouded in mystery... like other secret societies, we cloak ourselves in privacy and reveal our true identities only under duress...
From left to right: Iron Maiden, Rotary Queen, Runs with Scissors, and Size Matters.
Some people will do almost anything to get in the blog*
Just kidding folks! This is not how our quilting group got its name.

Many times, I will mention my Brown Bagger buddies or that I'm going quilting on a Brown Bag Sunday, so I thought it was time to offer you a little explanation.

More than 20 years ago, a local quilt shop, The Quilter's Nook in West Roxbury (alas, yet another great shop long gone) hosted a Friday afternoon quilt group called the Brown Baggers. It met from 12 pm to 3pm. The group got its name because you were supposed to bring your lunch (brown bag optional). There was also a Friday evening group, also called the Brown Baggers, that met from 6pm to 9pm. I had just moved to the area and was newly divorced and I didn't know a soul. It was my lucky day when I signed up for the evening session. Little did I know that a whole new chapter of my life would begin.
In true Brown Bagger fashion, (from l. to r.) Joanne E., Lexine, and Terri
brought their lunch from home today to the October Brown Bagger meeting.
Every Friday night I would rush home from work to go to my new quilt group. Although I was one of the youngest members, everyone was very friendly and welcoming, and I soon became a regular member of the group. It was an open sewing night, so you could bring any type of quilt project to work on. It was great fun to bounce ideas off each other as well as get advice if you needed help. Plus, we had the store all to ourselves, since it was after business hours, so there were many Friday evenings that were spent fabric shopping instead of sewing, especially if new fabric had arrived! Since many of us came straight from work, instead of bringing a brown bag dinner, we would simply go to Friendly's Restaurant after class was over for a late night dinner of ice cream.

Today, Debbie brought in her finished baby quilt to show us.
Then summer came and the shop owner put our class on hiatus. We couldn't imagine not seeing each other for a whole summer, so ten of us stayed together and took turns meeting in each other's houses. When Fall arrived, we were horrified to find that the shop owner had discontinued our beloved Friday night class. I found a new home for us at a local college, and we continued to meet. Within a few years, we had extended our session to include a once a month all-day Sunday sewing session. We've moved locations many times as our local quilt shops have moved, gone out of business, or changed ownership. We now meet in a nearby hotel.

Twenty years later, we're still together and more than half of the original gang is still in the group. Our group has grown to 18 members, hampered only by the size of our meeting room. We discontinued our weekly Friday session about ten years ago when the last quilt shop that we used to rent space in moved to a different location. We still meet monthly on Sundays and we also have six quilt weekends a year (three are local and three are away). My friend and fellow Brown Bagger, Kim P. will tell you that the only rule in our Brown Bagger group is that there are no rules. For example, we hold a Birthday Block swap every year, but participation is optional.
Check out the beautiful feathers that Debbie put in her quilt border!
This is an amazing group of women. Quilting together has gotten us through death, divorce, and illness, and has also brought us great joy when we get together to quilt and to celebrate new babies (both children and grandchildren), milestone birthdays, retirement, and my third marriage! I feel very blessed to be a part of this group and to have made so many wonderful friends!
Beautiful batik birthday blocks today for Lexine!
I am doubly fortunate in that I also belong to a Thursday night quilt group, which I usually refer to as The Thursday Night Girls, which is also an outgrowth of an open sewing class from another out of business quilt shop, The Quilter's Compass. This group is only in its adolescence, since we've only been meeting for about six or seven years. It's a smaller group, with only eight members. Thursday Girls, I love you too.
Lori got lovely red and blue birthday blocks today.
I hope that you enjoyed my story and the next time I refer to the Brown Baggers, you'll understand what I'm talking about! I hope that you are fortunate to have a great quilting group in your life, whether it is in person or online.

Thanks for visiting!

Pugs and kisses,

*A very special thanks to my four Brown Bagger buddies who volunteered for this photo session. They didn't even blink when I handed them a paper bag and asked them to put it over their head. You guys are the best!


  1. Great post! I love the first picture -- those are true friends! Now I understand why you have so many quilts for your bed -- you've been at this sewing thing for a long time! :-)

  2. What a wonderful blessing to have friends like that Nancy! I know you know it too! the first photo is a riot. I thought you all were an incognito quilt singing group.

  3. Such a fun post. Great explanation of your groups.

  4. The first picture is hilarious! What good sewing friends you have! I have a stitchers club and it is awesome to sharing ideas and be with people who understand why you sew. I hope your brown bagger sewers are around for many, many more projects!!

  5. This looks like so much fun!! I wish we had something fun like that here...I've been to a few, but the ladies were much older than me, and er, um, my style was not quite their style. ;)

  6. I am very jealous of your Brown Bag group. It sounds like lots of fun.

  7. I am very jealous of your Brown Bag group. It sounds like lots of fun.