PETALUMA PROFILE: Helping others through fabric and thread

Helga Breyfogle and her "Hunter Star" quilt PHOTO BY MAX BREYFOGLE


More than 50 quilters not only lost their homes in the recent wildfires, but hundreds of cherished hand-made quilts as well. As the chairperson for the Petaluma Quilt Guild’s Community Outreach Project, Helga Marie Breyfogle empathizes with others’ feelings of grief about these losses.

“My quilts are part of my family’s history,” she says. “I followed my mom into quilting, and one of my earliest memories was sitting in the kid’s area at The Quilted Angel watching “The Little Mermaid.” We bought the materials for my first quilt project at that shop, and I still have that blue-panel, lace bordered tied-quilt.”

Helga’s day job as logistics coordinator at Marmot Outdoor Apparel and Equipment is a perfect match for her skill set.

“I deal with the constantly shifting, detail-oriented work of efficiently moving goods to our customers,” she explains.

Helga brings the same professional organization to the Quilt Outreach Project, which is working to assist local quilters whose years of work, along with their supplies and tools, were taken by the fire.

“Since Moonlight Quilters, and the day guild in Santa Rosa, are already collecting and gifting hundreds of quilts, and dozens of sewing machines and quilting supplies donated from California and beyond, we decided to wait until people got settled before distributing our quilts,” she explains. “A handmade quilt is a very unique gift, and we want to make sure it is a good match. Our members have nominated people they personally know were affected by the fires, and these nominees will then receive quilts made by our guild.”

It’s a collaborative effort, to be sure.

“Shelly Cavanna from Cora’s Quilts has allowed us to use her patterns for free,” Helga says. “I follow the pattern supply lists to make up kits using donated fabrics. And we are having a block drive for our quilters to create six-inch blocks by combining solids with multiple stars. A friend has already donated one bolt of batting, and New Life Church is giving us space for a sandwich party to layer the pieced tops, center batting and backing materials together and make them ready for stippling the daylights out of them. We still need long arm machines and operators for the final quilting. But we are already designing a special Sonoma Strong label for every quilt.”

In Helga’s experience, the internet and social media has brought to quilting a whole new generation of fans and practitioners.

“I discovered Jenny Doan online and started with her Ohio Baby Star Quilt,” she says. “When I got a chance to see Jenny at a quilt event, and told her that she taught me to love quilting, I cried as I gave her a big hug.”

Quilting is now an everyday part of the Breyfogle family’s life.

Even her husband Max has found ways to particfipate.

“He’s my 6-foot, 6-inch quilt holder and photographer,” she says, adding, “And our third-grade son’s first quilt won a 2nd-place ribbon at the Sonoma Marin Fair.”

(Contact Gil at