Hobby becomes a new career


December 23, 1992|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

Nancy Bankard's quilting room is filled with sewing machines, bolts of cloth, tables marked with grids and projects-in-progress.

A sign on the bulletin board says, "Warning! Quilt Pox. Very contagious to adults."

Mrs. Bankard, of Bixler Church Road near Westminster, said one time a visitor to the workshop read her sign, took one look around and said it was too late. "Lady," the visitor said, "you've already got it!"

For Mrs. Bankard, what began as a pleasant diversion has spawned a club and a business, and has changed her way of life.

"You meet a really lovely group of people" in quilting, she said, and they tell lots of old-time stories.

Mrs. Bankard began quilting in 1982 when she and two friends signed up for a quilting class in Hanover, Pa.

Before that, Mrs. Bankard had done some crochet and macrame pieces, but she says she hasn't even picked them up since she discovered quilting.

She said she likes quilting because it's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

"With a square and a triangle," she said, "it's unbelieveable how many patterns you can come up with that are completely different."

She also likes the freedom to play with color.

"There aren't any right and wrong colors," she said.

And at a quilt show, she said, "It's just so much color you can't absorb it. It kind of boggles the mind."

When a pieced-together quilt top is made into a finished quilt, it is sewn into a sandwich with the top and the backing as the bread and the batting as the filling. What holds the sandwich together is the actual "quilting," intricate patterns of tiny stitches that complete the quilt's design.

Mrs. Bankard said it's fun to watch how the final quilting process adds detail and brings the quilt to life, and to realize that, "With just thread, you're doing all that."

Now she owns the Modern Pioneer Quilt Shoppe, a quilting supplies store packed into a high-top van. A couple of times a week, she takes the store to senior centers, craft fairs, and quilt shows in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Tennessee.

Mrs. Bankard got the idea for a traveling quilt store when older women kept asking her at quilt shows where they could find supplies.

"So many of them don't drive," she said. "And the ones that do drive won't go any distance."

She mulled over the idea for two years, then asked her husband, Dick, if he thought a quilting supply store on wheels might work.

"He thought first I was crazy," Mrs. Bankard said.

But when she found a used van he remodeled it. He installed electric lights and racks to hold quilting supplies. The van holds 50 bolts of cloth and racks full of scissors, thread, needles, batting, stencils and books.

"I do the best if I can go to where they're having a quilt show," she said.

In addition to operating the traveling store, Mrs. Bankard gives quilting lessons in her home. She charges $60 for six, two-hour lessons. The price includes enough materials to complete one pieced and one appliqued quilt block.

She also gives demonstrations at craft fairs and to such groups as the Cooperative Extension Service's Homemakers' Club.

In March, she went to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington to protest its decision to allow a company in China to mass produce copies of unique American quilts from its collection.

Mrs. Bankard carried a sign that read, "The Smithsonian has betrayed our American tradition."

In 1987, Mrs. Bankard helped found Everybody's Quilt Guild, a club for Carroll County quilters.

Eventually, Mrs. Bankard's husband built an addition to the family home to house Mrs. Bankard's workshop.

The room also became the home of Everybody's Quilt Guild, until the club outgrew it. The guild's 15 members meet the first Wednesday of each month at Jerusalem Lutheran Church on Bachmans Valley Road.

The guild has openings for new members, Mrs. Bankard said.

Mrs. Bankard said she hopes to finish quilts for her six children and grandchildren, and there are many patterns she'd still like to try.

"There's no way you'll ever live long enough to make them all," she said.

"I wish I had gotten into quilting when I was younger."

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