Quilters take life a stitch at a time Harford residents gather for camaraderie, to create old-fashioned works of art

November 05, 1995|By JoAnne C. Broadwater | JoAnne C. Broadwater,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Alice Welsh doesn't mind a bit of good-natured needling from her friends in the Flying Geese Quilt Guild as she slowly hand-stitches a queen-sized quilt in an exploding star pattern.

"I just keep poking along," the Bel Air resident said. "In the time that I've been doing this, they've probably completed umpteen little projects and a quilt. I'm probably the only one that hand-pieces."

Many of the guild members use sewing machines to speed their work. While sewing by hand may be slower, Mrs. Welsh, 41, finds it more convenient than setting up a sewing machine.

She started her quilt in May 1994 and plans to finish in time for display in the guild's quilt show next October. By then she will have spent nearly 2 1/2 years on the project.

On a recent Wednesday morning, she joined about a dozen guild members who had gathered to sew at their weekly quilting bee at the Union Chapel United Methodist Church in Joppa.

They seemed to come as much for the conversation as the sewing. There was camaraderie in the group and without a doubt, members were enjoying the closeness of this old-fashioned gathering.

"The most important thing about this quilt guild is the friendships," said Colleen Grotke, 39, of Bel Air. Her newborn son, Johnathan, slept contentedly in an infant seat as she sewed.

"At a quilting bee you solve all of the world's problems," said Didi Salvatierra, 44, of Bel Air, hand-quilting a Stars and Stripes quilt inspired by a Civil War pattern.

The guild is a patchwork of people, interests, abilities, styles and techniques. The common thread is a love of quilting.

"Actually, we're addicted to quilts," said Jackie Reed, 37. The Bel Air resident is the guild newsletter editor. The Flying Geese Quilt Guild was started in Harford in the late 1980s by a handful of quilters who met in homes. They selected as their name a traditional quilting pattern that depicts the outline of geese flying overhead.

The guild grew rapidly and now has nearly 90 members, mostly from Harford but a few from Baltimore County and Pennsylvania.

"Most of the original members are still with us," said Cova Rexroad, membership chairwoman. "Our goals are to further education and appreciation of handmade quilts. It's kind of an art."

The group meets twice a week at area churches. There are workshops and demonstrations by local and national quilters, as well as a quilt show every two years to display their work.

The full membership gathers for one meeting each month. Smaller groups meet at the bees and special interest groups form to learn basic quilting or to work on round-robin projects. Some members pitch in to make quilts that are raffled or auctioned to raise funds for the organization. Members also go on quilting retreats and take field trips to quilt shows and shopping trips for quilting supplies.

"We love to shop," Mrs. Salvatierra said. "We know where all the quilt shops are within a 100-mile radius."

The guild is something of a support group for quilters, a place to learn even for novices. Belva Whittington, 69, of Abingdon started coming to the bees because she was having difficulty with a quilt.

"It's nice because if someone has a problem somebody can usually figure it out for them," she said.

Paula Zaborowski, 48, recently finished her first quilt.

"I had so much help and I got nothing but support," Mrs. Zaborowski of Bel Air said.

Sometimes members work together at a bee to help someone baste a quilt, but usually they bring a "portable project" that is easy to transport on any outing.

"When you're in a doctor's waiting room, when you're flying or sitting in an airport, it gives you something to do," said Lynn Phillips, 44, of Abingdon.

Quilting is a hobby for most members but there are a few who earn money through commissioned work. Depending on size, complexity and the amount of work required, quilts can sell for hundreds to thousands of dollars. But a simple wall-hanging might sell for $25.

Most members, however, don't like to part with their quilts and make them for themselves or relatives.

"Quilts are very much a part of us," said 40-year-old Cheryl Travis of Bel Air, vice president of the group.

"When you put so much effort into something it's almost like giving birth," she said. "To sell it would be like giving away one of your children."

Every February, guild members participate in community service projects. They have made baby quilts for hospital patients and sewed quilts for stuffed animals given to terminally ill children. This year, they hope to fill quilted bags with cosmetics for women in need.

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