Group hopes to trace 'Anonymous Quilter' Legacy: An Elkridge quilting circle has completed and raffled for charity a quilt begun by a woman who died. The group hopes to learn the woman's identity to complete the story.

September 23, 1996|By Dolly Merritt | Dolly Merritt,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Elkridge Evening Quilters are trying to piece together the answer to a mystery of sorts -- the identity of the woman they call "An Anonymous Quilter," who began working a quilt but died before it was finished.

The 2-year-old quilting circle wants to let the woman's family know that her project was completed and that it was raffled to raise money for the family of a young leukemia victim.

"We feel like we know something about her just from the fabrics and the partially completed plans she had included," with the fabric, says Connie Yingling, a 35-year-old Elkridge resident and member of the quilting group.

Yingling's aunt Beulah Brown bought the fabric -- but she no longer remembers where.

"A girlfriend and I used to go out to yard sales," says Brown, a 68-year-old Quarryville, Pa., resident. "We have gone to dozens of them in no particular area or whatever direction. I feel so bad about not remembering where we got the fabric, but I believe the location may have been between Westminster and Hanover, Pa."

She remembers items for the sale being strewn on a bank sloping away from a small Cape Cod-style house on a hill. Brown bought a basketful of fabric for $1.

"All I remember is an older gentleman -- probably in his 70s -- sitting under a shade tree," she says. "He told me his wife -- who had been working on a quilt -- had passed away from cancer.

"I didn't know what to say, but I promised him the quilt would be finished."

Sixteen months ago, Brown gave the fabric to her niece, who took it to the Elkridge Evening Quilters meeting. The 15 active members decided to finish the quilt and raffle it to raise money for the family of Christa Borcherding -- an Elkridge toddler who had leukemia.

As each person followed the Dresden plate design the original quilter had chosen, piecing together her choice of pale calico colors, Yingling says members gained some insight about her.

"There was a combination of piece and applique work which would indicate that she had to have both of those skills, and she seemed to be very proficient," Yingling says. "She was a traditional quilter, meaning she used the machine for piecing and then hand-quilted."

The woman used two color combinations (blue and peach, and pink and blue), which indicated to Yingling that she was simultaneously working two quilts.

"She seemed to like good old-fashioned, small prints -- nothing bold, fancy or artsy," she says.

Each quilter in the group spent two weeks working on a block -- putting her own skills into the process -- before passing it on to the next person. While working on projects for charity, the members think about the recipient, Yingling says.

"With this quilt, we were praying that all the medical procedures would work for the little girl," she says. "You hope that your stitches can turn aside some of the bad things."

Yingling says her thoughts also turned to the woman whose fabric was being used to create some good.

After nine months of labor, the quilt was finished in April, but one element was missing. Each finished quilt is documented with a muslin label indicating the date the quilt is completed and the name of the person or people who finished the quilt.

The women wanted to recognize the quilter who started it all, so they dedicated a poem to her and indicated on the label that the quilt was completed "for an anonymous quilter."

The quilt was raffled in June at the Elkridge Days Carnival, raising $1,500 for the Borcherding family a week after Christa's death.

The group would like the widower and his family to know the good that came out of his wife's work.

"We are trying to complete the story," Yingling says. "All of us have an image of what the woman would look like. The fact is, she was a part of the quilt; she was here."

The women are hoping that someone will recognize a connection to a friend, neighbor or relative.

While they wait, the deceased quilter's legacy remains. The group is using some of the leftover fabric to make a wall-hanging for the Borcherding family in memory of Christa.

The work on the hanging and quilt are part of life's circle, Yingling says.

"The wife started it all, and we finished her work.

"Every quilter has an unfinished project, and we hope that if anything ever happened to us, we would have someone to finish our work."

Pub Date: 9/23/96

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