ON THE SECOND Thursday of each month, some 35 talented smockers of the Chesapeake Treasures club meet at Crofton Middle School to share their love of fine sewing. Sometimes, visiting instructors will teach new techniques. At other times, they enjoy sharing their own experiences, problems and hints.
As charter member and Vice President Barbara Meger says, "We have an awful good time."
They're also helping others, through one of the group's most important activities - a service project called Wee Care.
The project was started several years ago by a smocking club in Oregon. One of its members was a registered nurse who was touched by the pain of mothers who had lost infants in childbirth or as newborns. Working with the other members, she began a program to sew beautiful little smocked dresses for these babies.
Each month, members would sew the tiny dresses and give them to the hospital, where they could be used as bereavement gowns for the babies. The club members never met the mothers. But the response from the hospital nurses and letters from grateful mothers convinced them that this was a truly helpful way to use their talent.
The idea spread to other smocking clubs and was adopted by the Smocking Arts Guild of America as its national service project. Several members of Chesapeake Treasures have helped with Wee Care in clubs around the country.
The local group was formed in 1989. Meger reports that more than 250 gowns have been created over the past two years for the neonatal program at Anne Arundel Medical Center's Clatanoff Pavilion.
The gowns follow a basic cloth pattern, but the smocking, embroidery and creative touches on each gown are unique. The gowns might be adorned with hearts, or flowers, or little animals. Each reflects the caring spirit of the woman who created the dress.
This project focuses on a very sad time. But Meger notes that there is great satisfaction in knowing that you are, in some small way, helping to ease someone's pain.
She met recently with a member of the hospital auxiliary who told the story of a young mother who had received a Wee Care gown.
The mother had had a difficult pregnancy and knew she would be going into labor early. She had gone shopping for the baby but couldn't find anything small enough. Being unprepared worried her. Then, when her baby died, a nurse brought her the infant dressed in a beautiful little gown. In the middle of her pain, she was comforted and grateful that someone had cared enough to make something special for her baby.
Karen Peddicord, clinical administrator of women's and children's services at the Clatanoff Pavilion, wrote to the members of Chesapeake Treasures: "Your feelings are so evident in the preciseness of your beautiful work. ... These items make such a difference to the parents as they struggle through difficult times."
The next Chesapeake Treasures meeting will be Thursday at Crofton Middle School, beginning at 7 p.m. For more information, call Meger at 301-261-0636.
The county Department of Recreation and Parks offers some interesting classes in the West County area beginning next week.
Next Tuesday, a class called "Sew On and So Forth" will begin, teaching machine sewing. Students will learn the anatomy of a sewing machine, how to thread the machine and wind the bobbin, and how to make a home decoration.
The course is open to anyone 8 or older. The fee of $65 covers four classes, each offered at a choice of times and dates - at 2:40 p.m., 4:15 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays or Fridays at Crofton Meadows Elementary School.
"Child's Etiquette 101" will teach basic table manners, greetings and introductions, respect, how to take a phone message and other elements of courtesy.
The fee of $25 covers four 45-minute sessions on Tuesdays at Crofton Elementary School. The session for children ages 4-6 will start at 4:15 p.m. and for children ages 7-10 at 5:15 p.m.
For the musically inclined with a bent toward Scottish sounds, "Highland Bagpiping" classes will be given on Thursdays for eight weeks at Meade Middle School.
Level 1, for beginners, will meet from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Level 2 from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. The registration fee is $50. Practice chanters and music books can be purchased from the instructor at the first class.
For information on the classes or to register, call Bob Brandenburger at 410-222-7313 or visit the Recreation and Parks Web site at http://web.aacpl.net/rp.
Returning to the church
A "Re-Membering Program" for people considering a return to active participation in the Roman Catholic Church is being offered at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton's parish hall, beginning tomorrow from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.