Quilter brings patchwork of experience to her career


January 09, 2001|By Betsy Diehl | Betsy Diehl,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THIS IS the time of year to get warm and cozy - bundle up in heavy woolen sweaters, pull a fuzzy hat over the ears or add an extra blanket to the bed.

For Linda Schiffer, warm and cozy is not just a cold-weather pursuit. It is her full-time career. The Owen Brown resident is a professional quilter. Schiffer, 48, began stitching quilts as a child in Appalachia.

"I learned to quilt as a tiny tot," the east Kentucky native recalls. When she was 5 or 6 years old, she would perch on a metal stepstool and sew beside the wood stove while her grandmother cooked, she said. Her father's mother was a lifelong quilter and passed the craft to her eldest grandchild.

Schiffer has shared her passion through teaching, writing books and running a quilt shop. However, she did not make a beeline from the stepstool to being an artisan. She was going in quite a different direction in 1973, when she earned a degree in biochemistry from the Madison campus of the University of Wisconsin, and a master's degree, five years later, in plant genetics from the same school.

In 1978, Schiffer expected to begin her career as a plant geneticist in Maryland, but a hiring freeze at the U.S. Department of Agriculture thwarted her hope of finding a job. She tucked away her scientific aspirations and started a family with her husband, Skip.

When Schiffer resumed quilting in the 1980s, it was with a technological twist. She used her computer to design quilting patterns and network with other quilters.

"I've been online since 1985," she said, adding that the Internet is ideal for swapping ideas, seeking advice and sharing patterns with other enthusiasts. "There are a lot of women quilters on line," she said.

Nearly two years ago, Schiffer's career developed a new wrinkle: She became co-owner of the Seminole Sampler, which, she says, is the largest quilt shop in Maryland.

"I never had any ambition to be a retailer," she said. But when she heard that the Catonsville shop was for sale, she and fellow online quilter Kathy Semone jumped at the chance to buy the store. Schiffer continues to instruct, write and swap ideas online, but she has not lost sight of the traditional aspect of quilting. She meets regularly with a group called "Faithful Circle Quilters" to sew and socialize.

"Even if I couldn't sew, I could just sit there and laugh," she said.

Samples of Schiffer's work are on display in the lobby of the east Columbia library this month.

Schiffer will speak at the library from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 17. She will discuss quilting and its history and offer advice on finding quilt appraisers and restorers.

Information and registration: 410-313-7700.

Lively arts

If you have preschoolers with a penchant for music, dancing and interactive entertainment, bring them along to the Lively Arts for Little Ones performance by award-winning children's music artist Sue Trainor.

Trainor, of Owen Brown, was recently nominated by the Washington Area Music Association for a Wammie Award as best female children's vocalist, an honor she has twice won.

Her compact disc for children, "Under Tables, Out Back Doors," has won numerous awards, including a platinum seal from the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio and a Parents' Choice "Recommended" award.

Trainor tours nationally as a member of the vocal trio Hot Soup. You can catch her concert Friday at The Other Barn in Oakland Mills Village Center. Performances are at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tickets are $4.

Information: 410-730-4610.

Teen modeling

The Columbia Association Teen Center is offering a six-week modeling workshop for girls ages 13 to 17 at The Barn in the Oakland Mills Village Center.

The two-hour sessions, taught by former professional models Tracy Gargon and Vicky Tamburo, begin at 6 p.m. tomorrow and culminate in a professional fashion show at The Mall in Columbia. The cost is $250 for Columbia residents; $300 for others.

Information: 410-992-3726.

Parting words

For schoolchildren, waking up to a "snow day" means snuggling in bed, drinking cocoa, sledding all day - and of course, no school.

But not for John Birus, principal of Stevens Forest Elementary School. While students are sleeping in, he said, "I'm usually awakened at 5 a.m. to start calling the others on the telephone tree." After informing staff members that school is canceled, he bundles up to go to school.

"It takes a lot of snow to close the central office," Birus said, which means that he is expected to report to work as usual.

What's it like to be snowbound in school without any students?

"It's very quiet," Birus said, chuckling. "It's a lovely day. You get a lot of work done."

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