Quilters find their niche with a charitable stitch


March 28, 2002|By Joni Guhne | Joni Guhne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHEN LOOKING for ways to serve their community, many talented area residents let their fingers do the work.

Quilt guilds in Annapolis, Glen Burnie and Catonsville, with memberships in the hundreds; the guilds' smaller "quilting bees" that meet in homes, libraries and churches; and other groups all perpetuate the art of sewing small, uniform stitches through three layers of material to create beautiful designs on fabric.

Following the pattern of their colonial ancestors, today's quilters gather as often as once a week to quilt. But, unlike the 18th century seamstresses, for whom producing family linens was a necessity, modern quilters often donate their quilts to hospitals, churches and others in need.

Every Friday morning at Arnold Senior Center, a group of friends makes baby quilts and rag "learning dolls." Their handiwork is given to University of Maryland Medical Center's department of pediatric immunology in Baltimore and Food Link, a countywide food rescue program in Annapolis, which provides baby food and products for families in crisis.

Many of the brightly colored quilts will be used to comfort babies and tots suffering from HIV and other diseases at the hospital.

A label attached to each quilt expresses how the seamstresses feel: "Made with tender loving care by Arnold Seniors."

The women describe their endeavor as teamwork. One or two stuff and stitch little faceless learning dolls in skin-tone colors. Doctors draw on the dolls to help their young patients understand a coming medical procedure.

To produce the quilts, one Arnold seamstress handles the scissors, cutting rectangles of fabric for the top, batting for the middle and coordinating fabric for the bottom. Another pins the three layers together, and another machine stitches ribbon binding around the edges.

To speed production, rather than using a quilting stitch, the layers are tied together every few inches with knots of yarn. The yarn is triple tied so that tiny fingers can't undo the knots, the women explain. The binding is folded over the lining and finished with a hand-stitched hem.

Members of Woods Quilters at Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church make quilts the old-fashioned way, combining dozens of pieces of fabric to produce a design and covering the fabric with fine quilting stitches.

"We will start a quilt and then find the need," said Alice Tignor, a member of the Annapolis Quilt Guild who started the group at Woods about five years ago. "Our quilts are made with a lot of emotion."

When the group began a quilt for a young woman with cancer, they were afraid they wouldn't get it to her in time. But they did.

"Our first quilt was for a young boy who had leukemia," Tignor said. "He carried that quilt through all his treatments. He wrote little notes to us telling us how much the quilt meant to him.

"When he died last summer, the quilt was on him."

The group is making a pair of baby quilts for conjoined twins who were brought with their family from Uganda by Woods Church to Maryland for surgery at UM Medical Center.

"After the surgery, they'll need two quilts," Tignor said.

It seems that the quilters have as much fun naming their bees as they do quilting. The bee that meets at the Severna Park Library is called The Material Girls. This bee is open to everyone. It meets next from 9 a.m. to noon April 15.

The Annapolis Quilt Guild sponsors philanthropic projects such as donating quilts to the county social services department, making mastectomy pillows for breast cancer patients and dressing teddy bears for the Salvation Army's annual Christmas project.

The Annapolis Guild will hold its annual quilt show from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 1 and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., June 2 at Annapolis High School.

Information: Annapolis Quilt Guild, 410-647-1720 or www.geocities.com/annapolis quiltguild; Arnold Senior Center, 410-222-1922; Food Link, 410-222-7853.

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