In an atmosphere of creativity, the energy was infectious in the main hall, also the sanctuary, of Manhattan’s Church of Holy Apostles.
While the judging for the Empire Quilters bi-annual group show taking place March 28 and 29 at FIT was going on in a side room, clusters of women positioned themselves around circular tables amiably chatting, yet completely focused.
Some worked in pairs, some individually, and at one table all worked on the same quilt. It was Charity Quilt Day, one of its most popular sessions of the Manhattan-based guild and they were completing quilts to be given away.
“This is a group of enormously of creative people,” the guild’s president Peggy McGeary beamed.
Queens-resident grandmother Marion Weber, 86 and granddaughter Deimosa Webber-Bey, 37, a librarian at Scholastic Magazine sat together.
“I learn from her,” said Webber-Bey, whose grandmother comes from generations of quilters and belongs to four metro area guilds. She’s passing the art on to next generations. “All the grandchildren quilt, including four boys,” she said. “She teaches me how to do stuff that you can’t find in a classroom.”
Their quilts along with all the others completed that afternoon were going to homeless shelters, hospitals, veterans’ homes and other organizations–over 15 agencies. “Service along with education is part of our mission,” said Empire Quilters’ president.
Sixteen-year quilting vet Cathy Anderson walks around showcasing finished quilts like the three-foot square pastel flannel one for a new born and later a bright-colored twin-size one.
By day’s end, almost 50 were completed and more went to members’ homes to be completed.
At another table, Yvonne Morris from Harlem who has been quilting for a mere three years, admitted to “being a learner” of the tying technique as she welcomed guidance from Caroline Djokoto with more than 20 years of quilting experience.
Morris is a retired science teacher and finds quilting a relaxing, creative outlet. The challenge: both the design and particularly, “finishing the quilt.”
With a niche for all skill levels, rank beginners to Empire Quilters are welcomed. “We have ‘chat and coach sessions’ that take you through the process from start to completion,” said Beth Pile, co-chair of the service committee.
Of the experienced members, the guild president added, “Some specialize in one technique like appliqué or hand-quilting. We’re all fabric experts; it’s a tactile art you get hooked into.”
Long-time quilter Jacqueline Johns finds quilting a way of making community and experiencing “private peace.”
“I love making charity quilts and art quilts. This is one of our best meetings,” said the Bed-Stuy resident.
“One evening a month we make tops for the charity quilts at City Quilter (the quilting supply store at 133 W. 25th St in NYC),” explained service co-chair Beth Pile. “Last year, we also gave 80 quilts to a cancer camp.”
Pile explained that during the Christmas holidays the guild gave to agencies hundreds of other items including filled quilted stockings and quilted teddy bears.
Around the edge of the Holy Apostles hall guild members with sewing machines that they brought from home, some very specialized, worked on edging and other finishing processes. Two men, also members, were among the finishers.
The more than 250 members of Empire Quilters who live in the tri-state area, meet the second Saturday of every month (except July and August) at this Chelsea location.