In the Suburbs: Not quitting on quilting

I’m still a quilter... I think.

I had been away from it for so long due to the pandemic that I could barely remember what I was working on when our quilting guild at Lordship Congregational Church finally started meeting again last night. But once I pulled out my roughed-out design and already-cut pieces of a new dog-themed wall hanging, I started to feel at home again. I really want to finish this project as a step toward larger projects.

We actually had taken a second hiatus from our meetings back in early November 2020 when COVID-19 cases were still climbing and the other seniors in our group felt it was too risky to continue. I was just getting my quilting juices going again for this wall hanging and worried that once we were home again, I wouldn’t continue. Sadly, I was right. I really missed the structure and the creativity of the guild and was moving toward getting that back when COVID-19 struck.

So I was thrilled when our organizers, Barbara, Laurie and Nancy, said it was time for our group of seven — with me as the token male — to take our chances, wear our masks and return to the church for our regular meetings. Our first get together was a collection of show-and-tell projects that mostly everyone had worked on over the past five months. It was just nice to catch up together.

My original foray into quilting began sometime before our 40th wedding anniversary nearly 15 years ago. My wife and I were in Manhattan and we met a gentleman from Brooklyn College who happened to be showing his quilts to the staff. I told my wife that if this gentleman could do it, why couldn’t I? She agreed.

From the time I bought my first yards of material and took a class at Joann Fabrics, I was hooked. Similar to my writing, quilting offers an end product — a creation that one can treasure or give to someone else.

As my first quilting summer approached, I had created a couple of wall hangings, a quilt and a serger quilt from classes at Close to Home in Milford, but I wanted to do much more. Sadly, those first two projects, which came from pre-cut fabric, became lost in one of our 50-plus quilting bins and I have yet to find them after two more moves.

But the real turning point for me came in 2006 when my wife discovered a week-long quilting class for beginners in Appleton, Wisconsin, taught by the owner of a B&B, who had renovated rooms in her charming home for quilting classes. The week proved to be an amazing experience. We learned about color, sewed on refurbished Singer sewing machines and really got to know some wonderful people from around the country. It was a great week.

I wrote a column about our experience and was approached by one of the members of the annual quilting exhibition committee in Fairfield, who asked if I’d be interested in helping with the public relations for the annual quilt exhibition.

Just seeing those quilt creations come into Southport Congregational Church every year and working with highly creative women like Cecily Zerega, who orchestrated the exhibition, made me more determined than ever to quilt more. Sadly, the exhibition eventually ended, sometime after its 10th anniversary and I really missed working with all the wonderful committee members.

But I received a call from Judy, one of our committee members in the fall of 2011, mentioning a small quilt exhibition and holiday fair at Lordship Congregational Church in Stratford and asking whether we might donate some quilts. We said we’d be glad to.

When we stopped by the exhibition to see our quilts and others and met Barbara and Laurie, the coordinators of the Lordship quilt guild, we had an instant connection and asked whether their guild was accepting new members. That was nearly 10 years ago and we’ve never been sorry.

With the support of our guild members, who are always filled with ideas, my wife and I have created some really nice larger quilts, including one with kind of a Colonial motif that I gave to our daughter to send to a woman in Chicago who had been so generous to her while she was adopting our grandson Lucas. The woman loved it and that made me feel really special.

My goal, now that our guild is meeting again, is just to finish my dog-themed wall hanging so I can move on to some larger projects again.

Next steps on this “return to my quilting” effort, will be to finish cutting the pieces and seeing if I remember anything at all about how to sew a straight line. I think I can be a quilter again. Now I just have to prove it to myself.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at stevengaynes44@gmail.com.