In earlier times, quilt making was a communal activity -- and it remains so today at Carolina Meadows.
Eight women in the Quilt and Needle Group meet weekly to create quilts of all sizes and shapes, most of which they end up donating to worthwhile community causes. They completed 14 quilts last year. The smaller ones went to the Siler City Day Care Center, Linus Babies and UNC Hospitals. Wall hangings and large quilts went to the Chatham County Council on Aging to be auctioned off or raffled.
Their latest creation, a "He loves me, he loves me not," daisy quilt, was recently donated to the Pittsboro Memorial Library, where it was raffled off to raise funds for the new library being built at Central Carolina Community College.
"Andrea Batsche was the lucky winner," said Reece Jones, president of Friends of the Library. "She plans to display it in her office at the Family Violence and Rape Crisis Center."
So the quilt has ended up enhancing two community agencies.
Quilting is the ultimate in recycling. Fabric remnants. Discarded drapes. Neckties. T-shirts. Stamped medallions. Appliques. Buttons. Embroidery thread. You never know what might end up in a piece of fabric art.
"We work with what we have," said co-chair Bobbie Hahn. "That's where the creativity comes in."
Hahn started quilting in 1986 with the Chapel Hill Quilting Guild.
"I was making smocked children's clothing and just couldn't bring myself to throw away the leftover fabric," she said.
Since then she has made more than 50 quilts -- for her children and grandchildren, for wedding and baby gifts. She has also worked on an AIDS quilt with the National Quilting Guild.
The seven other women in the Carolina Meadows group are co-chair Irma Stein, Sue Ellen Biswell, Edith Campany, Peggy Hollingsworth, Sara Johnson, Betty Parker and Marjorie Vaiden.
They meet every Tuesday from 10 to 11 a.m. in the new art room. They love being able to spread out projects on the large white tables and work in the room's good light.
"It's like painting with fabric," Parker said. "I used to paint in oils, but it was so messy. Quilting is a cleaner sport. It's more fun for me."
Johnson is trying to make a pattern out of gingham checks and polka dots.
"Handmade quilts embody meaning," she said.
Hollingsworth said she likes "watching a design emerge from an array of colors and shapes into a real art form."
Edith Company is sewing a border around a center medallion. "Quilting is so old-fashioned," she said. "I like to remember the past."
Vaiden is basting a bed quilt.
"I like picking out the fabrics and creating a pattern, though I'm not much on the stitchery itself," she said.
But that's the beauty of it. Quilts are usually a group effort. Some may help select fabrics and create the design; others may cut out shapes, sew pieces together or add embroidery or applique. Still others may quilt "the sandwich" together -- the decorative top, a batting of wool, cotton or polyester and a bottom sheet -- as Hahn is doing on a quilting frame.
Some quilts stay right here in Carolina Meadows. Two are currently on display in the Club Center art hallway, which exhibits paintings, photographs, and needlework created by residents. Others adorn the health center.
But the "mother of all quilts" hangs in the auditorium.
"Life at Carolina Meadows" was designed by Betty McMahan. It depicts gardening, golfing, croquet, dog-walking, and bird watching, all amid trees, pond and villas.
Twenty women led by Vaiden and Billie Johnston worked for four years on the five-foot masterpiece.
They completed it in 1998, and it won first prize in a statewide contest held in 1999.
The other quilt in the auditorium is special, too. Completed in 1993, it was the quilters' first project and features the meadowlark symbol surrounded by squares representing the states from which each of the resident quilters came.
Yet another group of residents spent last fall making 19 lap robes and pillows out of polar fleece for the families residing in the Ronald McDonald House in Chapel Hill.
Activities director Jodi Biewen led the project, and Vaiden, Eleanor Yale, Mary Shearin and Nan McMillan worked on the project twice a week over three months, stuffing and hand-tying.
"They loved giving back to their community," Biewen said.
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