Charity is the stitch that binds

Published 1:04 am Thursday, October 27, 2011

A parade of colorful quilts, handmade by the Pamlico River Quilters’ Guild, were donated to charitable organizations at the guild’s annual charity quilt luncheon on Wednesday. (WDN Photo/Vail Stewart Rumley)

The craft has been around for hundreds of years. What began as necessity — a frugal use of the materials on hand, pieced together to shield against a cold winter’s night — has evolved into an art form. It’s a tradition often passed down from one generation to the next, and one that binds the members of the Pamlico River Quilters’ Guild together as surely as the stitches on a postage stamp quilt.
The members of the guild united Wednesday at the Grace Martin Harwell Senior Center for their annual charity quilt luncheon and a parade of nearly 200 handmade quilts donated to charitable organizations across the community.
Representatives from Mental Health Association of Beaufort County, Marion L. Shepard Cancer Center, Carolina Pregnancy Center, Ronald McDonald House of Eastern North Carolina, River Trace nursing home, Ridgewood Manor nursing home, Willow Manor Rest Home in Chocowinity, Pitt County Neonatal Unit and Chapel Hill Neonatal Intensive Care Unit “ooh-ed” and “ah-ed” over the colorful array of fabric and patterns.
“First, we just want to say thank you,” said Geneva Morgan, with the Mental Health Association of Beaufort County, as she stood before the assembled crowd. “We’ve just had so much fun giving these quilts away over the years.”
She went on to say the quilts had been in such demand people often called to see if there were more to be had.
The donated works are tailor-made for the individual needs of the recipient organizations. To the neonatal units, a stash of tiny quilts are given; to the Ronald McDonald House, go the cheerful ones, splashed with cartoon characters, animals and lots of color. The nursing homes receive quilts for laps and twin beds, and bags that attach to walkers with Velcro, where seniors can stow their belongings when they’re on the move.
The pieces might be roughly the same size and shape, but the style of each donated work is as individual as its creator. Most of the guild members use their own supplies, though many people donate fabric for the cause.
“When a quilter makes a quilt, they always have something or someone in mind as they choose the materials they will use,” said Judy Cole, co-chairwoman of the guild’s charity quilt committee. “I think we all really treasure these quilts and try to match the quilts up with the person in need.”
Cole has been quilting on and off for about 25 years, but it was only after she retired to Cypress Landing and found a welcoming social circle in the Pamlico River Quilters’ Guild that she dedicated more time to the art of her forebears.
“During the (Great) Depression, my aunts and grandmother used feed sacks, whatever they had, to make quilts,” said Cole. “As a girl, I slept under old, old quilts my grandmother had made.”
The material may be newer and the colors brighter, but the quilters of the guild often use the same patterns their ancestors used. Each square of fabric chosen and every careful stitch made to piece them together contribute to a work of art that is one part tradition and the rest its creator’s personality.
Though the quilters remain anonymous to the eventual recipients of their gifts, the hours and effort that went into each piece will be appreciated each time its new owner wraps up … in the warmth and support of the Pamlico River Quilters’ Guild.