Nov 11, 2011
TEXT AND PHOTOS BY SUSAN VARGHESE
Every Tuesday, over a dozen women from across Nassau County can be found steadily quilting under their machines, surrounded by decorative fabric, designs and pins. They share anecdotes and learn techniques from each other, but most importantly, they’re determined to give back.
The women are currently working on Quilts of Valor, a national foundation whose mission is to make quilts for all combat service members and war veterans. The foundation alone has awarded over 50,000 quilts to veterans.
Although, they haven’t been able to make that many for veterans, the women of the quilting group seem happy just to help.
“The Quilts of Valor is an awesome project. It’s a way to use a hobby to serve others. I guess you almost feel like Betsy Ross!” Francine Sicklick of Lawrence said, laughing. The 10-year-quilter added, “If there’s a way to show these guys our appreciation, how could we not do it?”
They’ve made over 12 quilts for veterans so far, since they started the project earlier this year. The group used to meet in Hempstead and in Merrick briefly, but have now been meeting in a vacant space at the Department of Conservation and Waterways building in Point Lookout.
Mush Masters, a Point Lookout resident, is the longarm expert of the group, and found out about the Quilts of Valor during a trip. “I was up in Ithaca and I was in a quilt shop and they had been doing this, so I went online and found out about it,” Masters said. “ This one’s fancy,” she said as the pointed to intricate decorations on a completed quilt. “My longarm machine does this fancy stuff. I said to the girls, ‘let’s make the quilt of valor and anybody who has it done, I will quilt it.’ I have the very big machine at home that puts it together; they then put the binding and details themselves. It’s a combined effort.”
They were looking for a place to hold the group for months, and Masters said that after getting in contact with Town of Hempstead Supervisor, Kate Murray, they were given the space at the Department of Conservation and Waterways. “ We were lucky enough to be able to come here because of the Supervisor,” Masters said.
Randi Blinder, a Lawrence resident who’s lived in The Five Towns since 1975, explained the mechanics of machine quilting, especially in making the Quilts of Valor. “We only do the top part of the quilt, and one of the group members, Mush Masters, she does the long arm machine quilting to quilt it. Each person might make his or her own top of the quilt, but then Mush puts it together for us. She has this quilting machine. When she gives it back to us, we finish it by hand.” Normally, the quilters do the piecing of materials, designs, and base, and then send it out to places who specialize in putting the quilt together.
Quilting for nine years, Blinder noted the creativity and friendship to be some of her favorite parts. “My favorite thing is the creative process. The second thing is camaraderie…We’re not with our husbands or families. We’re just together having a time learning new things. Its always good to learn new things, it keeps you feeling young.”
Linda Schneider, of Woodmere, a 15-year quilter, added, “The camaraderie is wonderful. I love being with people, but I also like working alone. It’s the best of both worlds. I think it’s fabulous.”
Every time a quilt is made, one of the most important parts is the label. After they finish making the quilt, they put the name of the person they’re giving to, a little message, sign their name, and the place and date. “This way it’s a legacy for the future,” Blinder explained.
Making a quilt can take anywhere from 40 hours to a few months, depending on the size and intricacy of the project, the group explained.
The time doesn’t affect them, though, and for some, it’s not enough.
“Sometimes I’ll quilt until 3:00 a.m….” Blinder said. “My husband will come in the room and tell me its time to go to sleep. And I always say I’ll be in five minutes I just have to finish this thing!”
The queen of little pieces is what Blinder calls fellow group member, Nancy Sporn of Lawrence. “Her quilts have these tiny little pieces…only she has the patience to do it,” Blinder said. Sporn has been sewing since she was four-years-old, and added, “I like the mechanics of making something look complicated…. It’s never made the way you think.”
Shoshana Schechter has been quilting for over 20 years, and helped teach Blinder how to quilt. Her favorite part is making gifts for others. “I like baby quilts. I like to give them out as presents, so that they have something from me. The idea that they will be carrying it when I’m no longer here…I want a legacy.”
The group is currently filled to capacity, but to learn more about the Quilts of Valor, log on to qovf.org.
Filed Under: First Person
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