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Built for comfort, speedily
Built for comfort, speedilySeptember 21, 2005Roxanna Carpenterrocarpen@syr.edu
This is not your grandmother’s sewing bee. Today’s is a different culture, with different tools. People keep wildly different schedules from those of their grandparents. But they still gather to quilt, sharing common goals with each other and with earlier times: comfort, community and service.
The Hendricks Chapel Quiltmakers at Syracuse University gathered in the Noble Room on Sept. 19, for their first meeting of the academic year. This was a get-acquainted meeting with a special effort: A batch of 18 finished quilts intended for an important destination-Houston-for distribution by the American Red Cross as part of the relief effort for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The quilts will become part of the Quilters Comfort America project, which is facilitated by the International Quilt Festival in Houston and Chicago. Labels inscribed with the Hendricks Chapel Quiltmakers’ mark and date have been sewn on to each of their quilts.
One of the “Crossing Boundaries” initiatives of Hendricks Chapel’s Students Offering Service (SOS), the Quiltmakers guild meets weekly to create quilts for critically and terminally ill children at Mother Hale House in New York City and for the Ronald McDonald House in Central New York. The guild includes students, faculty, staff and friends of the University community, and their quilts often grace the walls of the chapel.
Small in number but ambitious, the group is anchored by two long-time members: Jeanne Riley, administrative assistant for the dean of the School of Architecture; and Candace Crider, a community member with nearly 30 years of quilting experience. Francis Parks, director of SOS and of African American Programs at Hendricks Chapel, joins the quilters frequently.
Riley explains that this first meeting, dedicated to packaging and shipping the quilts south to hurricane victims, was a little different from the usual Monday night meetings where five sewing machines are all busy with basic quilt construction. The quilts themselves are crib-sized. Each carries a heart, sewn in by a member of the group, sometimes worked into the larger pattern and sometimes tucked in subtly. According to Riley, the heart tradition was established as a collective signature early in the Hendricks Quiltmakers’ history as a guild, which began in 1993.
Crider joined the guild in its second year, along with Riley. For Crider, the pleasure of working with fabrics is a driving principle. She takes the innovations of the Internet in stride, enjoying the quilt designing software but preferring to focus her attention on the needle and thread rather than the computer screen. But it was through the Internet that she discovered the Quilters Comfort America project.
Another quilter, Judy Klein, a community member, works as a receptionist in a local hair salon. She started attending the Monday meetings about five years ago with Amelia Nigro, who works at Henninger High School.
Student Rachel Shaich is something of an honorary member. A senior photo illustration major in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Shaich hails from Portland, Ore. She worked with the group for a full semester last spring, putting together a photo story project for one of her classes. At the end of the year, the group had several finished quilts but none had yet been shipped. Shaich was back with the group on Sept. 19 to find closure, and to take a few more photographs of this Katrina relief effort. Shaich, who doesn’t quilt but says “My mom does!”, explains that her mother is happy to see her get closer to quiltmaking, even through the lens of a camera.
George Athanas, who joined SU last fall as associate director of Student Centers and Programming Services, says he “always wanted to learn how to quilt” and likes the idea of combining community service with building a skill. His first quilt, the result of two semesters’ effort, is included in the packages going to Houston. He considers this engagement with the University community “a great decision.”
For more information on the Quiltmakers and Students Offering Service, call Hendricks Chapel at(315) 443-2901 or visit http://hendricks.syr.edu.