When Carolyn Smith was a child, her mother would gather outgrown clothes, flour and seed sacks and spend the fall quilting to be ready for the winter weather.
Most families back then relied on small wood-burning heaters to stay warm, said 67-year-old Smith. The family needed quilts.
Now, in a time when quilts are regularly stocked at stores and central heating is the norm, Smith quilts for fun.
“All of my quilts go to my family,” she said. Her grandchildren have had a handmade quilt from her for every bed they’ve had since 2000, when she started quilting.
Some of them were on display at the Pins and Needles Quilting Club’s show at Riley Hill Baptist Church last weekend. The group of about 12 has members from Riley Hill Baptist as well as other nearby churches.
Founder Sharon Barrow said the club helps bring back an old tradition.
“We picked it up because now it’s an art, not so much a neccesity,” she said. The group quilted together for a long time, but the club became official in 2004.
Pins and Needles member Ann Thomas said pursuing quilting as an art instead of a neccesity doesn’t change much– except the price and quality of material.
“It’s more expensive (now),” Thomas said. “You can afford to buy pretty fabric, you’re not just using old clothes you have around the house.”
Thomas said the time and price of materials for her quilts vary. Her first quilt, which was started at the prompting of her sister, ended up as a queen size quilt.
“No one told me when to stop,” she said. Most of Thomas’ fellow quilters shy away from making a quilt that big, preferring to make quilts that are about the size of a double bed.
Barrow spends about a month on one quilt. She has to pick a pattern, find fabric and then begin working. The club also asks members to complete certain patterns, but individuals can pick fabrics to make them unique.
Each year, the club also picks a color and members make a quilt using that color. This year the color was purple and Barrow said it looks like 2015 will be the year of orange quilts.
Barrow said she started quilting because it was something all the women in her family did. As a member of Riley Hill Baptist just outside of Wendell, she began a ministry project where she made get-well packages for sick church members. Each kit included one quilt.
Barrow said most of the club members don’t sell their quilts because the price would be too high after factoring in the cost of materials and labor.
“It’s more gratifying (to give them away),” she said. Occasionally, members like Thomas will make quilts on commission, but she said a recent quilt made for a crib was over $100.
Removing the potential for income makes the club a more peaceful environment, Barrow said. Quilters are free to focus on their skill and craft, not the number of quilts they’re able to produce.
“There’s no competition, they just pat each other on the back if they do a fancy stitch,” she said.