Stitching Tradition

Stitching Tradition

The Mountain Laurel Quilt Guild

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Take a room full of women diverse in age, opinion and artistic taste, bind them together with the love of quilting and you will find a community that fits together like a ready-made pattern.

The Mountain Laurel Quilt Guild provides a sense of community for the women who meet each month in the Western Watauga Community Center. Member Jo Seagle said of the group, "Here you share ideas, you interact. Living in the mountains you are so far away from other people. This brings people together. You share heartache as well as happiness."

Each meeting provides a forum for members to showcase their quilts, as well as a guest instructor to introduce new ideas and projects. Barlow said, "Each week, people will bring in garbage bags and out of them they'll pull out the most beautiful quilts I've ever seen."

Verlene Rork was a charter member of the Mountain Laurel Quilt Guild in 1984, but at 83 years of age she has been quilting for more than 60 years. Born and raised in Watauga County, Rork knows the value of a homemade quilt in the dead of an Appalachian winter. She said, "I was from a family of 14. I used to quilt for my mama. She would chalk off a section and I would quilt in the fan. Back then, people used anything they could for material, feed sacks, old clothes."

Jane Howell of the Mountain Laurel Quilt Guild holding one of her creations. Now, appliqué techniques and new patterned fabrics have turned quilting from an art of scrapes saved to a multi-dimensional modern art form. Members of the guild are currently working on pieces that incorporate diverse materials such as tool, silk flowers and ornamental beadwork.

Quilts, as with any art form, are subject to individual tastes. Rork recalls one quilt a past instructor didn't care for. The quilt was later featured in a National Geographic story about Watauga County. Rork said, "They wanted to show what people could do up here. After that quilt was in the National Geographic that teacher sure did like it."

Many members of the guild display their work at various craft shows around the area, but others like Terri Williams, choose to keep their quilts close to home. A summer resident of Watauga county, Williams escapes the heat of Florida each summer to join the guild in creating a different kind of warmth. Williams started quilting as therapy after an automobile accident almost took her life. She said, "After my accident I was lying in bed for a long time. I decided I wanted to leave my children something to keep them warm so I started quilting. I never want the quilts to be judged. I just want to have them be gifts from my heart."

imageIndividually, members of the guild labor over quilts for their children, grandchildren and beloved friends. Collectively, they labor out of love for the community. Last year alone the guild donated 58 quilts to area organizations including Oasis Women's Shelter, Hospitality House and Extended Care facilities. Next week, the guild will be donating one of its masterpieces to the Watauga County Medical Center's Cancer Facility. The quilt, crafted from material to proceed the fight against breast cancer, is a decorative piece. The guild also concentrates on lap quilts sized for use in wheelchairs and other utilitarian works of art.

Organizer Anita Woodard said, "We donate quilts to nursing homes and any place we can find that needs them. There's a lot more creativity and love going into those quilts than a blanket made in China or Taiwan."

Residents of Watauga County and the surrounding areas are welcome to join the Mountain Laurel Quilt Guild. For more information, please contact Anita Woodard at (828) 264-4834. Residents of Avery County who may be interested in joining the Riverwalk Quilt Guild based in Newland should contact Rebecca Trivitte at (828)733-9430.

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