'Art, not just craft' in quilters donation to Project Linus

A black beak attached to a slender pink neck pokes out around the corner of a carefully folded quilt. Underneath, long fuchsia legs are tip-toeing around cattails in a deep green pond.

The images are part of quilts stacked on a table at the Florence Bain Senior Center, in Columbia, earlier this week. And the quilts were among the dozens being donated to Project Linus, a national charity that provides security blankets (like the one used by Charles Schulz's character Linus in the Peanuts comic strip) to traumatized or seriously ill children or veterans.

Faithful Circle, a quilting guild in Columbia, this week donated 55 hand-made, flamingo-themed quilts to the Project Linus charity as a part of their ongoing philanthropy work through quilts and craft.

The guild began the so-called "flamingo challenge" in September 2011, when guild member Leah Hurwitz gave the group some 450 yards of flamingo-printed fabric.

Stephanie Sanidas, a member of the guild, cut the fabric into squares and assembled bags for members to take home and quilt. Fifty members accepted the challenge.

For guild President Jane Cook, the result was delightfully unexpected.

"We were surprised that they would come out so beautifully," Cook said, as she folded and organized quilts by size for the donation earlier this week.

The quilters had the additional challenge of making the shocking pink flamingo fabric appealing to boys as well as girls. One quilter stitched a flamingo playing football on her quilt. Another made a cactus-filled desert scene for hers, with a humorous warning that although flamingos look nice in the desert, they are not meant to live there.

Among the groups accepting the quilts through the Howard County chapter of Project Linus include the Baltimore Child Abuse Center, The Children's Home in Catonsville, and Saint Agnes' Hospital in Baltimore, said Arlene Kutz of Project Linus.

Each Project Linus quilt has the name of the quilter attached, so the recipient, whether a toddler, cancer patient or wounded warrior, knows the quilt was made just for them.

Sanidas, Scott and the guild's quilters see their involvement with Project Linus as a unique and personal way to give back to the community.

But they also view it an opportunity to practice new techniques, and to experiment and grow as quilters.

"Quilters are a very giving group," Scott said. "This is art, not just craft."

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