Downs Park quilters accomplish a stitch or two in time Some quick sewing beats July 4 deadline


The women of the Downs Park Quilters Guild said it couldn't be done. No way they could whip together a complicated floral design quilt with all kinds of applique work in time for the annual Fourth of July celebration.

But here it is early June, and the quilt, the fifth one the guild has made in as many years, is almost finished.

"We'll have it done with two weeks to go," promised Joyce McAvoy, co-chairwoman of this year's project. "I hope."

She recalled working frantically the week before July 4 in previous years. The group's quilts are raffled to raise money for playground equipment or computer software for the park.

"This year, we put a deadline on people," explained Jackie Demerest, the co-chairwoman. "I told people they had to have it back by a certain time. And wouldn't you know it, everybody's was done on time but mine."

The quilters, mostly Pasadena women, began planning this year's project last summer, said Agnes Lindemon, guild president. "They decided they wanted to do floral patterns," she recalled.

McAvoy and Demerest picked the patterns, assigned each member a square and set their deadlines. They brought in quilting experts to teach members to applique, or attach a small piece of fabric to another. And they set to work, meeting at the park on Friday mornings or taking their individual pieces home.

The squares include a colorful floral basket, a red bird in a cage,tulips tied with a pink ribbon, and a bouquet of blood-red roses. When they were finished, McAvoy, Demerest and Lindemon stitched them together with green borders, then sewed on the larger border and backing.

"Now, all we have to do is hand-whip this, pull this over here like that, and stitch it," Lindemon explained, pushing pieces of material around to demonstrate.

"It looks like it's thousands of hours away, but it really isn't. It's almost finished," Demerest said, noticing the puzzled look on a visitor's face.

The quilters started about five years ago, using the space in the park office building. Their first effort, with squares that depict the Chesapeake Bay Skipjacks, sea gulls and the Seven Foot Knoll lighthouse, hangs in the office lobby.

Over the years, they've chartered buses for trips to the Pennsylvania Dutch Country to look for material and patterns, and they made smaller quilts to donate to nursing homes and hospitals.

Their Friday morning meetings are filled with women young enough to have toddlers and old enough to have grown-up grandchildren.

"And we all get along real well," Lindemon said. "We have a good time.

"Yeah, we call them those rowdy quilters," said a park guard.

While the first large quilt remained at the park, the others were raffled, raising more than $4,000 for park projects.

"But we couldn't give them the cash because it would go to the general park fund," McAvoy explained. "This is our park, and we wanted to be sure they got what they needed. So they gave us a wish list and we bought some things."

This spring, she said, the quilters have been pushing raffle tickets at the park's Sunday evening concert series and hope to set up tables outside grocery stores.

"Sure, we think we'll make at least $5,000 this year," Lindemon said, smiling only slightly. "Well, you have to think big."

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