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Weeklong show lets quilters show off stitchery throughout Sotterley Mansion


With needle and thread they stitch together pieces of fabric, embroider linen and cloth. The result is not only a quilt or a beautifully designed piece of needlework but also a work of art.

Starting Monday and running until Mother's Day next weekend, Sotterley Plantation will display dozens of these handcrafted works throughout the Sotterley Mansion. Quilts will be hanging from walls, laying on dining room tables and draped over bathtubs -- every room will be an exhibit.

The show is run by volunteers, avid quilters and needlework fanciers who wanted to showcase their work in a romantic setting. This is their third annual show, and Mother's Day has become the biggest day of the year for Sotterley.

The Sotterley Plantation is the only working plantation in Maryland. It lies in Hollywood, in St. Mary's County along the Patuxent River. You might see the sheep grazing on the lawn when you visit.

The show attracts visitors and participants representing all skill levels from all over Maryland, Washington and Virginia. Many quilters are showcasing their very first design. There are traditional pieces that one would find on a bedspread, and there are contemporary designs that resemble elaborate tapestries. And while some may still think quilting and needlework are just boring hobbies for blue-haired ladies, these stitchers disagree.

Ouida Starbuck of Mechanicsville has been quilting for 17 years. She finds that it is a therapeutic pastime as well as an enlightening one.

"Quilting is something that not only touches your eyes, but also touches your heart. Whatever you put into that quilt, you are stitching in a part of yourself," she said.

Pat Sengstack, who lives in Calvert County, agrees with Ms. Starbuck. "I've always liked to sew. I like the whole process -- getting designs, picking out fabrics, putting it all together.

"It's a relaxing hobby. It doesn't have any deadlines. . . . Most pieces I work on take two to three years."

Quilters say their work is not just an arts-and-crafts exhibit. "It is an unrecognized art form," Ms. Starbuck said, "because women have been the ones to do it, but men have always been the ones who decided what art was."

But not all men sit on the sidelines. John Swallow has been quilting for 18 years. In fact, the Sotterley exhibit was his idea. After seeing an exhibit in Virginia, Mr. Swallow decided to have one locally. Sotterley seemed the perfect setting.

Mr. Swallow, 47, started needlework as therapy for a broken hand. Today he sells many of his works and won the grand prize for needlework at his county's fair. He says that he is not alone -- more men enjoy needlework as a hobby than one may realize, and it isn't an unmanly hobby.

"When I was in the Navy," Mr. Swallow said, "a lot of the guys would do counted cross-stitch just to pass the time."


What: Sotterley Plantation Quilt Show

Where: Sotterley Plantation, Sotterley Road off Route 245 North, Hollywood.

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday. Through May 9.

;/ Admission: $4 a day. $7.50 for weekly pass.

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