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Pieceful Quilters share the fabric of their lives


They say there are no strangers gathered around a quilt. For the Pieceful Quilters of Glenelg, their craft is as much about sharing as it is about sewing.

As American women -- and sometimes men -- have done for hundreds of years, the 13 Howard County women gather each week to share their fabric and their lives.

Tomorrow and Saturday, for the first time in six years, the Pieceful Quilters will share their creations with the public in a show and sale at Glenelg United Methodist Church.

The event also will showcase the group's youngest members -- Megan Graydon, 8, and Marissa Graydon, 5, of West Friendship -- quilting alongside the older members as they work to finish a vintage quilt begun many years ago.

"I'm excited these children are doing this. It means quilting won't be extinct," said Elmira Seibert, the 72-year-old whom the group considers its spiritual leader and mother hen.

Quilting, which has endured the rise and fall of popularity many times in its history, once again has regained distinction. Most recently, it has become the subject of the movie "How to Build an American Quilt," which chronicles the way women share their lives while creating art.

The Pieceful Quilters formed in 1975 as an offshoot of a friendly neighbor group that the Glenelg Recreation Council and Ms. Seibert had started. Eight quilters in the group began meeting as the Hard-Core Quilters, a name they gave themselves because they started at 9 a.m. sharp and worked all day long once a week.

Ms. Seibert, a 4-H leader for 45 years and quilting instructor for Howard County Parks and Recreation, encouraged her students join the quilters. In 1976, they officially became the Pieceful Quilters guild of the National Quilters Association.

They gather each Thursday in the fellowship hall at the Glenelg United Methodist Church. Sitting in a circle at two tables pushed together, the quilters work on their own projects, group projects and charitable projects.

They give lap quilts to the sick and elderly. They make bed quilts for families who have lost homes in fires and other disasters.

During holidays, they bring covered dishes. They teach one another, swap material, share news about fabric sales. They talk about their families while Melany Graydon's youngest son plays at their feet.

The group pitches in to make quilts celebrating the events in one another's lives -- the birth of the baby, an anniversary, a member moving.

Each member has a specialty. Ms. Seibert is the traditionalist. Ms. Graydon is the "queen of scrap."

Liz Miller, who was raised in a Baltimore rowhouse, is known for her Baltimore Album Quilts. She has carefully researched the Baltimore tradition, which began in churches in the 1860s as a way to tell the story of one's life. The nine-block quilts typically feature Baltimore scenes -- the Shot Tower, marble steps, clipper ships and black-eyed Susans.

Design is the forte of award-winning quilter Frances Soshinsky. Her talents are seen in her cubist-style wall covering, "Three dimensional barn door."

Called the "master of unusual shapes," 77-year-old Ms. Soshinsky often is recognized at the national level for her innovative and often modern creations, such as "Dance Contest at the Frolic's Club," named for the Miami dance club where she met her husband.

When group members work on a quilt together, each has a task. To complete their Howard County Fair quilt, which was the champion in group competition and placed second at the State Fair, they met twice a week. Three sewing machines were going at once. They had pinners, sewers, cutters and "lots of critics," said Ms. Graydon, mother of Megan and Marissa.

Their finished project, "Pieceful daisies," done in shades of mauve and turquoise, will be raffled at the show. As with all their quilts, members of the group hate to see it go.

Ms. Soshinsky, who has made nearly 200 quilts, said, "You run out of walls after awhile but so much of me went into it, I almost can't bear to sell them."

Ms. Graydon noted that "part of you goes with it."

The Pieceful Quilters' show runs tomorrow from 12:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Glenelg United Methodist Church on Burntwoods Road. The $2 admission will )) pay for the group's charitable work in area nursing homes and hospitals.

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