ON FRIDAY morning, Inge Stocklin passed through the main gates of the Patuxent Institution in Jessup. Guards at two security checkpoints counted every pair of scissors in her suitcase.
Every Friday since October, Stocklin, Barbara Laskowski and Sandy McDonald -- all members of the Faithful Circle Quilters -- have volunteered at the maximum-security correctional facility to teach quilting to 12 female inmates.
"It's always been one of my dreams to do this," Stocklin said. "I go back to the Bible where it says reach out to those in prison."
Stocklin has a degree in textiles from the University of Maryland and owned the Quilt Studio in Ellicott City from 1989 until the shop closed in 1998. She restores quilts in her home in Fulton.
For two hours in the prison's recreation room, the volunteers assisted inmates as they hand-stitched dolls, bears and quilts ranging from crib- to full-sized. The prison does not allow sewing machines.
"When we get there," Stocklin said, "the inmates want to cut, cut, cut, because this is the only time they are allowed to have scissors." Prison administrators allow only blunt-edged children's scissors to be used.
"It's a prison facility, and the little things we take for granted, like having scissors, they just don't have," Stocklin said. "You wonder about what they did and who they are, but down deep, we're all the same.
The inmates range in age from 20s to 40s.
"Some are grandmothers. Some haven't seen their children in five years. Some of them never get a Christmas present. It just breaks my heart," Stocklin said.
"I feel like they're kind of forgotten women. A lot of people might feel, 'They did the crime; they should do the time.' I have no idea what they've done. We've never discussed that. We're just reaching out as women to women," she said.
Although many of the inmates had not sewed before, the quilting group is producing close to 10 quilts a week.
"I'm totally amazed at the volume of quilts they're producing," Stocklin said.
The women have received donations of fabric, supplies and money from Seminole Sampler, Bear Paw Quilt Shops, the Women's Interest Group in Fulton and Faithful Circle Quilters, which meets at the First Presbyterian Church at U. S. 29 and Route 108 in Columbia.
But donations are still needed.
Stocklin is seeking money as well as batting, backing fabric, synthetic fur for the bears, quilting rulers, quilting thread, templates, solid-colored fabric, patterns for doll clothes, permanent markers, quilting pins, elastic, lace and ribbon.
The inmates are not permitted to keep any of the items they make. They donate their handiwork to the House of Ruth, a shelter for women and children in Washington. Stocklin hopes to find a volunteer to deliver the items.
"I think it gives them a feeling that even though they are [in prison], through what they do, they are giving back to society through their quilts," Laskowski said.
Stocklin was surprised by the warmth with which the inmates receive her and the other volunteers.
"We all get hugs," she said, adding that in a thank-you card one of the inmates wrote, "God bless you for taking my mind out of this place."
"You know how people say when you give, you get back?" Stocklin asked. "I'm finding that here."
An exhibit of the women's quilts, "Hearts and Hands," is on display this month at the central branch of the public library in Columbia. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5: 30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The library is at 10375 Little Patuxent Parkway.
In November, Atholton High School sent a record number of musicians to the All State Band and Orchestra auditions sponsored by the Maryland Music Educators Association.
Christine Yu and Charlie Feldman were selected for the Junior High All State Band. Megan Bevill was chosen for the Junior High All State Orchestra.
Gil Davis, Nick Gallas, Bryan Adkins, Matt McGuigan, Andrea Scimonelli, Corey Hungerford, Jeff Steinberg and Pat Bredland were chosen to participate in the Senior High All State Band.
Kristin Barth, Sherry Choe, Audrey Park and Connie Taylor were selected for the Senior High All State Orchestra, and Konley Aschenbach was chosen for the All State Jazz Band.
The Artists' Gallery, 10227 Wincopin Circle, Columbia, is presenting a "Winter Invitational Show" through Feb. 25. Ten guest artists, working in a variety of media, will exhibit their work: Mary Adcock-Ingram, Scott Brenfleck, Edward Brown Jr., Linda Chester, John Kopkowski, Judy McCaughey, Beryl McDonough, Robyn Searight, Roma Slyter and Linda Uphoff.
A reception will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at the gallery.
The art faculty at Howard Community College is offering an exhibit of paintings, drawings, photography, prints and three-dimensional works at the college art gallery through Feb. 11.
Faculty members participating in the exhibit include Linda Press, Jane Winer, Yifei Gan, Elizabeth Burger, Peter Collier, Ruth Lloyd, Ron Roberson, Janette Shelly, Roberta Staat, Jan Starr, Diana Marta, James Adkins and Karen Warshal.
Information: 410-772-4512, or visit HCC's online gallery at www.howardcc.edu.