For quilters, every day is sew-sew

August 04, 1998

Quilter, Mary PeriniBy SHEILA HOTCHKIN / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer [enlarge]

SHARPSBURG - No one can accuse Mary Perini of not being a modern woman.

Perini, 50, had worked as the director of computing services at Johns Hopkins University's applied physics laboratory until a heart attack made her reconsider her career.

But she cannot resist the old-fashioned draw of quilting, and escapes into the soothing rhythm of the even stitching several times each week.

"I get tense if I don't sew for a day or two," said the Hagerstown resident, who recently opened a vintage quilt gallery called The Cooper's Shed.


She and several others from the 40-member Friendship Quilters' Guild demonstrated their craft at the Washington County Ag Expo on Tuesday night, working on a white-on-white whole cloth quilt stretched across a wooden frame.

"It links you with your heritage," said Perini, who moved to Hagerstown four years ago. "I think particularly in this age when your job might be very technical, it's nice to feel your hands touch the cloth."

The quilt they used for the demonstration was deceptively simple, according to members. They used white thread to stitch together the two layers of white cloth and the batting along a pre-traced drawing.

But the curves making up the abstract pattern of birds, flowers, leaves and hearts are what make the piece so difficult.

"Somebody said that only a man would make this many curves in a quilt," said Millie Miller, as she steered her needle through the twists and flourishes.

The piece was perfect for Dolores Grossnickle, a quilting purist who has been surrounded by the craft since she played under quilt frames as a child.

"I'm not a machine person," admitted Grossnickle, whose precise hands can fit as many as 14 stitches in each inch. "I hand-piece a lot of it."

The more austere look of the white-on-white is not typical of guild projects.

"This is sort of an anomaly," Perini said. "The norm for us is a piece quilt - full of color."

The guild members' hectic lives often lead them to lean toward smaller, individual projects, like the patchwork wall hanging that Helen Stone made from cranberry and forest green squares.

"I do, because I work and that's all I can get finished," Stone said.

Perini agreed: "I think the reality is most of the women are in their middle 30s on up and they work ... So we're trying to have our cake and eat it too, doing what we need to do in our modern life but trying to catch the training and camaraderie of another time."

The guild meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Funkstown American Legion building.

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