Sunday, October 3, 1999
All notions of quilting as a craft for grandmothers who like peaceful pursuits are dismissed the minute you enter the evening quilting class taught by Nancy Jones at Fayette First United Methodist Church.
First, you hear the noise and laughter as you approach the Sunday school room where it's held. Inside, is a commotion of conversation and activity as the class members compare fabric patterns, cutting tools and rulers. At the center of the hubbub is Jones, a soft-spoken woman with striking white hair, casually dressed in jeans and a striped shirt, methodically ordering the tools of her trade.
Eight women and two men gather around her as she demonstrates how to cut the fabric strips for a basic log cabin -design quilt. Jones takes her time, smoothing out the cotton fabric in preparation for cutting, slides her ruler into place and wheels her circular slicer in one quick-deft move.
Find the one-and-a-half inch line; do it like this, she says, slicing another strip.
The centers are two inches, she reminds her class, as she whips through a piece of solid fabric.
Now comes the fun part, assembling the strips. With a basket chock-full of colorful cotton streamers. Jones says, Just reach in there and get some out. Two women eye her skeptically, already trying to figure out if their random selections would be half as good as Jones'.
Rob Palin, one of the two men in the class sums up the gist of Jones' instructions to Chris Wilson, the other male attempting to start his project, Just slice it all up and start grabbing.
Uh oh, Nancy, it's a hoofy tooky,calls out a distressed student who is still slicing almost straight strips. Hoofy tooky. Is that a quilting term? asks another fledgling quilter.
The small glitch in the cutting process is quickly taken care of by Jones, who returns to her compact black sewing machine to stitch some more strips to the center square.
Are you paying attention? she asks the class, refocusing their attention back to the task at hand. Now you finger press is, she says, carefully pushing down the seams around the just- sewn square.
The class observes, takes notes, and looks anxious. As the design starts to take shape, the class is obviously impressed and ready to starting sewing on their own.
How many square will it take to make a queen size quilt? queries Wilson. Well, a double size takes 126 squares, so a queen might be about 162, Jones estimates.
Maybe I'll make a potholder, Wilson jokes. The composition of the quilting group is a random sampling of the First United Methodist's congregation and a few drop-ins from other Fayetteville churches. A number of the class spent nearly a year together in a disciple Bible study together, Jones noted.
Palin said he decided to take the class because he loved quilts and figured his new skill would serve him well when his job takes him away from home for extended periods of time.
I have to have something to do when I'm TDY, he said.
Wilson just wanted to learn something new. For Dianna Saltzgiver, the class will give her the extra help she needs to complete a reversible cow-themed table runner she is making for her mother who lives in Pike County.
While quilting is a new hobby for most of the class, for Jones, it is a lifelong passion.
I've always wanted to quilt, Jones said. It's also very spiritual. You are creating something, and also connecting with the past, she mused.
Jones has created and sewn between 15 and 20 quilts and countless pillows and wall hangings. The early American home she shares with her husband, Bill, is accented with her handiwork and lucky children and grandchildren have all been recipients of one of her handmade gifts. Her favorite piece is a full-size quilt she stitched completed by hand, a project which took about two years.
Jones is always working on a quilting project.
I have all these quilts in my head , I won't live long enough to do them all,she says.
Jones has created quilts for special projects as well as memorial quilts like the one she did for her son-in-law and now is part of a larger memorial in Washington.
I like the traditional designs, she noted, and finds the latest quilting techniques so easy, concise and accurate. Jones travels her husband often travel to places like Williamsburg, VA and the Amish Country in Pennsylvania where she finds inspiration for new quilting patterns and Bill gets ideas for classic furniture designs, which he builds in his basement shop.
As the class breaks up, Jones carefully folds up her fabric and assigns homework sewing together four log cabin squares.
Can I have directions to your house? half the class pipes up.