By Kristin Hackler
There is something so special about a handmade quilt. The small imperfections in the stitch, the almost imperceptible size irregularity in the fabric squares; each unintentional difference is a small note from the quilter, a reminder that the warm tones of fabric were not chosen by a machine and whipped together in a factory. It is a work of art and it was made with love.
Though the art of quilting is slowly fading into obscurity across most of the country, little pockets of dedicated quilters continue to meet here and there, sharing their ideas, experience and passion for patchwork with anyone who wants to learn. One of these groups meets nearby at the Our Lady of Mercy Outreach Center on Johns Island. Every Thursday from 9:30am to noon, women of all ages and race come together from across Charleston County to work on various quilts and crochet projects. They call themselves “Quilting Lives” and they have been meeting at the Outreach Center for more than 14 years. The brainchild of Seabrooker Lorraine McDermott, Quilting Lives gives local women a chance to learn to sew and an opportunity to socialize. “Sometimes we have as many as 20 people here,” said Lorraine, gesturing toward a dozen or more women bustling about the Outreach Center’s small cafeteria. Fabrics of all colors and textures were draped over every surface; from half finished sheets of pinned squares to simple nine by nine practice squares. A crochet group clicked away diligently in the corner and in the center of the room, a pile of completed projects was slowly piling up.
Although the purpose of Quilting Lives is to learn and practice the art of quilting, the group members have been working extra hard for the past several months to complete as many projects as they can for the upcoming 20 year anniversary celebration for Our Lady of Mercy.
Founded less than a month after hurricane Hugo tore through the Lowcountry, Our Lady of Mercy has been instrumental in the lives of thousands of underprivileged local residents. Their new Wellness Center is a shining example of how far they’ve come in the past 20 years, and this anniversary party is a chance for the community to show how much they appreciate the tireless service, help and guidance of the staff and volunteers at the Outreach Center. On Saturday, October 17 from 11am to 4pm, crafters from across the islands will set up shop on the front lawn of the Center and sell their homemade goods; from jewelry to sweetgrass baskets to sculptures and paintings, all of the sales made that day will go directly to the Outreach Center. And that big pile of knitted wraps and shawls, patchwork handbags and quilts will be on sale, as well. Some of the quilters’ personal works will be on display in a quilt show, music and entertainment will be provided and lunch will be available from Durango’s of Hollywood and Jim & Nick’s of Charleston.
Quilters, stitchers, and knitters of every experience level are welcome to join the Quilting Lives group on Thursdays. Lorraine and her group of regulars are always happy to welcome a new face and share some tricks of the trade. “After I retired, this [Quilting Lives] just filled my life,” said Lorraine. “It’s just been a wonderful experience.”
For more information about Quilting Lives or the anniversary party, call the Outreach Center at 559-4109.