The first person to arrive for the weekly Stitchery meeting announces to co-chair Jeanne Bianchini “I have missed you guys!”. This is indicative of the the group that Jeanne and co-chair MaryLou Scofield have created and nurtured over the last three and half years. Each week 15 or so ladies gather to work on stitchery projects – they teach each other, encourage each other, and have formed such bonds that stitching has become secondary to the friendships created. Members of the group cover all skill levels from none to experienced with the experienced members teaching and encouraging the others.
It all began at a watercolor class given by Arts Creative co-chair Donna Van Hoy. Jeanne was surprised that in a club of this size they had no stitchery group. Then president, Pat Brunker didn’t hesitate to declare “Now we do!”. Jeanne turned to her friend, MaryLou, and stated “I’ll do it if you will help”. With that the Stitchery committee was formed.
The first meeting took place at Jeanne’s home in the fall of 2010. Jeanne and MaryLou displayed all their samples of needlework to show the ladies what could be done and stimulate ideas for what the group could do. The ladies present wanted to do a group project and decided on making a hand appliqué quilt. It sounds simple except that most of these ladies had no prior stitching experience. Jeanne and MaryLou hid their doubts and came up with a plan to partition the work among all interested participants. Supplies were gathered from their personal fabric stash, copies were made, additional materials were purchased. Expert instruction on hand appliqué was provided by Jeanne and MaryLou. The result was a full-size quilt that won a blue ribbon at the “A Garden of Quilts” show at WheatonArts in 2012. The quilt was then raffled at the 2012 Garden Tour, sponsored by the Porch Club, earning close to $2000 for the club. Not bad for their first project.
The next group project was to make Christmas balls that have the look of intricate quilting. Jeanne and MaryLou purchased fabric and supplies and made individual kits consisting of precision cut fabric rectangles, tiny pins, and a styrofoam ball. With great patience, these two ladies led the group to create enough balls to sell at the club’s annual Shopping Spree, netting $500 for Family Promise, the NJSFWC State Project. Out of this endeavor came the creation of the Craft committee, which works year round to make items to be sold at the Shopping Spree.
Christmas balls are nice, but this committee thinks big and another quilt was in order. This time it would be a queen size patchwork quilt to be raffled at the club’s bi-annual Paint the Porch Pink cancer walk. There was a way for anyone to participate in the creation of this quilt – fabric selection, fabric cutting, sewing, trimming threads, pressing, final layout, and, as in all Porch Club activities, feeding and encouraging. The result was a stunning pink quilt that brought in over $1000 for Paint the Porch Pink in 2013. The owner of the quilt has agreed to enter it in the 2014 “A Garden of Quilts” quilt show, March 15 & 16 at WheatonArts. Be sure to stop by and see it in person.
The latest project for this group is a Patchwork of Peace needlepoint flag, which the ladies have nicknamed “Betsy”. This flag consists of 247 unique needlepoint squares, which together depict an American flag, and measures 15” x 21”. It is the intent that every member of the Porch Club will stitch at least one square. The completed canvas will be framed and hung in the clubhouse along with a legend listing who did which square and a dedication where appropriate.
In addition to group projects and weekly stitching meetings are trips to quilting, knitting, and needlework shops as far away as Pennington, NJ. Sometimes the trips are just for shopping and others include taking a class to learn a new skill.
As with all projects this group does, Jeanne and MaryLou spend countless hours organizing and packaging supplies to make it easy for the stitchers to do their part. They have tremendous patience when guiding inexperienced hands and their joy and pride in every accomplishment is what makes this group so unique. It is what makes members exclaim after a period of absence “I have missed you guys!”