A history of creating and giving

— Photo from Joyce Laiosa

The Voorheesville Village Quilters display some of their work: From left, top row: Julie Stump, Kathy Davis, Charlene Stevens, Christa Rittner, Joan Linton, Ann Rymski, Candace Ross, MaryAnn Morrison, Susan Reilly, and Jeanne Knouse; bottom row: Joyce Laiosa, Cindy Atwell, Judy Schedlbauer, Joyce Eves, Christine Hansen, and Julie-Ann Fortran.

VOORHEESVILLE — The Voorheesville Village Quilters have just celebrated their 40th anniversary with a display of their work at the Voorheesville Public Library. The group began in 1979 as an outgrowth of adult education classes taught by Linda O’Connor at the Voorheesville High School.

When the classes ended, the students who were or became Linda’s friends wanted more instruction and more gatherings. The group was first known as the Village Quilters, and later became the Voorheesville Village Quilters. The first meetings were held in the First United Methodist Church of Voorheesville, moved to St. Matthew’s Church, and eventually settled into the Community Room at the Voorheesville Public Library.

Linda O’Connor was a local fiber artist and an enthusiastic teacher.  She led the group until her untimely death in 2012.

Under her leadership, the group showcased traditional and modern quilting. As a group, “challenges” were encouraged for small projects that everyone could participate in.

These included: quilt your favorite song, ugly fabric, blocks, fabric-scrap exchange, free-form puzzle, specific assigned colors, and an “iron quilt” challenge, replicating the “Iron Chef” idea. She also fostered a group of art quilters incorporating different techniques.

VVQ was not just a place to celebrate each other’s quilting, but a service organization, using members’ sewing to help others. The numerous service projects included placemats for shut-ins, quilts for babies and orphanages here in the United States as well as in Africa, and quilts for the Linus Project and for the Army Baby Project where quilts were given to babies whose parents were serving in the military overseas.

There were quilts for Community Hospice Camp Erin, a camp for children who have lost a parent or relative to cancer; the Fisher House, a Veterans Affairs Hospital project; Quilted in Honor, quilts given to veterans, and the Guardian House, a shelter for homeless women veterans; quilts for local homeless shelters; and pillowcases for Ryan’s Case for Smiles, which are given to children undergoing cancer treatment.

We have donated quilts and other sewn items to the Veterans Miracle Network and we made little dresses, which were sent to Africa. Since quilters tend to have a lot of leftover fabric, we also made cage pads for animal shelters and donated fabric for neckerchiefs for dogs being adopted.

We also participated in a project called Iraqi Bundles of Love where quilters throughout the country filled a flat rate box with fabric and sewing supplies. These boxes were sent to Iraq, and our servicemen and servicewomen distributed the boxes to Iraqi women who used them to make items to sell and support themselves.

A teddy-bear quilt made by the group was donated to the Ronald McDonald House. Our recent projects have included making garment bags that are given to Katelyn’s Closet, a clothing store that provides clothes to children in the foster-care system on Cape Cod and seat-belt protectors, which will be given to patients undergoing chemo to protect their medication port.

VVQ quilt shows began in 1990. That first one was at the Wyman Osterhout Senior Citizen Center. Then in 2004, the quilt shows became a biennial event, the last few years held in St. Matthew’s community room. Our last show was in 2018. Our admission fee to all of our shows are donated to local charities.

VVQ does have members from throughout the Capital District, but it still retains the close-knit group of Voorheesville residents. The current leader is Julie-Ann Fortran who oversees the group.

The camaraderie, the service, the continuing-education aspects of our meetings, and the enjoyment we receive from quilting sustain our group as we look forward to the next 10 years. One of the most interesting aspects of our retrospective display was to see how quilting has changed over the last 40 years.

The fabrics are much more varied, more contemporary; the color palettes that we choose is anything and everything where we had few choices 40 years ago. The tools we use are amazing, from rotary cutters to rulers for curved piecing. We use to have to cut out cardboard (many times from cereal boxes) for our templates for tracing and piecing.

But, after 40 years, the satisfaction of quilting and sharing our projects with our community is still the same.

Editor’s note: Joyce Laiosa is a member of the Voorheesville Village Quilters.

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