August 2013
Homeplace & Community

Community Group Stitches Quilts and Fosters Friendships

Mount Vernon PFC members are (front row) Nellie Faye Parker, Lucille Oliver, Margaret Clanton, Louise Norris, Betty McCullough, (back row) Verna Noah, Marilyn Lumsden, Brownie Richardson, Sarah Tinsley and Agnes Parker. Not pictured are Hazel Parker, Dot Gipson and Janet Messer.  

In the basement of Mount Vernon Baptist Church, in the DeKalb County community of Mount Vernon, up to 14 women gather around a quilting frame each Monday for laughter, encouragement, a devotional and friendship. The community group of Mount Vernon PFC (Prayer, Fellowship and Craft) has been meeting for almost 20 years, every Monday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Ages of members range from their mid-60s to early-80s.

In 1996, Sarah Tinsley and Edith Clanton saw the opportunity for women in their community to gather together each week to sew and work on their respective crafts. The idea took off and this weekly meeting became an appointment around which the rest of their lives revolved. Quilting was soon the common mission. Each member would bring her own quilting project and the ladies would assemble around the quilting frame and help quilt it together.

  Lucille Oliver works on the Mount Vernon PFC’s current quilt project.

As the group grew in membership and regard, people began making requests for quilts and baby blankets, and even asked them to help finish family quilt tops that were pieced together decades ago. The group takes orders and a full project list is posted on their bulletin board. They average completing one large quilt a month.

Several years after the group was formed, the responsibilities and requests for sewing projects became too much for Tinsley to do alone.

"One week we met and I told everyone I had prayed about us becoming more organized and sharing the responsibilities," Tinsley said. "Everyone was in agreement and we set out to divide our demands into manageable positions."

When Brownie Richardson began meeting with the PFC, it was her sewing and creative skills the group welcomed, but her expertise as a certified public accountant also aided the group. She serves as the secretary-treasurer and makes sure prices are set fairly for their work, how much can be donated and what money is spent on. The funds taken for completed projects are often used for donating quilts and donations to charity groups like the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home.

Nellie Faye Parker has been quilting since she was 7 years old. Here is one of the quilts she recently completed.  

"Sharing, fellowshipping and having a devotional give us our strength for each week - not quilting," Tinsley explained. "We bond over quilting, but our time together has become a vital support for all of us."

Each woman brought her different talent, which added to the success of the group. They also all have a different path leading them to sewing, quilting and this fellowship.

Eloise Norris, a former librarian, picked up quilting soon after retiring.

"I began sewing by threading my mother’s needles as a child," she recalled.

Norris started her first quilt top when she was a teenager, but didn’t finish it until she was an adult. Once completed, she realized quilting would be a large part of her retirement.

Verna Noah travels about an hour each Monday morning from Piedmont. She completed her first quilt after taking a quilting class at the Centre location of Gadsden State Community College 3 years ago. Since then, she rarely misses a Monday meeting.

"What I like the most about quilting is designing each quilt block," she explained. "I like when the individual pieces begin to form each block and the design comes together."

Agnes Parker puts finishing touches to a quilt the PFC is currently quilting.  

Embroidering is a part of quilting bringing the final details to each piece. Betty McCullough is one of the group’s talented embroiderers who has only been quilting since her late 60s, but has sewn since she was a little girl.

"My mother was busy raising eight children, so I learned how to sew in 4-H," she said.

At each meeting members work diligently, but they always break for a covered lunch.

One day, Nellie Faye Parker, 83, was visiting the church’s cemetery where her husband was buried, and a friend suggested she stop in to meet with the PFC. This group had been a source of encouragement after the death of her late husband. Parker began sewing when she was 7 and her mother bought her a thimble.

"Mother quilted for us to keep warm," Parker said.

 

Verna Noah has been quilting for only 3 years. This is a picture of one of her first quilts.  Right, a covered lunch is one of the highlights of each Monday meeting at the PFC.

She has maintained her sharp mind by quilting for 75 years for her 10 children, grandchildren and friends.

Agnes Parker, 81, looks forward to quilting with these women every week. She is also a talented embroiderer who has made many of the ordered baby blankets.

"If I didn’t come up here each Monday, my week just wouldn’t be right," she remarked.

Margaret Clanton began coming to PFC when she wanted help finishing a quilt top her mother had made. The ladies helped her with the quilt top, but also helped by encouraging and teaching her how to help them complete the project.

"I was hooked," she said. "These women helped me get through the loss of my mother 2 years ago."

For Lucille Oliver, the best part of coming each week is laughing with Clanton. Her late husband built the Amish-style quilt frame the group uses each week. She and Marilyn Lumsden, another member, have been quilting together for many years.

Oliver and Lumsden have traveled together with their husbands to the Amish country in the New England area. They retold a story of one of those trips when they befriended an Amish family. They told the Amish women how they enjoyed quilting and there was an instant connection. Inspired by the mutual love of handcrafts and with great enthusiasm, they and their new friends completed two quilts (from start to finish) in one day.

This small group of women have decades of wisdom and life experiences. Combined, they each bring their pieces of life to form a beautiful friendship that warms their hearts and encourages their souls.

If anyone would like to join the PFC or order something from them, call Sarah Tinsley at 256-524-2346.

Anna Wright is a freelance writer from Collinsville.