When we first put a call out for library-incubated quilters on the site, I was delighted to connect with Leah Rudolph, Library Director for the Abington Community Library in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, and to learn about Always In Stitches, the quilting group her library hosts regularly.  Always In Stitches not only uses the library space as a studio, but also contributes to a wide variety of community outreach and education initiatives, making this program a perfect example of the  Library-as-Incubator!  ~Erinn

This Library-based group is so much more than a creative outlet. It offers friendship, support, and community service. Always in Stitches, sewing, laughing, or crying, they do it together, at the Abington Community Library. ~Leah Rudolph, Director

Tell us a little bit about Always in Stitches.  How did the group get started at Abington? 

The group got its start in September of 2006 when the Abington Community Library began offering free weekly Tuesday morning Learn to Quilt classes with a Retired Senior Volunteer Program facilitator, Peg Winter. The group’s first quilts were completed by February 2007 and put on display at the Library. Astoundingly, several of the women admitted they had never sewn a stitch in their lives, but the work was exquisite!

The group moved on to more advanced projects that spring. Peg had to start a second beginners group on Tuesday afternoons to accommodate a waiting list of future quilters. During the fall of 2007 that second group was welcomed into the original group, and Always in Stitches was formed! The group now has over twenty participants that meet regularly (and they always welcome new Tuesday afternoon ‘newbies’).

Members have demonstrated the art of quilting at the Library for National Quilt Day in March, both individually and as part of a “Sit ‘n Sew Day,” where the group precut pieces for quilts with the expectation that folks in the community would come to help sew them into quilt.

Always in Stitches isn’t just about teaching the art of quilting; they also donate their work to community charities.  Tell us about some of their work.

Well, the Library has certainly been a proud recipient of Always In Stitches’ work! The original group made a quilt using scraps from their first individual projects and the finished creation was presented to the Library in May 2007 as a gift. It is proudly displayed in the community room where the quilters meet each week.  The group has also donated a total of three additional handmade quilts to the Library’s annual benefit raffle, and they also donated many other unique hand-sewn items to the Library’s Holiday Marketplace to raise funds for the Library

A few of the group’s other projects include:

  • Christmas stockings donated to a local Veterans Center
  • Pillowcases donated to ConKerr Cancer, a group that distributes colorful cases to children undergoing treatment in a number of hospitals.
  • 30+ quilt tops donated to Project DJ, an organization that distributes small quilts to children in hospitals.
  • Dresses for young African girls. Local quilter and author Nancy Johnson-Srebro got the group interested in creating simple dresses, which will be sent to Kenya.

We love how multi-generational Always In Stitches is, too!  It really seems to bring the community together.

The quilters have ranged in age from 5 years old to over eighty! The quilters all agree, “Tuesday is OUR day,” and the group now routinely lunches together. If you ask them, you’ll hear:

“I’ve sewn all my life but never made a big quilt. I wanted to make one before I die!”

“My husband signed me up for these classes because I am a voracious reader and he wanted me to have a hobby that allowed me to keep him company.”

“My baby went to school, leaving me alone all day and I got tired of talking to the dog!”

“I moved back here after begin away 25 years and signed up to make new friends. I came to the library to see what they had to offer and found something I always wanted to do along with these wonderful people.”

“I came to make friends. I’ve lived here for 10 years and have made more friends through this group than I did before I started.”

“I love the fabrics and was fascinated about putting the colors together. My daughter, a library board member, thought this would be a terrific experience for me. She was right!”

“I retired 3 years ago and was looking for something exciting to do for myself. I drive a distance to attend weekly but I love it.”

This Library-based group is so much more than a creative outlet. It offers friendship, support, and community service. Always in Stitches, sewing, laughing, or crying, they do it together, at the Abington Community Library.

What has been an especially successful program for Always In Stitches

A Sit ‘N Sew Day was organized in 2011 by quilter Sue Potenzanna. 18 quilters and over 20 volunteer sewers showed up–including probably a half dozen girl scouts. They assembled about 25 quilts!

With each finished quilt, there was an announcement and a huge round of applause for the person who made it. Then the quilt tops were draped around the room so everyone could check them out. Some of the volunteers were there at 9:45AM and were still there at 2:30PM. One woman made at least 4 tops. Others wandered in an out during the day, but they all joined right in. Quilters were doing everything from threading machines, to ironing, to “unsewing” mistakes, to laying quilts out on the floor to arrange the blocks.  Even the Scouts, who were a little intimidated by all the commotion, seemed to have fun

Needless to say the library customers kept stopping and looking in the door, wondering what the heck was going on! Many of them stepped inside to the table loaded with cookies, donuts, coffee, and iced tea, just to take a sample. We had enough food for Thanksgiving, all donated by participants.

Our group wants to do this again next year!

Want More?

 

Leah Ducato Rudolph earned her MLS from University of Pittsburgh in 2003 and is now director of Abington Community Library in central Pennsylvania.  She is highly involved in community building and outreach through the library, and enjoys traveling with her family.

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