Monday, June 11, 2007

Learning her craft one stitch at a time

Burlington County Times

SOUTHAMPTON — Susan Painting has learned her craft one stitch at a time.

The 67-year-old retired school teacher and Southampton resident has been quilting since 1985.

Later this month, a 96-square-inch quilt that she completed last year will be an entered in the prestigious Vermont Quilt Festival, held annually at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction, Vt.

Painting said she is honored to display her work at the festival.

“I never expect (to win) anything,” she said. “It's a real joy to see your work hung and to know that your peer group gets to see it.”

Nearly 200 quilters from the United States and Canada are entered in the festival, which annually attracts thousands of quilt enthusiasts from all over the world.

Along with the quilt contest, the festival features several special exhibits and workshops with nationally known quilt artists.

Painting took up the hobby because she wanted quilts for all of the beds in her home.

“I didn't think I could afford what I wanted, so I figured I would just try and make one,” she said. “My goal is to complete one bed-sized quilt per year.”

In 1987, Painting started a guild locally with some friends. The first meeting was at her Southampton home in May of that year. Soon after its inception, the guild began advertising its meetings, and members came up with a name, the Berry Basket Quilters.

Today, the guild Painting helped establish has 100 members from all over the county and meets monthly at the Medford Leas continuing-care retirement community. The members share their creations at each meeting.

In October, members of the Berry Basket Quilters will host their own quilt show at the Mount Laurel Senior Center on Mount Laurel Road.

Painting has also participated in another festival in Vermont every year since 1988. It was at that festival last year that her latest quilt was discovered.

Richard Cleveland, a founder of the Vermont Quilt Festival, saw Painting's blue-and-white quilt and suggested she enter it in the Vermont Quilt Festival this year.

“I had always wanted to make a blue-and-white quilt, so this one was very special,” Painting said.

The quilt is the largest she's ever crafted. It took her six months to make.

“My true love is the old, traditional patterns,” Painting said. “I love the antique quilts. I have made a few that are fairly contemporary.”

Earlier this month, Painting hosted a quilt-making demonstration at the Medford Historical Society's quilt show, which was held at Kirby's Mill.

Painting said no one in her family ever quilted, but she hopes to pass her creations on to her own family members.

“They can be very simple, or they can be very detailed,” she said. “It's a great hobby.”

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