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Democrat Photo by Dan Hust

BEAUTIFUL WORK: Leona Willis, left, and Elizabeth Wilde (both of Jeffersonville) work diligently to arrange and sew fabrics to make quilts for the needy as part of the Calico Geese Quilter’s quilting marathon Saturday at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Liberty.

Quilters Work to Educate,
Comfort Local Public

By Dan Hust
LIBERTY — March 21, 2000 -- In an area so rich with quilting history there’s even a book written specifically about its local impact, it’s no wonder National Quilting Day was celebrated in Sullivan County Saturday with not one but two events, both in Liberty.
Running nearly concurrently, the Liberty Public Library and Cornell Cooperative Extension each hosted local quilters all day Saturday – but for very different reasons.
At the Extension, over a dozen county quilters gathered in the large meeting room to sew, stitch, cut and assemble their way to making about 40 quilts, all in the name of public service.
As they do all year long, the Calico Geese Quilters worked in assembly-line fashion to create multi-patterned quilts for the area’s needy. But, unlike the typical assembly line, the quilters hoped the little bit of love they put into every quilt would translate to a whole lot of help for sick children, battered women and homeless men down the road.
“We give these quilts to Public Health Nursing, and they give them to the sick and needy,” explained longtime Calico Geese member Connie Stangel of Neversink.
Stangel, who started this project (first called the Baby Quilt Marathon, although it has now mushroomed beyond just babies), said the quilts and some lap robes go to WIC, Safe Passage and the county Adult Care Center, among others.
“They’re given to the people who need them,” Stangel said. “One girl wrote to me: ‘I didn’t get any support when I was pregnant. This lovely quilt made me realize there are people who care.’
“That makes it worth it,” remarked Stangel.
In the end, she said, approximately 700 quilts and assorted other items are annually produced by members – solely for the needy.
And that’s not counting the ones Stangel and other members make for themselves and their families.
“A quilt is something you did that you constructed,” she explained. “You can feel good about it. You don’t always have to do it for someone else’s satisfaction.”
To become a member of Calico Geese (the 90 members meet the second Monday and last Saturday of every month) or to donate material for use in a quilt for the needy, call Cornell Cooperative Extension at 292-5250 – or drop off the fabric at the Extension office on Ferndale-Loomis Road (near BOCES’ education center and the Liberty town highway department).
Back up the road in the village, library patrons were greeted by over a dozen hanging quilts, draped over banisters and suspended from the high ceiling.
The mission of library director (and quilter) Marjorie Clapp, Liberty quilter Diane Atkins and others?
To let the public know how much fun – and history – you can find in quilting.
The Chinese army was the first to make quilts, explained Atkins, who was displaying several of her own quilted creations at the library – including a vest she was wearing.
“They used them to keep the spears from piercing their bodies,” she said.
Jumping forward a few centuries, Atkins added that the so-called crazy quilts of the early 19th century were named such because women of those Victorian times could only find riotous expression in the multi-colored quilts they made.
“And when women couldn’t vote,” continued Atkins, “they were pushing their candidates of choice through quilting.”
Atkins herself was making a statement Saturday with a large “MTBE quilt” hanging from the rafters. A nuclear radiation hazard symbol served as the center of several quilted “poison sunflowers” which contained bugs on their petals – representing the broken promise of MTBE (a fuel additive increasingly considered to be extremely toxic) as an improvement to gasoline.
Bordered by “empty words” (unintelligible script), the center of the quilt contained a red, white and blue flower, representing Atkins’ fallen (but, she hopes, soon to be restored) faith in American government.
Atkins is known for her MTBE stance, having blamed local deaths on the additive (which contaminated Liberty’s water in the past), and is part of a growing movement to ban the chemical product.
Other quilts on display featured such items as denim jean pockets, rainbow colors and expensive fabrics.
Clapp, in fact, demonstrated to several children and adults how to first use a sketch, construction paper and glue to create a quilt design so as not to unnecessarily destroy expensive materials.
“But you can also make beautiful quilts out of scrap,” said Clapp, who has been quilting now for five years. “I’m a recycler myself.”
While displaying some of her own intricate quilts, Clapp also brought an old quilt from her mother’s attic – which experienced quilters determined could be as old as the Civil War.
Dozens of people showed up throughout the day at the library, and Clapp and others stayed busy doing demonstrations, reading quilt stories and handing out library books on quilting to interested patrons.
Enjoying the view of the quilts hanging all around the library, Clapp said, “I hope we can make this an annual event from now on!”

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