For the seamstresses of the Gulfport Senior Center Quilters Club, quilts are a means of connecting.
The quilters are a group of retired women who sew because they always have. For 25 years the group has completed projects for causes like Meals on Wheels, the Gulfport Police Department, Quilts of Valor, and more.
They are led by the no nonsense expert seamstress, Elizabeth Zanata.
“It’s just something we’ve always done,” Zanata said.
At the moment, the group is 25 senior members strong and committed to the craft of sewing and often donating their own handiwork.
“Most of us who quilt started with sewing clothes. I know my money went farther if I bought fabric,” said Gini Duke, a Gulfport Quilters Club member of 7 years. “I started to quilt once I retired, when I had the time.”
While the seamstresses sew November through April, the holiday season is especially important. At their last ceremony on Dec. 7, the Gulfport Quilters presented two veterans with extensive quilts as part of the Quilts of Valor Foundation.
The veterans were wrapped and blanketed in the heavy fabric as a symbol of appreciation.
The group also donated 120 handmade stockings for the seniors of the Meals on Wheels program.
Quilting, it turns out, is no simple feat.
That’s according to Fabric Smart owner Karen Donnelly, who has been sewing since the age of 9. The longtime seamstress explains that when sewing a quilt, there are actually three layers of fabric combined into one complex piece.
“There is a lot of detail in making a quilt, and that all takes time,” Donnelly said. “There’s no way to get around taking that time but it can be very meditative.”
In these tough times stitching can be a welcome outlet.
“People are turning to embroidery and sewing to help cope and keep the mind calm,” Donnelly said.
Staying in practice is key, and as a tradition, the seamstresses head to a cabin sewing retreat for a weekend each January.
“It’s out in the boondocks and we love it,” Zanata said.
The retreat near Lithia Springs is typically used for children camps during the summer.
But for four days in January each year, it becomes a seamstress haven.
“We work on personal projects and club things,” Duke said. “I know I joined the group particularly because of the retreat.”