By DL PERRIN
LAGRANGE — For people who have ever wondered what to choose as a new hobby or a retirement activity, consider quilting. With fabric and quilting supply stores in abundance in northern Indiana, quilting is a popular pastime in this area.
Quilting is one activity for which there is no need of a computer — or even electricity.
A quilter just needs the basic tools: A needle, thread, fabric and scissors.
No matter a person’s skill level, quilting can be either a singular experience or a social activity.
The average, accomplished quilter is usually willing to share hints, patterns and shortcuts with a beginner.
Classes are held nearly every week somewhere within a 30-mile radius of LaGrange County.
For nine months a year, once a month, for a fee of $25, a group of quilters sew and meet at Maplewood Nature Center in LaGrange County. To join them call the parks department 260-854-2225.
Nestled in the quiet woods southeast of the town of LaGrange, the large, windowed meeting room of Maplewood provides ample space and perfect lighting for a day of quilting.
The banquet-length tables are perfect for setting up the sewing machines, patterns, cutting boards and fabric. The participants take a dish to pass for lunch. Coffee is on hand and since there is a kitchen, quilters can keep their favorite beverage cold while they work.
The regularly scheduled quilting class is held on the third Saturday of the month and runs all day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., August through May except for March (Maple Syrup weekend).
Julia Wolheter of South Milford and her co-instructor, Ira Johnson of Howe, are the organizers. Each month they have a pattern everyone is working on — or one can spend the time working on their own project.
Julia started quilting nearly four decades ago. “I was a sewer when I was a little girl in 4-H.”
She graduated with a degree in social work from Purdue and is now retired.
“I was also very active in home extension and that is where I began quilting,” she said. “I love teaching it to beginners. It is very relaxing and can be habit forming.”
Ira is a retired junior/senior high school economics teacher.
“I taught quilting for years to the students,” she said. “I enjoy it so much and I want to share that with others. It takes your mind off of the day-to-day stuff and helps you to wind down. We love to talk and sew and compare projects and help beginners and share our love of quilting.”
Susan Bryant drives up from Kendallville for the classes.
“I have been at this for about five years now,” she said. “I work at home and take care of my grandchildren all day. When I have a chance to get out of the house to quilt, I do it. My grandmother was a quilter and my mother likes to do appliques on quilts. I tried to get my granddaughter interested, to no avail.”
It’s all about stress relief for Phyllis Eagleson of Howe. “Quilting, for me, is very relaxing,” she said as her machine hummed through a long strip of cloth. “When I am quilting, I don’t have time to think. I don’t watch TV so I retire to my quilting room. I especially like to quilt late at night when the house is quiet and I won’t be interrupted.”