Quilting project helps fund facelift for Peabody building

When Peabody Main Street Design Committee members Jeanne Strotkamp and Susie Schmidt got the idea to clean, repair, paint and remodel the faces of the two Senior Center buildings downtown, they wondered where the funds would come from.

Then they turned to what they knew best: Victoriana and quilting.

Money earned from an upcoming Victorian Tea and the ongoing Peabody Community Quilt Project is earmarked for the facade renovation project. Improvements include cleaning and repair of the limestone, a new awning, new doors and windows and a more historic look for the metal building.

Victorian Tea

The Victorian Revival Society founded by the two sisters will present a Victorian tea and program at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 5, in the Peabody-Burns Elementary School multi-purpose room.

Historian and reenactor Jacque Stroud from Topeka will present “The Children’s Hour,” focusing on maternity and childhood in the 1860s. The program will feature vintage children’s clothing, music, poetry and literature.

Guests are encouraged to dress in period clothing and enjoy a leisurely afternoon being entertained and sipping tea -Victorian style.

Quilt project

Women all over Peabody are busily pressing, marking, pinning, piecing and quilting in the name of community service as they work to create quilts that will be auctioned next March to raise money for the facade renovation.

“There is a huge interest in quilting right now,” said Schmidt. “It’s a multi billion dollar business. A lot of people want to learn how to quilt. So in exchange for you volunteering your time to work on the quilts for the auction, you learn how to quilt for free.”

Schmidt, a master seamstress and quilter, held a quilt school last fall to give people the basics and get them started.

“A lot of people came to that and it gave them the background,” she said. “But a lot of people have also joined as we’ve gone along.”

Quilting workshops are held every couple weeks, and the volunteers get together to work and learn.

“Each time we meet and have a workshop, there is actually a lesson so they are furthering their knowledge and skills,” Schmidt said. “The workshops are always come-and-go, so it’s fine if you’ve got just an hour or two hours on your Saturday that you can give.”

Schmidt said the group has grown steadily.

“We’re up to about 26 volunteers,” she said.

Schmidt picks the patterns for the quilts and directs the work.

“There are certain things that are easier to do in a group,” she said. “For the most part, we are making scrap quilts.”

Several quilts are under construction at any point in time.

“We’ve got at least 15 large quilts in the making,” she said. “A lot of things are just on the verge of being finished.”

Schmidt said the greatest challenge for her as coordinator of the project is managing the various projects under way.

“It’s almost like doing lesson plans for 26 students,” she said with a laugh. “For the ones that want to work at home, I have to keep them with something to do all the time.

“I’ll get a bunch of stuff ready, and I’ll think that will hold them for a week or so, and they’ll call me that afternoon and say ‘I’ve got that stuff done, have you got anything else?’ The enthusiasm is great, but it’s really keeping me busy.”

Schmidt said she was afraid the group would lose momentum over the summer when people got busy with outside activities.

“But it almost turned into a cottage industry over the summer,” she said. “I had a lot of people working at home, cutting stuff and putting stuff together. So we actually made quite a bit of progress over the summer.”

Schmidt said they have set an ambitious goal to be ready for a March 2006 quilt auction.

“We kind of cut ourselves short on time in order to be ready. We’re trying to do all of this in about a year and a half,” she said. “That sounds like a lot of time, but when you can only get together every two weeks, that’s not many sessions.”

She said training new quilters has slowed progress a bit.

“A lot of the volunteers are brand new-they don’t have any sewing experience, let alone quilting experience,” she said.

“I go back and forth between thinking we’ll never this all done and thinking we’re making pretty good progress.”

New volunteers are welcome to join the project at any time, Schmidt said. And although most of the volunteers are from the Peabody area, she said they would love to see some faces from other parts of the county.

Potential volunteers shouldn’t worry if they aren’t experienced, she said.

“You can press, you can pin, you can mark,” she said. “If you can’t stand all the time, you can sit and mark or pin. You can do as much or as little as you like.”

For people who want to support the project but can’t spare the time to help with a quilt, Schmidt suggests sponsoring a quilt.

“With the quilt sponsorship, basically you pay for either materials or for quilting,” she said. “It’s $100, and the name of the group or the individual will be on the quilt label that is actually attached to the quilt. And it will be in the program that way.”

Schmidt said the project has been so well received that that may look for other community projects to support once funds are raised for the Senior Center facade.

“I would like to be able to completely fund this project and, if we’re not all exhausted, be able to continue to make the quilts and use the money for other things such as playground equipment or Christmas lights,” she said.

Schmidt said her dream is to keep the project going and to have a quilt show and quilt auction on opposite years.

In the meantime, work continues, stitch by stitch.

“We’re going to have a small sampling of what is finished at the Victorian Tea to show off what we’re actually accomplishing,” she said.

For more information about the quilt project or the upcoming Victorian tea, call Susie Schmidt at 620-983-2264.

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