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Quilting helps senior citizens keep busy

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Diane Bell was intrigued when she saw her friends making quilts in 2003.

It looked like an easy way to pass time in retirement, but the College Park resident didn't know anything about making a quilt. She then enrolled in a class at a local fabric store, but felt there wasn't as much instruction as she needed.

Bell soon met Paula Morgan, a quilting instructor, through a quilting guild, and found Morgan's instruction much more to her liking. "[The fabric store] offered a five-hour class, and you only got a little bit done at the store," Bell said. "You'd have to finish the rest on your own. With Paula, I got to have much more instructional time with her, so I could learn how to make a quilt."

Bell estimates she's made 25 quilts in Morgan's quilting class at the Frank Bailey Senior Center, in Riverdale. The classes meet from 9 a.m., to 1 p.m., every Wednesday, in five-week sessions. Morgan said the class is ongoing, though, and she usually has the same people enroll in each session.

"It's like a progression for them," Morgan said. "We have a certain set of patterns that are used. They begin with the 'crazy quilt' and advance to other types of quilts, such as the 'log cabin' quilt and the 'dancing stars' quilt. They can progress as fast as they want to, and after awhile, they can bring in their own patterns."

Many of Morgan's students have made 10 or more quilts under her tutelage. Vi Brown, a resident of Jonesboro, has made as many as 15 quilts in her lifetime, and three were with Morgan's help. Brown is currently working on a "hats on parade" quilt for her niece, which features various types of hats sewn onto the quilt.

Brown said making a quilt can be an expensive endeavor. Fabric can cost up to $9 per yard, and a quilt might require at least 20 yards of fabric, depending on the size. The batting, or stuffing, for the quilt can cost as much as $15. The quilt maker also has to provide his or her own scissors, rulers and sewing machine. Overall, Brown said, it can cost as much as $250 to make a quilt.

The cost of participating in the quilting class at the Frank Bailey Senior Center, is an additional $40. Brown believes the benefits outweigh the high cost of materials, though.

"Quilting is just a relaxing hobby," Brown said. "You forget about everything else. You don't worry about cooking dinner. You don't worry about doctors' appointments. You're just having a good time with your friends."

While the make-up of Morgan's class is mostly female, she does have one male student -- Marvin Allman, a resident of Stockbridge. His mother, Ruth, used to make quilts, and it become something he wanted to try, too.

When his wife refused to make a quilt for him, he decided to finally pursue quilt-making.

"She wouldn't do it, so I said, 'All right, I'll do it myself,' " Allman said. He has been learning from Morgan for six months, and has already made three quilts. He said it takes him five weeks to make a quilt.

When asked what it's like to be the only male in the class, though, Allman simply said, "It's OK."