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Women quilt from the heart

Allison T. Williams

Stitch by stitch, Emily Vinson and Sylvia Rush are fighting to preserve a dying art.

The two Gates County, N.C., women spend hours together each week quilting, a mutually loved hobby that they believe is losing favor among today’s young generation.

They usually work from one of their homes; but recently, they hauled their quilt frame to Whaleyville General Merchandise and set up shop for the week.

“We just want to keep the art of quilting going on,” said Vinson, looking up from the repetitive hand-stitching of one of the 47 colorful blocks in their current project.

“A lot of people don’t want to commit to the time it takes to make a quilt. They don’t seem to realize that good things come from things that take time.”

Many passersby dropped by Whaleyville’s newest store, at 6315 Whaleyville Boulevard, to watch the pair at work, said Sally Stuckey, the store’s manager.

“We had a lot of customers that sat down and watched for a few minutes,” she said. “(The two women) even offered to teach them how to quilt.”

Vinson and Rush seemed to fit in at the country store, where regular customers are apt to drop in a rocking chair, drink coffee and read the morning paper. Whaleyville native Dean Russell opened the store last year, both as a place where locals can visit and shop, he said.

Shoppers can find both the basics n a quart of milk and bread n and the old favorites: a Smithfield cured ham, hoop cheese and old-fashioned candies lined up in glass canisters along the front counter.

But shoppers should also expect the unexpected in Russell’s shop. The store also sells Planters Peanut memorabilia, antique glassware, hand-forged iron, handcrafted quilts, antique stained-glass windows, even red wagons and sleds.

Rush and Vinson, who have more than 50 years of quilting experience between them, said they enjoyed the opportunity to share their favorite art.

Traditionally, quilts are a patchwork of a family’s history, Vinson said. Squares might be made from scraps from mother’s dress, or from other items that have special meaning for family members.

But they have dubbed their current project the “orphan quilt,” Rush said.

They are putting together a box of quilt squares, probably made in the 1950s, that someone stashed in the attic, Rush said. One of her friends bought the squares at an auction in Pennsylvania.

“It’s fun,” said Rush, who keeps a daily journal tracking their progress on the quilt.

“And it’s good therapy. Quilting is good for what ails you.”

Contact Williams at allison.williams@suffolknewsherald.com