It’s never too late

Published 10:25 pm Thursday, May 21, 2009

Last year, Vermelle Byrd looked through the paper and found an announcement about an upcoming quilting class at the Suffolk Museum.

Byrd was immediately interested, but there was one slight problem: She did not know how to sew.

“I just decided that I would try something different in my life,” Byrd said. “I’ve always wanted to do something with my hands in the way of sewing, but I’m not a quilter. I’m not a seamstress at all.”

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Undeterred, Byrd thought there would be no better time than the present to learn — especially since she had just retired from 40 years as a teacher for Suffolk Public Schools.

In March of 2008, Byrd showed up to take her first quilting class under Emily Dalton, a quilting teacher for more than 20 years.

“Vermelle wanted to do it,” Dalton said. “And some people don’t want to quilt bad enough to go through all the trouble, but Vermelle did.”

Byrd’s desire that led to a major change in the art league’s class requirements. In order to take a quilting class, a student normally must have taken the basic sewing class.

Clearly, Byrd had not, but her willingness to learn proved difficult to deny.

“It’s like everything else in life; you do what you want to put your mind to,” Dalton said. “I could not say, ‘You do not belong in the class,’ because of how thrilled she was to be there.”

Byrd said she was not the least bit intimidated at walking into a quilting class without a sewing background, but she also did not know she had reason to be.

“It didn’t bother me,” she said. “But if I had known that sewing was a prerequisite – I never would have hit that door. I would have been so embarrassed. Thankfully, I had a great teacher, and she worked with me individually.”

Dalton routinely worked one-on-one with Byrd to help get Byrd as acclimated to sewing as possible, and Dalton was impressed with Byrd’s work ethic as well as hre temperament.

“She was willing to listen,” Dalton said. “She wanted to do it right, and a lot of people would have just given up.”

Less than one year since picking up her first sewing needle, Dalton completed her first quilt and is now hard at work on her second creation.

“I just feel like I accomplished something,” Byrd said. “My goal was reached. I never would have thought I could complete a project like this, but it’s really nice and I’m really proud of it.”

Byrd added that she hopes people realize it is never too late to try a new hobby or skill.

“It’s never too late,” she said. “Especially because when you retire, you finally have the time.”