From utility to artwork

Published 3:33 pm Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Quilting transforms from necessity to beauty

More than three decades ago, a group of women decided to form the Suffolk Quilters Guild as a way to bond over activity and learn how to quilt.

Now, 30 years later, more than 50 women meet at least once a month to continue expanding their knowledge and to participate in charitable acts.

Lori Murdock, president of the guild, has been quilting for more than 25 years, and being a part of this group of talented women motivates her.

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“For me, the guild gets me motivated. I come to the meetings, and I immediately want to go home and want to sew,” Murdock said. “Everyone has such great ideas.”

Murdock, along with Linda Wood, is one of the few that has a long arm quilting machine, and that gives users the unique ability to finish quilts quickly and beautifully.

Longarm quilting is a process of using a large sewing machine, sometimes 30 inches or longer, to sew together the quilt top, batting and quilt backing. The computerized machine makes the process of quilting much faster than using a traditional sewing machine or sewing by hand.

Wood has finished multiple quilts from members of the guild, and her machine allows beautiful motifs, like snowflakes, to be stitched into the quilt.

The machine takes up space on a large table in an entire room of her house, but she is thrilled about it.

Two of the founding members, Jane Arthur and Dianne Alexander, still attend meetings with the guild, and they are proud to see the group still thriving since its founding in 1987.

“There have been ups and downs, but we celebrated our 30th anniversary,” Arthur said. “It’s really nice and great there is still interest in quilting.”

Having more than 50 members has allowed everyone to share their talent and learn from one another for 30 years.

“I think the experience that everyone brings is great, and we get to learn from others in person rather than online,” Arthur said.

For the two founding members, quilting has changed so much from when they started. Quilting wasn’t quite the art form that it is now, and that is because quilting used to be necessary.

“My grandmother’s quilts were for utility. They had to be usable, but these quilts are really just beautiful,” Alexander said.

While the women of the guild gather to learn and sew together, they have a higher purpose as well.

Twice a year, the group chooses a charity to support with quilts they make. Recently, they got together and made 36 quilts to donate to Lake Prince Woods, a retirement facility in Suffolk.

For some of the members, this is the perfect way for them to give back to their community.

“This is my way to give back,” said Norma Buchanan. “Though, this is traditional for me.”

Buchanan has been involved in making quilts to be donated for decades, and it is something she is happy to continue with the Suffolk Quilters Guild.

The guild is sponsored by the Suffolk Department of Parks and Recreation, and they meet on the first Thursday of each month at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 213 N. Main St. More information can be found on their website at