FROM The Journal News, Thursday, February 04, 2010

A new wrinkle on Grandma's old craft

Quilting? That old hobby? Not anymore. A new generation of

needle-wielding artists is stitching up a patchwork of complex beauty.

A new wrinkle on that age-old old quilt

By Karen Croke February 4, 2010

To Sylvia Eusebi, a piece of cloth isn't just cotton, or silk, or batik. A striking piece of cloth "talks to me," she says.

Eusebi is a quilter, one of about 80 members of the Village Squares Quilters, which on Friday will mount "Patterns," a display of their work at ArtsWestchester in White Plains. The exhibit lasts through March 20.

While a painter might express their passion in brushstrokes, a composer with a sonata, or an author in words, quilters, Eusebi says, use fabric.

"If I see a scene that touches me, I think, I bet I can get that feeling with fabric," she says.

"Patterns" is a show of 28 quilts of varying sizes, and they range from the traditional, such as "Boxes," a yellow-and-white design by Marlys Klein, to Abby Shipper's "Welcome Home Little Joshua," an almost three-dimensional block quilt.

"The show works very nicely with what we've been doing with folk art," says Janet T. Langsam, the executive director of ArtsWestchester. "The quilters have taken some of these traditional patterns, and used contemporary colors and fabrics. It's tradition, with a twist."

Catherine Johnston, president of Village Squares, says the show will surprise those who think quilting is a quaint by-gone art.

"It's a stereotype that quilting is a boring, not the coolest thing, but I am blown away by the art quilts," adds Daryl Cooper, ArtsWestchester gallery director.

When Johnston began quilting in the 1970s, she says she couldn't find cotton fabric "it was all polyester back then," she laughs or a group to join. Today, quilting is a $3-billion industry which has spawned an entire cottage industry, including books and magazines on the subject.

"I was always drawn to fabric and textiles," says Johnston, of New Rochelle. "For me, it's more of an avocation; I feel strange if I don't do it every day."

Johnston started the quilters group in 1983, and even with 80 members, mostly from Westchester, she says her group, which is based in White Plains, is on the smaller side. "Empire Quilters (based in Manhattan) has over 200 members."


The attraction to an art that dates back thousands of years and is done almost in the same way, designing and then pieceing together panels of fabric, either by hand or by machine is pretty straightforward, Johnston says. There's a common sense of purpose, for one. In her group, members spend time working on a single quilt, in addition to their own.

Then, of course, there's show and tell, where members show what they're working on and what inspired them. "It's like eye candy," Eusebi says.

There's no set formula for how long it takes to make a quilt, Johnston says. "That's the quintessential question. And the answer is, you can make a quilt in a day, a week, a month, or maybe a year, depending on what you're doing an how much you like it."

The Village Squares know this from experience: The members do a lot of outreach, stitching and sewing quilts for many needy organizations, including Bedford Babies at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. Guild members teach expectant mothers at the prison how to make quilts for their newborns.

Recently, the group was asked if it could make a few twin-sized quilts for the Veterans Administration Hospital in Montrose. "Turns out they needed 100 of them, in two months," Johnston says. "We did it. We have so much pride in our work knowing it's going to help someone else."

For the show, Cooper worked with the Village Squares to get a diverse group of quilts. Along with the folksy "Boxes," "Patterns" has some bold patterns and colors, with quilts named "Radical Rails," "Bird of Paradise," "Tropical Breeze" and Pinwheel Magic.

In all, the fabric is the star. Eusebi says die-hard quilters check out fabric shops and quilting groups all the time, even on vacation. "When you find a stash of great fabric in a quilt shop, it's like treasure," she says, noting that recently she stumbled on some brown fabric with a pattern of lozenges on it. "And I just had to have a yard of it," she laughs.

As to why they spend endless hours on their projects, Eusebi says: "There are two possibilities : One is I have an assignment, and this is what I'm making. The other is, I just love this piece of fabric. Then once you begin, you see how the fabric goes and so goes the quilt," she says. "It talks to you."

Catherine Johnston of New Rochelle is president of Village Squares Quilters, which is mounting

Catherine Johnston of New Rochelle is president of Village Squares Quilters, which is mounting "Patterns," a show of some of its quilts. (Karen Croke/The Journal News)



Abby Shipper's quilt,

Abby Shipper's quilt, "Welcome Home Little Joshua" will be on exhibit at the Village Square Quilters Show "Patterns" at ArtsWestchester. (ArtsWestchester)



'Pinwheel Magic,

'Pinwheel Magic," a quilt created by Mary Anne Ciccotelli of the Village Square Quilters. (ArtsWestchester)








If you go


What: "Patterns," an exhibit of quilts from the Village Squares Quilters.

When: Friday through March 20. The opening reception is at 5:30 p.m.

Regular gallery hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Where: ArtsWestchester, 31 Mamaroneck Ave., White Plains. 914-428-4220.

Information: For information on Village Squares Quilters, visit

Related event: On Feb. 14, ArtsWestchester will host an afternoon of quilts and classic music as the Eastchester Arts Council presents "Peter and the Wolf." Tickets are $15 adults; $10 children, students with ID.