Stitchers find friendship, distraction-free work place

Gilpin Stitchers at a Gilpin Community Center Get-Together
Photo by Jeffrey V. Smith

By Jennifer Pund
The regulars at the Gilpin Stitchers Get Together are a reliable bunch. At 8:30 a.m. on the first and third—and sometimes fifth—Thursday of every month, a group of, organized, productive and dedicated women can be seen quilting, knitting and stitching at the Gilpin County Recreation Center. Member of the Gilpin Stitchers’ Get Together—celebrating its two-year anniversary this month—are known to meet regardless of weather and work well into the day, most of the time completing entire projects in one session, unless the conversation is too good.

In 2012, Peggy Andrews and Linda Harrison noticed many folks stopping to check out their booth of quilts and other works at the Gilpin County Holiday Market. “Linda and I started thinking we could get a group together and see if anybody was interested in doing this rather than driving down into town,”Andrews said. The two printed up and handed out flyers to test the waters.

“We just started telling people we wanted to start a group and seeing if anyone wanted to join us,” Andrews said. Upon approval from the Gilpin Recreation Center, the crafters began meeting in the All Purpose Room and people started showing up.

“A lot of us are retired or have just moved up here, so it’s a good way to get people together and even meet our neighbors,” Andrews said of meeting a group member who lives within walking distance of her house. Harrison explained she had admired a house in her neighborhood for years, but can now enjoy it from the inside after meeting its owner at a Gilpin Stitchers Get Together.

The meetings start about 8:30 a.m. to coincide with the “Give Me A Break” child care program at the recreation center and continues much of the day. Anyone is welcome to come whenever they can make it.

Kasey Harmsen has been attending the group since its first meeting. She joined after speaking with Andrews and Harrison at the Holiday Market and thought it sounded like a good fit. “I have a 4-year-old and the rec center provides child care, so it’s really convenient for us,” Harmsen said. “And, I get a lot more done here then I can at home.”

Over the last 12 months, sewing about a block a month, Harmsen has been assembling an Underground Railroad-themed quilt with 12 different symbols in each block that held meaning to the running slaves. As she completes her last block, she says that the group has given her the dedicated time to work on the project. “I try to finish a block each time, but sometimes we talk too much and I don’t get it all done, but I try.”

The group helps each other with using tools, applying techniques, giving advice and has a show-and-tell time when someone wants to present something new.

Although the meeting used to end at noon, most women find themselves staying all day as long as the room is open. “It gives me time to get my projects done,” Andrews said. “I bring them here and I work all day and I can get something accomplished that I don’t do at home because we don’t have anybody bothering us. There’s no phones, no husbands. We can just work.”

The recreation center staff have even had to shut the doors to the All Purpose Room, more than once, during a Gilpin Stitchers meeting because they can get loud having fun and enjoying themselves. “We have wild parties,” Harmsen joked of the second anniversary celebration in January.

Members take turns bringing in refreshments of drinks and snacks and use their own coffee maker to make coffee as long as people are stitching. Each member brings their personal sewing machine, fabric and items needed for specific projects, but other items are offered as shared materials. The group pooled their money to purchase a new ironing board and iron to be used at the Get-Togethers. They also have a cutting station with rotary cutters and mats with rulers of varying sizes for any measuring need.

The women find the friendship and interaction beneficial as well as productive. “It’s just a lot of fun, really uplifting and I get more projects done… sometimes. But mostly it’s the camaraderie and getting out of the house and knowing you now the only one out there, is why I like to attend each meeting,” Harrison said.

Gail Lewis has also come to the group’s meetings since the first gathering and says she is hooked. “I’ve been coming since they started. I don’t come every time, but I really enjoy coming when I can,” she said. Working on a old quilt that needed some mending, Lewis finds attending the group is an opportunity to concentrate on hand quilting with little distractions from home.

The meetings provide other members time to do some hand quilting as well. “I am working on a quilt my mother-in-law started when she was pregnant with my husband,” Pat Schnering said. “She made the blocks and now I am putting it all together since she never got the chance to finish it.”

The Gilpin Stitchers usually work on individual projects but occasionally work together to create a quilt or complete a special project. Belita Persichini considers herself the newest member and is working with Andrews and Harrison to complete a military-themed quilt as a Wounded Warrior project to be presented as a surprise to an honored veteran from the community. “Peggy cut all the material for the quilt, and now we are getting started on the sewing,” Persichini said. “We will present it to him when we are done.”

The group has also made a few projects all together including a thread catcher they all completed in one meeting and the group will all make a supply bag in the new year.

Melinda Clemmer explained it’s inspiring to see what others are working on. “It really makes you want to make another quilt, or start a new project when you see someone else doing a neat pattern,” she said.

The group always welcomes all levels — including beginners — and is always looking for new members. They encourage anyone interested in quilting, sewing, knitting, crocheting or any type of needle point and needle work to stop by the Gilpin County Recreation Center and hang out for a meeting. It’s a perfect atmosphere to learn something new, finish those UFOs (unfinished objects) that all crafters have stashed away, or share your knowledge while getting to know more area stitchers. “It’s really come a long way and it’s been good to meet a lot of people,” said Andrews.

This group of ladies are dedicated to their work and community time. Come rain or shine—or blizzard—the women are known to show up in all conditions. “If we can drive, we will be here,” Andrews said. In the 24 months they have been meeting, only once was Andrews the only member to make it in. During a bad storm last year, Andrews was worried no one make it, but the whole group showed up. “I know we surprise them a lot here, when we all come in on a bad weather day,” Andrews said, “but we’re stitchers, we don’t give up.”

The Stitcher’s Get-Together takes place on the first, third and sometimes fifth Thursday of the month at the Gilpin Community Center, 2960 Dory Hill Road, Black Hawk. Contact Peggy Andrews at 303-582-2015 and or Linda Harrison at 303-582-5314 and for more information.

Originally published in the January 2015 issue of the MMAC Monthly

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