Nellie Schmidt, Betty Seibel, Susie Schmidt, and as many as 35 other Peabody area volunteers quietly piece together solutions, meeting community needs with their quilting projects. And they have been doing it for almost 12 years.
“I started the Peabody Community Quilt Project years ago with the premise that I didn’t want hand quilting to become a lost art,” group coordinator Susie Schmidt said. “We also wanted to support our local community, so we donate our projects to fundraisers, giving the money raised to whatever organization our group picks.”
In the past, quilt funds contributed over $8,000 toward Peabody park playground equipment. Other hometown organizations like the school cheerleaders, the American Legion, the senior center, and more, benefited from the quilters group’s quiet donations.
As the group organizer, Susie Schmidt, a 35-year professional seamstress, plans projects, cuts fabric for squares (often using scraps from other material), and sets up sewing machines for piecing, and the quilt rack for quilting.
Volunteers meet at Verna’s Beauty Shop in downtown Peabody to work on the six or seven machines there while piecing together quilts, wall hangings, and table runners, among other things.
“We have a lot of fun there, interacting with the beauty shop customers,” Nellie Schmidt said. “It’s a good deal for all of us.”
Once projects have been pieced together, a quilt rack set up on the second floor of Peabody’s Indian Guide Apartments becomes the center stage of operations.
“This is such a nice place to work,” Betty Seibel. “We can just come in here, everything is set up for us, and it is quiet. It is very relaxing and gives us something to do with our time.”
“We can shut the door and quilt for hours,” Nellie Schmidt said. “We solve all the world’s problems here. Or sometimes we don’t say anything. Our minds just keep working in pace with our fingers.”
It usually takes the group about six weeks to finish quilting a full, queen, or larger size quilt. All the work is volunteer labor.
Nellie Schmidt and Seibel currently spend time quilting a signature quilt, the second one in a series which features signatures of many Peabody area people.
“I worked for two years gathering enough signatures for this type of quilt,” Susie Schmidt said. “Then we ended up having too many, so this is our second one like this.”
The first signature quilt featured 49 local signatures. The second has about half as many, but includes more design blocks to fill the space. It will fit a double or queen-sized bed when finished.
“That’s the hardest thing about planning these projects,” Susie Schmidt said. “When we have so many different people working on them, the sizes sometimes come out a bit different, but that makes them interesting.”
The group does not take requests for quilting projects, but is working toward a large community auction this coming fall.
“We are planning to have a quilt auction in October,” Susie Schmidt said. “Before that time, we will vote as a group which local organization to support with our profits. The last time we did this, we had about 40 items to sell, including about seven or eight quilts.”
Nellie Schmidt said quilting gave her something to look forward to every day.
“There are endless possibilities of projects we could do,” she said. “I have three more quilts already planned that I want to make for my grandchildren.”
The quilters’ group meets two times per month to piece together projects, but Seibel and Nellie Schmidt are the main hand quilters.
“It would be nice if we had some more young people interested in this,” Nellie Schmidt said. “It is a very relaxing way to be involved in supporting the community.”