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Quilter welcomes visitors to big event

Deb Marshall has a knack for sewing.

She made her children's clothes while they were growing up. Her next-door neighbor noticed her skills and thought she could successfully apply them to quilting. But Marshall ignored the constant pitches.

"I didn't want to do it; I wasn't interested," said Marshall. "But I finally tried it just so she could stop asking me."

She stopped the pesky requests, but she also started an addiction. Marshall discovered her passion, along with a talent for creative art quilts. She started quilting in 1971 and hasn't put down the needle since, making a variety of pieces, from holiday stockings to wall art. She sold some pieces but mostly has given them as gifts.

Marshall immersed herself in the local quilting scene by joining the Twin City Quilters Guild 15 years ago. The principal clerk at the North Tonawanda Library, she was president of the organization in 2002-03. The North Tonawanda-based organization is nearly 30 years old and has more than 100 members.

The guild's biggest event of the year, "Palette of Quilts," will be held next weekend, and Marshall is the quilt show's publicity chairwoman. The show -- a quilting fest -- is organized every two years and attracts hundreds. It will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. next Sunday in the Wheatfield Community Center, 2800 Church Road. Admission is $5.

Her president's quilt, a tradition of the organization, will be on display. The quilt's blocks were made by members from blocks and then stitched by Marshall.

>Who should attend the quilt show?

You don't need to be a quilter to enjoy a quilt show because there's such a variety. You have wearable art, home decor -- quilts you'll hang on your wall because it's a piece of art. You think of a quilt as something to cover up with, but there some quilts that would be art.

>How have these shows evolved since 2003, when the first one was held?

The first time it was just an open house -- an evening event with quilts on display and demonstrations to show people how to quilt. But now it's two days long, and we've got vendors, a boutique, selling purses and other handmade items, an auction and a quilt raffle. It's become more professional.

>What has the turnout been like?

In 2003, we had about 150 people, and in 2009 there were more than 600 people in attendance. And they came from a variety of place, and we had some Canadians.

>What's the goal of the guild?

The goal of the organization is the gathering of people of a common interest and preserving the heritage of quilting and providing a source of information and inspiration and perpetuating excellence in quilting and related crafts.

>How did it get its start?

It started in 1982 with six members, and now we're currently over 100. When we started, it was just a handful of people meeting at houses, and then it grew and we went to the Carnegie Cultural Center. We had to move again to the YWCA, and then we outgrew that site and had to move to the North Tonawanda Library and then Wheatfield Community Center, where we currently meet.

What do the meetings entail? What actually takes place?

We meet once a month on the first Wednesday of every month in the Wheatfield Community Center, from 6:30 to 8:30 or 9 p.m. We have a business meeting, speakers, workshops, and every month the workshop is something different, like sewing, demonstrations, new products or new methodology.

>Who are your members?

Our membership goes from early 20s to 80s, and it's not all women, either. We have three male members. Experience levels range from those who never quilted to someone who's quite experienced, to professional quilters and do it for a living. We more than welcome new members. We have workshops for the beginners, and those are held as needed. There's an annual fee of $25.

>How many quilts have been made?

Hundreds over the years, from as small as a table runner to quilt for a full-size bed, which could easily take a year to make. I'm more into art quilts. Usually, they're not large enough for you to snuggle underneath them.

>How often do you sew? What are the benefits of quilting?

I sew every day, before work for 45 minutes, during my lunch break and three hours after work. It's my passion; it gives me peace of mind. It soothes my soul. Most of my quilts go out to someone. I enjoyed the whole process.

>What is the status of quilting? Is it a craft that is still relevant in this high-tech culture?

It was a dying craft when I started quilting. There just wasn't that much interest. But that's no longer the case. I don't know what caused the change, but we keep outgrowing the facilities where we meet.

Know a Niagara County resident who'd make an interesting question-and-answer column? Write to: Scott Scanlon, Q&A, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or e-mail niagaranews@buffnews.com

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