EXETER — The end of every school year brings art displays, concerts, talent shows and benefits. And, Wednesday evening at Wyoming Area Secondary Center, a group of seniors produced all of that in one place.
There was talent on display – all in fabric and thread — at the school’s second annual Quilt Show.
All of the nearly 50 quilts were the handiwork of seniors, the quilting class that is part of the Consumer and Family Sciences department and members of the school’s quilting club.
Every quilt lined in the school’s gym sported a card with the maker’s name, the quilt’s pattern and its size and, in most cases, some kind of quote or explanation of what the maker wanted to convey.
“This is a work in progress – just like me,” wrote Krystina Stanczyk.
Brian McNew noted, “You miss 100 percent of the stitches you don’t sew.”
Other quiltmakers took the project even more seriously.
“I only came to school so I could quilt,” wrote Kayla Wedlock.
And Jillian Spak noted, “I dropped AP Physics for this class…..priorities!”
“I couldn’t be more proud of these seniors,” said Alexandria Briggs, who guided this year’s quilters as their long-term substitute teacher. The show was bittersweet for Briggs, who will have to return to being an elementary school teacher come September.
“These kids are amazing — they took to the sewing, they decided to add the fund-raising to the quilt show to benefit people they know,” she said.
Proceeds from the basket raffle and craft sale during the show will benefit the Gober family who lost their mother in a car crash last year and the quilt raffle and bake sale profits will go one of the school’s staffers fighting liver cancer, she said.
Briggs said she found herself dropped into the fabric fray almost without warning. She had been hired to take over the job when regular teacher, Antoinette Jones, left for maternity leave. The original plan was to have Briggs shadow Jones for a few days to get acquainted with the classes and projects, but on the day Briggs was scheduled to start her “orientation,” Jones went into labor.
“I did some sewing before, but never a quilt,” Briggs said. “I made one myself in two weeks to see what the whole process was so that I could help the students with any problems they might have. And then I made a second one to work along with them.”
Briggs limited the block patterns to a log cabin, courthouse steps or quick trip-around-the-world, so the students could realistically finish at least one quilt by the end of the year.
While all of the students chose colors, stripes, dots, paisleys, prints and flowers to match their personalities, some went the extra step to individualize their quilts. Emily Ambruso added appliques – a guitar, a dinosaur, a daisy, the letters “MU” and a patch from a self-defense school to her red and gray creation. Stephanie Ann Sokach created a quilt label for the back with her senior picture transferred to fabric.
The only quilt that didn’t follow the proscribed patterns was rainbow-colored chevrons on a black background by Dani Franklin.
“I warned her she was quilting at her own risk,” said Antoinette Jones, who was at the show to congratulate the students. “But she pulled it off. And did it very well.”
Jones said she began teaching the quilting class when she started at the job five years ago and initiated the quilting club two years later.
“Students tell me they can’t wait for senior year to be in quilting,” she said. “They have to learn the basic skills. And then you can’t stop them. They come in during their study halls to work on their quilts. They form a community, they talk, they concentrate on their work, they help each other.”
And that’s only the undercard.
“Really, the main thing is the sense of accomplishment they all get after working on something that takes time and effort,” she said. “Every one of these youngsters is proud of creating something with their own hands.”
Even better, it’s a skill that can last a lifetime.
“I started on my quilt last October and actually finished it this afternoon. That was the best feeling I’ve had all year,” said Emily Yarmey, who found the hand-stitching to be the most satisfying part of the process. “And once you learn something like this, you can do it forever.”