Forward Living: A group that specializes in patching up

As a tough winter draws to a close, there seems to be much that needs fixing up. Even on the North Fork where highway department crews are careful and competent, there’s an occasional bit of lawn or small shrub disturbed by a plow. Every now and then a pothole appears.
Winds tear shutters from our homes, concrete planters left outside crack, paint chips from doors and window trim when assailed by hail.

Yes, as I said, tough. That’s why I needed help with some repair jobs. Now don’t misunderstand me. My husband is more than handy when it comes to fixing things and he works hard. Trouble is, his idea of repair is demolish and start from scratch. You’ve no idea how many jobs we’ve got going. Some date back to the 1900s.

So when I heard of a group, more or less headquartered in Peconic, I took note. The group, I was told, spent considerable time doing patch work. Just what I needed — patch jobs. As I tell my husband, not every repair has to be a work of art.

I was, however, put off by the group’s name. ELIQG. That’s a strange-looking word and I certainly couldn’t pronounce it. But if their work was good, that was all that mattered. I decided to meet with them.

Right off I discovered the group had no regular hours in a North Fork store. I’d have to travel, at 7 p.m. (in the dark!), to Southold Town Recreation Center in Peconic to discuss my needs and determine if ELIQG was up to the work. But I was desperate, so I drove alone to meet with the group. My husband remained home, not understanding my impatience with his work schedule.

His staying home was fortunate since it turned out that, with one or two exceptions, every member of ELIQG is female. My husband might have felt uncomfortable. Then again, maybe not. What a novelty, thought I. All these women doing work usually reserved for men. Strange, though. I saw no nails, hammers, saws, levels, paint brushes, ladders — all things guys lug around when they’re patching up.

What I did see took me by surprise. This group I’d stumbled into, this ELIQG, was Eastern Long Island Quilters Guild, about 200 of ’em. The tools of their trade are scissors, needles, pins, tape measures. It was obvious I’d not get my garage door repaired or a few roof shingles replaced by the members of ELIQG. But I decided to stick around at the center. Maybe I’d learn something.

First, though, I want you to know ELIQG members must enjoy eating. Two long tables were filled with cake and cookies, coffee and tea. Made no difference I’d just finished supper. A second dessert began my evening’s adventure.

I thought it polite to say hello to ELIQG president Connie Klos. When I mentioned repair and patch work, Connie smiled and suggested I stay and hear what ELIQG is all about. The group began 30 years ago, Connie said. Its goal then and now is to celebrate the beauty of quilting, the creativity and skills involved, the joy of work with color and cloth.

Connie was especially enthusiastic as she spoke of Comfort Quilts Sewing Day. This year it’s on April 17 at the rec center. On that day ELIQG members meet and sew quilts for nursing home residents, for newborns in hospitals, for youngsters in need of solace. Over the past years many hundreds of ELIQG quilts have brought joy to recipients.

Heading again to the refreshment table, I met Riverhead’s Gayle Wagner, a 15-year member of ELIQG. Gail keeps returning to ELIQG because there are “always new techniques” to learn. Gail must be a good learner because she exhibits her quilting in shows from Riverhead to Orient. You can see her work at Cutchogue’s Old Town Art and Crafts Guild.

ELIQG has lots of classes. Some are taught by instructors from all over the country. For example, on June 1 there’ll be a lecture by Fran Kordek of West Virginia. Other classes are taught by guild members. May Watson of Greenport, as part of National Quilting Day weekend (March 12 and 13), will teach a class called Fanciful Fish-Fabric Collage. I saw the samples and I was hooked.

Want to see some of May’s work? Go to Southold Town Hall and check out the bicentennial quilt hanging in the lobby. May’s square depicts Greenport’s Floyd Memorial Library. A beauty!

Oh, I saw lots of beauty at the ELIQG meeting. Quilts, large and small, hung from clotheslines or were draped on racks. All a testament to the dedication and talent of so many quilters. I forgot completely my search for hammers and saws. North Fork needles and threads had won my heart — one small stitch at a time.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.