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Panama Canal Quilters
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The Panama Canal Quilters

by Alexa Rae

In the heat of the tropics, sewing quilts has never been a practical necessity. However in cooler climates, quilts are lovingly sewn by hand or machine and given as cherished gifts to family and friends or made for special occasions such as weddings or baby gifts.

They are highly prized and may be handed down from generation to generation. The interest in quilting has exploded in the last 10 years and has evolved from traditional piecing of bits of used cloth to a passion that has exploded into the world of formal art.

The International Quilt Show in Houston, Texas, last year was held at the Astrodome and attracted over 55,000 persons during the week-long exposition. Not only were hundreds of quilts of all types displayed for viewing, but many of the world renown artists were present to show and talk about their quilts. Classes, lectures, seminars and workshops were ongoing, and almost half the Astrodome was filled with vendors.

Items from all over the world were being sold, including fabrics, sewing supplies, jewelry, art items, clothing, beads, molas, books and literature, and all that glitters and shines!

Here in Panama, in May of 2002, at the home of Thelma de la Mater, a few interested and enthusiastic ladies gathered to share their interest in quilting. One of those present was Grace Spencer, a Canadian who lived on a yacht at the Pedro Miquel Yacht Club.

She brought with her some amazing appliquéd wall hangings and quilts that she had done during the many quiet hours sailing the high seas. We were all awed and inspired by her beautiful work, said member quilter Lesley Tassell, and that was the beginning of the Panama Canal Quilters.

From that time, about six to eight of us meet weekly at the studio of Carol Skinner in Albrook. We not only work on sewing quilts, but share ideas gleaned from reading books and magazines, attending classes in the States and enjoy "show and tell" from visiting quilters. We also share comraderie, recipes, and snacks. Most of us are retired and enjoying our newly found creative abilities.

The quilter and artist, Gaenor Speed, one of the members, has inspired us to be involved in charitable works. Her foundation includes over a dozen young people who    receive help and support. We have found that we could contribute by using our skills in making quilts for raffles and raising funds. In particular, we assist a young Panamanian, Julio Cesar Wong, a University of Panama, third year Pharmacy student.

In other areas, we have donated to the”Hogar Divino Nino” in Los Rios, “Nuestra Señora del Carmen Hogar Nino” de la Cruz Roja in San Miguelito, “Hogar de Ancianos” de la Cruz Roja in Caledonia, and “Nutre Hogar” in Diablo.

We try to do 2 or 3 quilts a year for public raffle and each one is unique and an opportunity for us to learn new methods and techniques. We are all learning and developing and appreciate the opportunity to put our ideas and talents to good use.

At present, we are raffling a “Snails Trail” twin size child’s quilt in very bright colors.

The tickets are $1.00 each or 6 for $5.00, and the final drawing will be Thursday, 26 January at the “Who’s New” luncheon at the Evergreen building. If you are interested in buying tickets, they can be obtained from Carol Skinner at 315- 0505 until the 26th.

The name of the winner will be published in the next issue of The Panama News.



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