August 24, 2013

Never too young to stitch


---- — PLATTSBURGH — Elise Beauharnois, 6, stitched the seams of a sunflower-patterned place mat on her maternal great-grandmother’s vintage black Singer sewing machine.

Beside her, “meme” Anne Gillette Burke, offered gentle instruction.

Beauharnois’s sister, Rene, 8, was also piecing together a similar place mat with their other grandmother, “grammie” Mary Lou Beauharnois.

The basement-level room was filled with grandmothers and one aunt, members of the Champlain Valley Quilters’ of New York, teaching their granddaughters and niece the art of quilting.

The Cupcake Kids Sewing Circle zipped around selvages like they were born to it. Maybe, it’s just genetics.

The idea to establish the intergenerational-quilting guild was the idea of Velma Peryea of Altona.

“The reason we started this is because some of the quilters, just loving to quilt, wanted to get our grandchildren together to pass on our art,” Velma said. “And, we just did not ever seem to find the day to do it. I just thought, ‘Why don’t we start a junior guild because, as adults, we have so much fun in our guild?’ I just passed the word out and talked at the meetings. As you see, the grandmothers all stepped up.

“We have our beloved grandchildren with us. And an aunt — well, she’s like a grandmother — and she is going to be a grandma. This is how this started.”

The Cupcake Kids Sewing Circle’s goals include teaching basic-quilting techniques, enjoying the camaraderie of others their own age, taking a spin-off of everyone else’s likes and dislikes, and learning from each other.

“We went to a quilt shop,” Velma said. “To watch those girls grab fabric and put colors together, it was an absolute thrill. So, they’ve really bonded. We’re doing community projects. Now, we’re doing place mats for Meals on Wheels, and ARC also, and personal use.”

Completed projects include bags, small quilts, petal pockets and pin cushions.

“They practiced putting borders on focus fabrics,” Velma said. “This is what we’ve done in five, six, seven weeks.”

Chazy resident Niki Gimmill participated with her granddaughter, Lyra Gimmill-Nexon, 9, of Silver Spring, Md.

“Last week when we were working on bags, I brought in some place mats to share because originally I came up with it at home with her (Niki) to make place mats,” Lyra said. “So, the other girls thought that would be a real cool project to do. So, everyone brought in fabric, and we did the place mats.”

“When I started quilting, I thought it was cool because I thought I never quilted before,” said Rene Beauharnois. “Then I started, so I could make a quilt.”

Maddi Bogacz started quilting with Brenda Racette, her aunt, a year ago.

“I made a quilt top, the place mat that I’m working on right now, a bag,” said Maddi, who lives in Cadyville. “I made like six tissue covers, and I like them.”

The grandmothers and grandchildren work one-on-one.

“So they are either here with a grandmother or an aunt, not a mother because the mothers are all working,” said Mary Lou.

“So that people don’t call and say, ‘I want to sign my child up, too.’ You can if you come with them, and you have to be a member of the Quilters’ Guild or join the Quilters’ Guild.”

Starting in September, the Cupcake Kids Sewing Circle will meet the first Saturday of the month at the United Way Building in Plattsburgh. 

“Next summer, we hope to go back to every Wednesday again,” Mary Lou said.

Sue Minnie, a guild member, made each Cupcake Kid a distinctive name tag.

“They picked out the colors that they wanted, and she did the embroidery on them, and then the grandmas put them together,” Mary Lou said.

The Cupcake Kids welcome boys, too. Circle members range in age from 5 to 10.

“Several of the grandmothers that are here and their grandchildren live farther away,” said Jane Emerson of Cadyville, who worked with her granddaughter, McKenna Macomber.

“So when they come in the summer to visit, they’ve joined us ... We have a very diverse group from different regions gathering together in the pursuit of love of sewing and quilting.”

The Cupcake Kids will exhibit in the Champlain Valley Quilters’ Guild Quilt Show the weekend of Oct. 12 and 13 at SUNY Plattsburgh’s Field House.

The circle includes Abby Peryea, Olivia Downey, Rowan Kehrer and Alexa Markowicz.

“They are also creating shoe boxes with goodies and goods to give to unfortunate children,” Velma said. “So, we have the pillowcase dresses, which are all over the Internet. You make a little dress for girls in Africa. They will be doing that and handing it in in November to give out right near the holiday seasons that we observe in this neighborhood. So, it has a global effect. Besides community here, they are thinking of farther (away). 

“One of the girls that was here, she has Greek heritage, and she was calling her grandmother ‘yaya.’ So my granddaughter heard that and found out, ‘Oh, it’s the Greek heritage.’ So, she started calling me ‘yaya’ as our own secret code. So, there is really a lot of diversity in the group.”

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For more information about the Cupcake Kids Sewing Circle, contact Mary Lou Beauharnois at 846-3312 or Velma Peryea at 493-2393.