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The thread that runs for true

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By The Staff

Small, young voices, many with questions, filled the large place more used to mature conversation. One bemoaned that she could not get the thread into the eye of a needle. Another tried to fit her small finger into a large thimble before selecting another from the box of supplies.

Earlier in the day all had learned to sagely use scissors and cut material. Now they were threading needles and learning to make stitches of an even size, preferably small and not so tight their material puckered.

Among them floated the women of the Levy County Extension Service office and the Levy County Quilt Museum Director Winnelle Horne.

The children - nine girls and one boy - were campers in the 4-H Summer Sewing Camp.

While this looked like a lesson in putting needle and thread to stitching material, batting and backing together, it was much more.

It was the hand of one generation guiding, softly and patiently, in an ancient art that has found new popularity.

Horne said the purpose of the museum class was to teach the novice stitchers how to use a thimble to push the needle through the layers of quilting material.

"How do I get it not so tight?" Tierney Warsing, 11, asked. She came from Morriston for the class.

"You don't pull it so tight," Horne said quietly as she moved between the 10 children. Not all eyes were on the squares before them. Some gazed in wonderment at the quilts hanging nearby.

"It would be faster with a machine," Rebecca Rodgers, 8, said, as she worked her needle through layers of material, batting and backing. The Otter Creek resident quickly caught on to hand stitching.

Among the helping hands was Muriel Turner, family and consumer sciences agent with the service

"I had tried two years and didn't have any takers, then they just started coming out," she said of the full class. This is the fourth year the week-long sewing camps have been held and it's the third year to bring campers to the quilt museum. It's the first year boys have enrolled.

Turner says there is interest in sewing again, not so much to make clothing, but to make items for the home or decorative items, like the quilted pillows and pincushions these students will make. While there's not a big interest in clothing, the sewing camps will also cover tops, shorts, pajamas and bags.

On Friday the class end with a fashion show at 11 a.m. at the extension service office in Bronson.

The campers are participating in one of five camps this summer. All have already been filled. It's a remarkable achievement after having to work to fill only one class just four years ago. The campers come from all over the county. In this class, students hailed from Williston, Morriston, Otter Creek and Bronson. Next week's sewing camp will have Chiefland children.

In this class at the museum they will learn how to quilt a pillow top. Horne had the quilting squares ready for the children when they arrived after lunch. The girls' squares were a block pattern with pink, lavender and lime green designs. For the long young man there was a bold square of primary colors - red, green, blue and yellow.

Later at the Extension service office the squares will be sewn to a backing and stuffed to make the pillow shape.

In the meantime, Horne comforted a camper who lamented making big stitches.

"You really need to save these pillows because when you really learn to quilt you're going to look back and say 'Did I do that?'," Horner said. "That's because you're going to get stitches that are smaller and smaller."

And the gulf between the interest of a grandmother's generation and the next will close as well.