GREENVILLE, N.C. - The room is just big enough for a quilt-size table and a few chairs, but the cozy atmosphere is more than enough space for the laughter, gossip, stories and good-natured teasing.
The Senior Quilters of the Lucille W. Gorham Inter-Generational Community Center work hard - completing a large, Christmas-themed quilt in just two days and with smiles. They call their work "a joy."
The quilters work fast, but the detail shows care and dedication to their craft, something they are hoping to pass on to future generations.
For more than eight years, Ruby Taylor, Hazel Whitfield, Maude Barnes and Gwendolyn Spell have worked on quilts and other quilted items they have donated to the community and sold at vendor events.
This summer, Angela Shaw came to the center hoping to find an option for her home-schooled daughter to earn her home economics credit.
Shaw met with the Senior Quilters and soon learned that they were not only willing, but had experience teaching students their art.
From the planning stages of a project to measuring fabric, pinning and sewing, the quilters have a history of helping other youths with senior projects and volunteer service hours. As many as eight Senior Quilters work on projects together, often necessitating a move from their normal room to the ground floor of IGCC, said Andrea Bristol, administrative support for IGCC.
"We had a young man who made a red and black quilt," Taylor said. "It was his project for graduation."
Lovely Shaw, 15, has been a part of the group since early September and has done hands-on quilting under the instruction and mentoring of the Senior Quilters. From small tasks like threading needles to larger jobs like sewing quilt squares and learning to use a sewing machine, Lovely has been taught every step of the process.
Lovely works with the Senior Quilters every Monday and Tuesday, especially ahead of events like the recent Holiday Craft and Vendor Show.
The Senior Quilters said they are either "self-taught" or learned from older quilters when they were younger and are happy to share that knowledge with others willing to learn.
"I learned from my parents," Taylor said. "It's been passed on."
The quilters acknowledged that their skills are somewhat of a dying art.
"Not many people do it like this anymore," Whitfield said, gesturing to the four women around the table, heads bent, needles moving. "But this is better than you can get in a store."
Depending on the intricacy of a quilt or project and the amount of time the quilters spend on it, either individually or in collaboration, a project can take anywhere from a year to just a few days.
The quilters are humble when praised for their work, but take pride in the fruits of their labor.
"That one took a lot of work," Whitfield said of an intricate quilt that took more than a year to complete.
The Senior Quilters said they hope to work on quilts to donate to the Ronald McDonald House.
Money from quilts that sell at the few vendor events the quilters participate in typically goes to replenishing their supplies. The quilters also depend on donations for materials.
Most of the quilts produced are donated, Taylor said.
"We go to the school system and the children's classrooms," Taylor said. "We go over to East Carolina University, and we sell them at the community center."
Bristol said IGCC hopes to expand the Senior Quilters' opportunities to sell their work, including creating an Etsy account, a website where craftspeople can manage their online storefronts and sell mainly handmade goods.
"They do it with a lot of love," Bristol said. "They really like doing it for fun, for the fellowship."