A colorful milestone
The group’s founding members: Ronnie Alber, Lillian Dowling, Pat Marcoux, and Audrey Collins

IB/Finnegan

A colorful milestone

Story By: LIZ FINNEGAN
5/31/2018


ISLIP TOWN—The Great South Bay Quilters have long been creating and teaching the techniques required for making both beautiful and functional artwork. And now, in their 35th year, the group has expanded to producing a number of other sewn items, as well as thread painting or fiber art, proving they’re not just about quilts anymore.

Most of the current 52 members—who hail from Massapequa to Sayville—recently attended an anniversary party for the club at Islip Town’s Joyce Fitzpatrick Senior Center in East Islip. Among them were several founding members that have kept the momentum going over the years. One of them, Lillian Dowling of Islip, remarked, “It’s a wonderful group.”

Dowling said that local interest in the art of quilting was heightened during the bicentennial celebrations in 1976. “Some of us traveled to take classes,” she added.

As the hobby caught on, Audrey Collins and Gloria Bleidner of Islip started the guild with a few members in 1983, meeting monthly at the Islip Public Library. The group began to grow and was soon recognized as Chapter 212 of the National Quilting Association Inc. Guest lecturers and visiting teachers held workshops at their meetings and they began displaying their creations in the library and also donating quilts for raffles to nonprofit organizations such as AHRC and Family Service League. They also began offering a scholarship for a graduating high school senior.

Most of the members said they joined for the camaraderie while honing their quilting skills. “I find quilting very relaxing,” said founding member Pat Marcoux. Others said before joining, they had never quilted at all. Claire Noto, the current president, added, “I’d been sewing all of my life and then I got interested in quilting.”

After growing out of the library, the club moved their meetings to Trinity Lutheran Church in Islip, and then to the Sinai Reform Temple in Bay Shore before settling in their current location at the Joyce Fitzpatrick Senior Center in Brookwood Hall, where during each meeting, the room is filled with vivid examples of their handiwork. 

But it’s not just about displaying their quilts. “Community projects are required [of every member],” said longtime quilter and a past president JoAnn Incalcatera. She explained that every year the group makes and donates items; among them are lap robes for wheelchair-bound veterans at the VA Hospital and walker caddies (pouches) for nursing homes. Baby blankets are given to Mercy Haven and pet blankets go to the Islip Animal Shelter. And they provide the book bags for the program called “Born to Read” at Southside Hospital that are presented to every newborn, as well as the gift bags filled with toiletries that are donated to women’s shelters. Over the holidays, each Meals on Wheels recipient in the area receives a decorative handmade placemat with their dinner. 

“This is a very caring and sharing group,” said Dowling. Marcoux concurred and added, “I never met a quilter I didn’t like.”

Anyone interested in learning how to quilt or perfect their skills is invited to join the Great South Bay Quilters. Meetings are held at the Joyce Fitzpatrick Senior Center located at 50 Irish Lane in East Islip the fourth Wednesday of every month, beginning again this September. For more information, visit www.greatsouthbayquilters.org.