SEBRING - Those who walk into the Kenilworth Lodge lobby this week will be sure to spot a kingsize quilt on display.
"Mint Chocolate Truffle," as the quilt is so dubbed, because of the color of its patches, is being raffled off by the Highlands County Quilt Guild to raise money for quilts the group sews to donate to local veterans, shelter animals and new born babies. The winner will be chosen in February, and tickets start at a $1.
Twenty years ago, Dee Dee Bedard, who owns Craft Quilters in Sebring, got a group of 10 quilting enthusiasts in her shop.
Now, the group boasts a membership of 150 women and men, who gather two to three times a month at the Women's Club in Sebring, to piece and sew - not just for Christmas and christening gifts but for the community, as well.
The fifth Tuesdays are reserved for community service projects, explained Debbie Ingalls, who chairs the guild's community service group.
That may end up being two to three times a year, but members manage to produce 24 to 40 quilts during the fifth Tuesday meetings, Ingalls said, sometimes finishing the work at home.
That's what some of the women were doing Wednesday as part of the group's four-day quilting retreat at the Kenilworth Lodge, where 34 quilters are gathered to finish up their" UFOs" or unfinished projects.
Barbara Black was stitching a baby quilt. With one baby in the family on the way, she figured the other baby quilts she sews would possibly go to charity.
One of the big community projects the guild does is the "Opportunity Guild," the one that is on display at the Kenilworth this week.
Over a period of nine months, members take turns doing portions of the quilt, said Joyce Lamky, who described herself as beginning quilter.
Her type of project is "straight cutting, straight sewing," she explained.
Lamky got into quilting after she retired 10 years ago. She knew how to sew but didn't like to make dresses, because it requires exact sewing measuring and sewing, and felt quilting allowed her to be more creative.
Now, she has a hobby she likes, she said, and a handmade gift she can give her family and special friends
Twenty years ago, Sharon Metzger's husband's great aunt taught her to quilt by hand.
Now, Metzger is one of the few people who prefers to hand sew a quilt, even though she declared with a laugh that sometimes she can be persuaded to go over to the "dark side," by those who use sewing machines.
While hand-sewing quilts gave Metzger a special talent, it also ended up giving her pain in her fingers.
When she found it was difficult for her to make quilts, she moved into appraising them, and is a certified quilt appraiser through the American Quilter's Society, a lengthy, laborious process that took her seven to eight years to achieve.
As one of about 100 certified quilt appraisers in the country, Metzger travels to quilt shows to appraise quilts, some which can range from $4,000 to $6,000, she said.
As a hand-quilter, Metzger takes longer than machine quilters and sticks to doing three projects a year, she said.
While other quilters have elaborate set-ups with sewing machines of various sizes, all Metzger has to do is find a comfortable couch and keep sewing.
"It's peaceful," she said.
That also means she does not look up when she is busy.
"You don't watch TV," she smiled. "You listen to it."