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Quilting is a labor of love for The Westmoreland's Ginnie Leiner

Shirley McMarlin
| Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, 8:57 p.m.
Ginnie Leiner, membership and development coordinator at The Westmoreland Museum of American Art and also an avid quilter, displays a Christmas-themed quilt she is making for her granddaughter Ruby.
Shirley McMarlin | Tribune-Review
Ginnie Leiner, membership and development coordinator at The Westmoreland Museum of American Art and also an avid quilter, displays a Christmas-themed quilt she is making for her granddaughter Ruby.

Ginnie Leiner is the coordinator of membership and development at The Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg. In the position she's held for 10 years, she says, she "manages the database and assists the development department in everything it takes to raise money and keep the museum running."

She can see the museum from the sewing room of her house, where she lives with her husband, George Leiner, an associate professor of philosophy at Saint Vincent College. In that sewing room, she is surrounded by the colorful fabrics she uses to make a steady supply of quilts for her loved ones, including two adult daughters and three grandchildren.

Question: What type of quilting do you do?

Answer: I'm a machine quilter – a machine piecer and a machine quilter. Most of my quilts are patchwork. I do cross-stitch quilts as well. I do some appliqué, but I'm pretty much a patchwork addict.

I really like Christmas and Halloween, so a lot of my quilts are made around Christmas and Halloween (themes). I've probably made more Christmas quilts than anything else.

Q: What is it about patchwork that appeals to you?

A: I think I just like making all the corners meet. Life is so frantic and crazy that it's nice to have something that comes into a nice, tight grid. My first husband said I should have been a draftsman because probably my favorite part is the planning.

Even when I was a kid, I was always drawing patterns. I did a quilt once for my brother and the pattern was the tile floor from a pediatrician's office. I just have an eye for repetitive patterns.

Q: How long have you been quilting?

A: I started when I was a newlywed the first time around — I was a child bride. I was 18, so I've been quilting for 48 years.

I learned to sew when I was a teenager, and I made a lot of my clothes, so I'd have all this fabric left over and just got interested in how I could recycle before recycling was a hot thing. I hated to throw things away.

Q: Do you know how many quilts you've made over the years?

A: I'm working on my 150th quilt.

Q: How long does it usually take to complete one?

A: That's the first question everyone always asks. It just depends on how complicated it is and how big it is. A good year is three quilts – if I get three quilts done, I'm happy.

Q: Where do you get your fabrics?

A: Usually I would just go to Jo-Ann (Fabrics), but I really appreciate small quilt shops and what they're trying to do. They generally have more unique – and more pricey, because they're smaller – fabrics. I buy fabrics online. I get them on eBay even. And I'll go to thrift stores and look for vintage items of clothing or curtains or stuff like that.

Q: With people who do traditional crafts like quilting, there's often a family connection. Did you learn from a relative?

A: My grandmother quilted. She didn't really teach me, but we would compare what we were working on. She was a machine piecer and a hand quilter, so I always admired the patience she had to hand quilt. I had a great-grandmother on the other side who also quilted. I remember her, but I never really knew her. I didn't know she was a quilter until I started. So I guess there's a family tradition.

My younger daughter has taken up quilting, which pleases me to no end. She started out making T-shirt quilts and now she's branching out into other quilts. She's doing beautiful work and I'm really proud of her.

Q: It seems like there's often a meditative quality to repetitive work like quilting. Is it that way for you?

A: It is. I work on all kinds of things in my head when I'm piecing and ironing – because there's a lot of ironing that goes on – and when I'm pinning and when I'm quilting. I work out all the world's problems.

Q: Have you shown your work anywhere?

A: I've had quilts in a few local places. I had a show at Saint Vincent in 2015-16, which was a real honor.

Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5750, or via Twitter @shirley_trib.

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