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FIRST PERSON

Online Quilters Rebuild Her Faith, Block by Block

April 05, 1998|JODI WILGOREN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Never underestimate the power of a quilter. Or of the Internet.

Faithful readers of this section may recall the Great Gidget Quilting Caper, a tragic tale of technology exploited, trust thwarted, innocence robbed. This is not a movie, I realize, but heck if there's not a happy ending.

Headline writers, in their wit and wisdom, had termed mine "A Quilter's World Torn Apart." Just a few months after I'd taken up the hobby and joined an online quilting guild, someone--she called herself Gidget--had stolen the hard work of my hands.

I'd been participating in a Fall Sampler Swap: Using autumnal tones, each person was to make 12 identical quilt blocks, keep one and send in 11. Idea was that you'd get 11 different blocks from all over the world and sew 'em into a beautiful blanket.

But my blocks never came.

There I was, sitting with my lone "Chimneys & Cornerstones" design in rich gold, chestnut, burgundy and rust. My e-mail told me I was not alone: Gidget, who'd organized this little scam, apparently had kept everybody's blocks.

So the Fall Sampler I'd hoped to drape over my hunter-green couch was just an unfinished idea in my head.

Until I shared my story.

From near and far--literally, from Arcadia and Australia--quilters sent blocks.

Patchwork blocks. Paper-pieced blocks. Appliqued blocks.

Leaf blocks. Star blocks. Striped blocks. Blocks of batik.

Twenty-six to date--more than twice what I would have gotten if Gidget had fulfilled her promise.

They are gorgeous, these unsolicited gifts.

A leaf fabric so vibrant it smells like October. A star of green and gold bold enough to leap off the table. An adorable Halloween scarecrow holding a pair of pumpkins. Four leaves, each made of a leaf fabric, on a background of black with little leaves in matching colors. Reds and browns and greens and oranges and yellows, all sewn carefully together by strangers. For me.

And the notes!

"I heard about your recent misfortune and just wanted to do a little something to help you out," quilter Vicki McKenica wrote from Ohio, on a pad with houses across the top and a happy kitty on the bottom.

"Keep the faith," wrote a woman from San Luis Obispo.

Unbeknownst to me, another online guild had posted my article, then surreptitiously organized the re-quilt. Someone named Heather called information and got a phone number for me, but no one was home and there was no answering machine (I'd long since moved). So they just sent the blocks to The Times--strangely, to a Torrance post office box that "Barb in Kentucky" somehow had run across--and hoped they'd find me.

And they did.

"I was really sad when I heard about what happened to you in your block swap," Sheri Lalk of Electra, Texas, wrote on a little yellow pad. "I did not want you to think all of us cyberquilters were bad, so I had the urge to make you a block.

"P.S. Give us a second chance."

One lady even sent a multicolored, calligraphied little poem on cardstock: "Families are like Quilts. Lives pieced Together, stitched with Smiles and Tears, colored with Memories and bound by Love."

So have faith. What goes around comes around. People--some people--are good.

Especially quilters.

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