Members of the Elder Services Heritage Group at the Soaring Eagle Community Center have gathered to work on other crafts that they sell at events such as the Rumba for the Lumber or a pow wow.
Natasha Tilson is the Elder Services manager and coordinates the groups, which meet in 10 places around the Lumbee Tribe’s territory once a week for four hours at a time to work on their projects.
Some in the group use skills they had developed before joining. There are several men who do woodworking to create a wooden frame that holds the 8-foot-square quilts the group makes.
“We have certain people who are better at certain things, and that’s what they do,” Lillian Sampson said. “I usually quilt.”
Eighty-eight-year-old Tessie Hunt, the oldest member of the heritage group, has been retired almost as long as she was working. She’ll tell you she’s 16 years old though — after all, eight plus eight is 16. She was making a letter holder and key ring with intricate patterns on the front that looked like a giant cross stitch. She said the hardest part is counting out the holes in the pattern and planning the stitches she will make. She can make one in a four-hour day. She and others work hard — but attend to other needs.
“We get up and talk and pray,” Hunt said.
Girlean King and Nevelyn Graham worked on cutting out pocketbooks. Once the pocketbooks were assembled, they would sew a Lumbee pinecone to the outside of the bag.
The pinecone, which is the symbol of the tribe, is made by folding triangles of colored cloth and attaching them to a backing material. Starting in the middle, layers of multi-colored cloth are added until the pinecone looks like a two-dimensional tunnel with teeth. These take about three hours to make, but they turn a pocketbook into a Lumbee pocketbook. Annie Grace Lowery, who was sewing the plastic skeleton of the plastic bag holder together with yarn, had sewed for herself for years.
“I used to sew my own clothes, but I don’t do that anymore,” Lowery said.
She and others were active in the group before Tilson became the Elder Services manager in October of 2006. The group has become what Tilson calls a mini-enterprise.
With the help of Sandy Sanderson, a VISTA volunteer from AmeriCorps, the group puts its crafts on the market. VISTA volunteers are assigned by AmeriCorps to help groups create businesses and strengthen communities. Sanderson is an Ojibwe Indian from Canada, and her husband is Lumbee, whom she met in Michigan.
Sanderson sewed for her children all of their lives, crocheted and designed quilts, some of which have won in shows. A quilt she designed that was made by the Rennert group was recently raffled off and won by a Lumberton heritage group member, Bennie Chavis.
“I like working with the elders,” Sanderson said. “They’re full of good stories and personalities. I fall in love with them, even the mean ones. But they’re not really mean.”