Her blue-veined hands move over the blocks of basted fabric, pulling together a pattern one rectangle at a time. In the sewing room at the Powder Springs Senior Center, Estie Norris is in charge, as she has been since the center opened in 1992.
At age 95, Norris has been an avid quilter for decades. Stitching just goes with the territory when your career was at the now-defunct Coats and Clark's textile mill, which was right down the road in Austell until it closed in 1983. The site now houses the Threadmill Mall and Austell City Hall, as well as one of the county sheriff’s outposts.
Norris has long been accustomed to sewing for herself, but she really became proficient at quilting for others once she retired "in the '70s, I believe."
How many quilts has she made since then? "Over 200. I've made quilts for children and grandchildren and friends.”
She looks through books for ideas. Following through on one of those took her about 600 hours to complete, "but it was beautiful when it was done. It was a king-size green flowerpot quilt."
Her skill with the needle isn't her only gift. Norris' paintings are greatly admired in Powder Springs.
The mother of three—her eldest child is 72—also enjoys gardening and flower arranging when she's not stitching away or stroking a brush across canvas.
She drives herself to and from home in her own vehicle, she said with a grin, aware that most seniors in their 10th decade are not usually tooling around on their own.
Her mantra: "To always keep busy, keep doing something."
It doesn't hurt that she’s usually keeping busy for good causes.
Proceeds from many of the items Norris and her crew of quilters make go toward the Senior Center and the Bethel Assisted Living facility.
Fellow quilter Ellen Horst, 85, said the group’s work raises funds for more "yarn and fabric that we use (for) making more quilts and throws." The center doesn't have the money to provide those materials for quilting class, so the quilting group earns it themselves.
Grace Mason, 77, said the quilters also receive donations. "We have folks drop off material that might have been left in an estate. A quilter may have passed away, or someone has cleaned out their closet and found some left over that they don't plan to use."
The group created the adorable children’s quilts that grace a wall in the center, some with matching stuffed toys.
"We sell them, but we have to let people know these are hand-stitched," Norris said. "These pieces would go for $600 in boutiques or specialty shops, but when we put them on sale for half that, it's a deal."
Something that could raise the price even more: They're made by a woman who's 95 years old, although Norris confesses in a whisper, "I'm really 95 and a half."