When you think of  a quilting bee maybe you imagine a bunch  of elderly ladies, drinking tea, sewing together in a church basement? The monthly Quiltapalooza at Mt. Airy's "Art Garage" is not exactly a mosh pit, but quilters of all levels gather to sew, sip some wine, share their work and create a community around the art of the quilt. 

It's a Friday night at the Mt. Airy Art Garage and quilters are jockeying for electrical outlets and unloading sewing machines, fabric squares and scissors onto more than a dozen long tables set up in the open gallery space.  

Janet Myers shows off  a new purchase — a rolling cart from JoAnn Fabrics that she got on sale.   It holds her sewing machine and has lots of pockets for other quilting gear.  Like many others, Myers comes to Quiltapalooza for the sense of community.

"It helps talking about new things. You get excited, you want to try new stuff,  and it's wonderful bringing in a finished quilt and everybody oohs and aahs over it," said Myers.

Sarah Bond is a master quilter who works as a partner in a small private equity firm by day, teaches quilting at night, and exhibits her work across the region.  When she started Quiltapalooza it was an informal gathering at her house, a way to carve out a few hours to get together with friends and just quilt. 

"Nobody was asking where their shoes were, nobody was saying they were hungry, nobody was interrupting, and we could have this time," said Bond.   

When she got a studio at the Mt. Airy Art Garage she brought Quiltapalooza with her and opened it up to a wider audience that now includes old friends, students and newcomers seeking inspiration.

Pat Deck and Kathy James are both long time quilters who come for the camaraderie and the fun of being in a room full of others who share their interests. They are armed with curvy, '50s-era Singer sewing machines called Featherlights. The little Singers are small but mighty and have a loyal fan base among quilters.  Kathy James has a special fondness for her machine.

"I love this machine," said James. "I named mine, because it's black and powerful. This is Rosa Parks!"   

Bond and the others clearly enjoy the quilting community that's found a home at Mt. Airy Art Garage.

On Friday, Feb. 28, the Mt. Airy Art Garage began hosting a juried exhibit on the art of the quilt.  Entitled, "Unfolding Our Stories," the show runs until April 25, 2014 and will feature the work of local and national fabric artists.

On Sunday March 9, Sarah Bond will be part of an International Women's Day panel on women in the arts at Mt. Airy Art Garage.