By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor
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Quilts are a source of warmth, of art, history and memories, sometimes reflecting their makers, also sources of warmth, history and memories. So it is with a group of quilters, who for years, hand stitched quilts and raffled them off, the proceeds of the raffle ticket sales going to St. Ann’s Parish in Prairie Village, Kan.
After two decades of quilting for St. Ann’s, the group wanted a change. A new quilt — a Sunbonnet Sue blocked quilt — was begun while they discussed a new raffle ticket beneficiary.
Then two of the quilters moved into apartments at the Little Sisters of the Poor, Jeanne Jugan Center.
That decided the quilting group — the Little Sisters of the Poor would be the next organization to benefit from the ticket sales.
The quilters meet regularly. “We have been meeting Wednesday mornings since 1995,” said Ann Thomas, founder of the group. “We go to each other’s houses so about every fifth or sixth week we meet here at Little Sisters.” Ginny Cleary and Jean Call now live in apartments down the hall from the community room used for their quilting bee.
Apple Bundt cake and hazelnut coffee scented the room on a mid-June morning as the friends stitched, chatted and laughed then stitched, chatted, and laughed some more. The finished Sunbonnet Sue quilt hung in a corner of the room, waiting for the Little Sisters Summer Festival happening that weekend. The raffle winner would be drawn and a check for $2,800 given to Mother Margaret from the raffle ticket sales.
The conversation turned to their history. Ann’s grandmother taught her to quilt when she was 16. Now a grandmother herself, she looks forward to teaching her infant granddaughter to quilt.
Ann quilted for family and friends until 1995. Then the mother/daughter team that quilted raffle quilts for St. Ann’s wanted to move on. They asked fellow parishioner Ann to take over the quilting program. Ann, a teacher at St. Ann’s School, could only quilt in the summers, but she agreed and gathered her friends into a quilting group.
Ginny Cleary, a Redemptorist parishioner and former surgical nurse, joined Ann in 1996. Rita Dooley, of St. Ann’s, took quilting classes at Ranchmart Shopping Center in Leawood, Kan. Betsy Alsop, of St. Ann’s, also a former surgical nurse, learned hand quilting in grade school. She said a group of quilters met regularly at the parish rectory, “and I’d run into the room during recess and watch them quilt.” They soon began teaching her. Suzanne Mogren, of St. Michael the Archangel in Leawood, turned her down when Ann first invited her, but in 2003, joined the group. All were experienced in hand and machine sewing and embroidery, and they all worked on the hand quilting.
It usually takes them a year or so to complete a quilt, depending on its size. Last year, they fell behind in completing their final quilt for St. Ann’s. Suzanne was a sewing partner and good friend of quilt designer Agnes Saetz of St. Patrick’s parish in Kansas City, Kan., and asked if she’d help finish the quilt. She agreed and machine quilted the pieced work. Agnes, who has been quilting for more than 40 years, also quilted the Little Sisters raffle quilt.
There was a division of labor. Suzanne picked out the pattern, the fabric and embroidery floss and handed them out. Ann and Suzanne did the piece work and the others embroidered the pattern blocks. Agnes purchased batting, machine-quilted the three layers of fabric together and bound the edges.
The group has already begun a new quilt, embroidering pattern blocks of churches with tiny stitches. Except for Ann, who had a broken arm, all were busy with their hoops, needles and embroidery floss.
The cake had been eaten, the coffee drunk and the pattern blocks embroidered while talk and laughter filled the room.
They would meet again the next week at the home of one of the group and stitch and socialize. And sometime next year the quilt will be complete, ready to cover the bed of a lucky someone.
The raffle for the quilt was a big success. Janet Gose had the winning raffle ticket, and the total raised by the raffle ticket sales for the Little Sisters was $2,800.