Lakes Area Quilters started stitching 30+ years ago

Special guests join the Lakes Area Quilters to expand their knowledge in the quilting arts. Here, Susan Cleveland, shows the group how to apply piping. Contributed photo

They come from Douglas, Pope, Grant, Stearns, Todd and Ottertail counties, and they meet in Alexandria at the Bethesda Lutheran Church on the third Monday of each month. It’s all about quilting and it’s obvious that the group assembled has a lot of fun, and yet, as they gather, can incorporate work and learning every single time.

Who are they? They are the Lakes Area Quilters (LAQ).

“Everyone is welcome to join our group,” explained Jody Brasel, incoming president of the LAQ. Current membership is right around 55 quilters who range in age from early 40s to over 80 years old. Men and women are welcome to join.

Historically, colonial women had to become pretty creative in finding, using and collecting materials to keep their families warm during the cold seasons. So, when blankets became worn, they simply patched and combined other blankets, or used as filler, to make new blankets. Ingenuity, imagination and creativity in combining these blankets was a necessity, yet unbeknownst, an art had begun.

Years later, when fabrics were beginning to be manufactured in America and becoming more affordable, the more artistic type of quilting became more widespread. And once that began, thus began the history and heritage of quilts we more commonly know.

Lynn Glesne, a founding member of the Lakes Area Quilts, during Show-n-Tell at a monthly meeting. Contributed photo

LAQ also has a history, which is best remembered by Lynn Glesne, who was there at the very beginning of framing this group together. Glesne, along with Saundra (Sandi) Monahan, held the first meetings at the Methodist Church in Alexandria in 1988. The group came together when Sandi had taken over teaching a beginners quilting class started by Sally Almquist in Alexandria’s Community Education program. The students wanted to learn more. In the beginning they were called the “Crazy Quilters.” They changed their name “when a certain radio announcer had too much fun with that,” explained Glesne. “One of our earliest workshops was one led by Shar Jorgenson, who showed us her new double wedding-ring templates. “We decided to move our location and found the basement of the Historical Society but now had to pay rent,” said Glesne, “We came up with the idea of a raffle quilt to earn money and the first one was an Ohio Star. The second quilt was Prairie Pines as developed by Lynette Jenson at Shar Jorgenson’s Spring Break workshop in 1990.”    The early quilts were hand quilted by members often upstairs at the Douglas County Historical Society. In addition to Glesne, early members were Marge Hoover, Dorothy Bisek, Marion Saar, Irene Lundquist, Phyllis Anderson, Paula Glade and Sandi Monahan.

Today’s LAQ have a written purpose for their organization, “To sponsor and promote the art and practice of quilting and to unite quilters for the purpose of sharing ideas, techniques and methods; to promote interest in the art and craft of quilting; to preserve our quilt heritage, and to establish and maintain an organization for persons interested in the art and practice of quilting.”

Jody Brasel, 2019-20 president of the Lakes Area Quilters, at a monthly meeting. Contributed photo

It is no doubt that they love to share and support their ideas, their challenges, their art and accomplishments. After all, when a quilter creates a quilt, they’ve dedicated time, passion and dollars into making something that is priceless. They would be the first to say that, as a group, their quilting knowledge and the projects they work on can be even more gratifying because of the camaraderie of supporting each other. That’s what the LAQ are all about.

“I didn’t know a thing about quilting when I started,” explained Linda Sievert of Sauk Centre. “I took a community education class. That’s how I got started. And I have to say, we disbanded the quilt police. We’re not perfect, but we love the art, and this group keeps me off the street.”

Jean Johnson of Alexandria agreed. “We were all beginners at one time. The most important thing is we do this ‘lovingly’…what’s good enough for us is good enough.”

Colleen Wegner of Alexandria added, “This group is a place for all, basic beginners or experienced. Whether it’s a new interest for you, or been in your blood for years, this group is here to support and have fun.”

“Show-n-Tell time is a favorite part of each monthly meeting. Passing on patterns, methods, challenges, color combinations, and more…learning from each other, it’s a good feeling,” said Sue Anderson of Glenwood, and secretary of the group for the 2019-20 calendar year. “4-on-the-Floor is also a favorite part of the meetings for me. This is where four people present a trunk show. (A trunk show may be presented by members or quilt-shop owners, displaying samples, fabrics and patterns).  There have been a lot of changes in the art of quilting as techniques and methods have evolved. We don’t sew or quilt at our monthly meetings. Instead, we exchange ideas, determine our community-giving projects for the year, and bring in speakers who have authored books on quilting, designed fabrics and patterns, and own quilt shops.”

Sara Shrode, new member of the LAQ, and the 2019 Douglas County Fair Block “winner by popular vote” contest. Contributed photo

Anderson became an LAQ member before becoming a “quilt-tester” herself, testing out patterns drawn up by professional quilters and pattern authors. Before a pattern comes out on the market, we try it out and provide input,” she said.

Jean Johnson and Donna Noyes are also quilt testers.

In 1994, the LAQ began having public speakers on quilting art and techniques at their meetings. They added a fun project known as the “Round Robin,” where members made quilt squares out of the materials and instructions in a brown paper bag, and then pass it on for the next member to add on to the quilt. At some meetings, 4-5 members each teach a quilting technique and members rotate to each station, learning something new.

Each year the “President’s Challenge” is a fun project. This may be trying a new quilting technique, making an apron representing a theme, all using a “fat quarter” (18-inch by 21-inch square) of the same fabric to create a project, Charlotte’s Web challenge, two-color challenge, linear quilting or shadow quilting.

The LAQ had their first raffle in 1989, when all quilts were hand-stitched. By hand-stitched they mean that the quilt top, batting, and back are hand quilted together. Through the years, the quilters found things changing. Machines were introduced and a new era evolved. The long-arm quilter machine has an arm that moves as three layers of fabric are quilted together. The long-arm machine’s cost and time efficiency does not take away from the art of quilting and is used for their projects, including the annual quilt raffle. Currently, according to Jean Back of Alexandria, more than 2,000 $1 tickets are printed for the group’s annual quilt raffle.

A rich part of the history of quilting guilds is that purpose of giving. It goes way back to when church ladies gathered to make “mission quilts.”

“I love to do mission quilts,” said Kathy Ortloff of Alexandria. “It gives a sense of purpose and kindness to others. I would say that is still one of my favorite things about quilting, the mission quilts.”

Sue Anderson, duing Show-n-Tell, showing a hand stitched wool candle mat from Helen Thorn’s class taught in 2008. Contributed photo

The Lakes Area Quilters have several annual projects of giving.  The “Log Cabin” pattern queen-size quilt, with a red-center-square patchwork piece depicting “the heart of the home,” is donated to each new Habitat for Humanity family. Julie Satterlie of Evansville, who started the project, and Leslie Hoelscher of Alexandria, both like to give back to community, which is a very important part of their personal quilting mission. To date, more than 30 quilts have been given in the past 10 years.

The “Quilts of Valor Foundation” is an important piece of Jean Johnson’s quilting mission. She brings this opportunity to the LAQ. This mission gives to veterans and soldiers who have been touched by wars throughout the years.

Cheryl Anderson of Alexandria is currently the LAQ project leader for the annual Jingle Bells Telethon. The quilters find great satisfaction in giving as they organize Christmas stockings filled with goodies donated by the group in addition to pillow cases sewed by members. Jody Brasel of Ashby says the LAQ members are very generous. “This adds up to a lot of fabric and time,” she said. “We do the projects we do because we are passionate about quilting and we are passionate about giving back to community. Every sewn and quilted item is a priceless piece of art.”

It’s also a mission of the LAQ to keep the art growing. Members have donated money to 4-Hers, so they can buy fabric and thus learn the art. Fabric is costly and education in quilting for new beginners is important. They have written grants under the REA Operation-Round-Up program, requesting dollars along with the Lion’s Club to fill stockings for the Jingle Bells Telethon.  The Lakes Area Quilters members’ quilts are showcased at the Douglas County Library in Alexandria. Jean Back explained that a different quilt is displayed every two weeks. The LAQ raised dollars for Pioneer Public Television, to promote quilting shows and have a booth at Art in the Park. They are present at the Douglas County Fair where fair attendees can vote of which quilt square or block they like best.

Gudrun Erla taught the quilters in Lakes Area Quilters how to use special rulers and how to make two patterns. Contributed photo

It takes a lot of time, creative thinking and crafting to put one quilt together. Take for consideration the first steps which include deciding on a pattern and then “finding the exact right fabric, in the best coordinating colors and patterns. That alone takes a lot of time. That’s before you start cutting and laying out your quilting, and then sewing,” explained Jean Johnson.

So…how long does it take to make a queen size quilt, for instance?  “It depends on how many times you take it apart,” laughed Linda Seivert. They all agree, there is no such thing as a mistake…it’s all about an opportunity to for creativity. The amount of time given is all a part of the passion involved. Jean Johnson concluded, “My family members don’t need another quilt…and yet, I just keep quilting because that’s what I love to do and it makes me feel good.”

Although no actual sewing or quilting is done at the monthly meeting, members may schedule a specific work-day for various projects, or times to meet and sew.

The members of the LAQ would agree that passion is the number one reason why they keep on quilting, keep learning new patterns and stay up-to-date on techniques.

Jingles Bells stockings made by Lakes Area Quilters and ready to fill.

“Quilting is contagious. It keeps our brains going,” they said.

They invite new people to join them in this contagious artwork that they find so rewarding. Colleen Wegner added, “As a child, I started by UN-TYING quilts for cleaning! And when tying, I sat under the quilting frame and as the ladies poked the needle down through the layers, I sat under the frame and poked the needle back up from the bottom, to tie it together again…I think I was about seven or eight years old. Yeah, I haven’t stopped since. I’ve been doing it for awhile.”

Whether you’ve been doing it for awhile, or just want to get started, this is the group for you. Annual membership in the LAQ is $25. 2019 slate of officers includes President, Jody Brasel; Secretary, Eldie Dertinger/Sue Anderson; Treasurer, Lynne Bowman Bolles; Past-President, Mary Knabe; Program Mary Knabe/Pamela Beyer/Cheryl Anderson and Barb Lotthammer; Project 2021 Cindy Gulbrandson; Membership Janice Hartwig; Historian Linda Schroeder; Hospitality JoAnn Wintheiser/Nancy Exley/Sara Schrode/Kathy Ortloff.

Contact President Jody Brasel at (218) 205-0446, officer, or member for more information.