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‘Piece Makers’ stitching for a cause, and fun

One day, a few years into their retirement, Char Gilland called Marlys Verdoes and asked what she thought about starting up a quilt club. Marlys, the story goes, answered, “Yup.” “I said, ‘I don’t think you heard me,’” Char related. “‘I said what you think about starting up a quilt club.’” “I said ‘yup’ again,” Marlys said, grinning. And so, the Piece Makers – Redwood Falls’ ecumenical quilting club – was born with the group holding its organizational meeting on May 21, 2003. Currently there are at least eight churches represented on any given quilting day – that’s about two-thirds of the congregations in Redwood Falls and Morton. The group of 25 or so stitchers, which also spans the decades and genders, meets twice a month during the quilting season. They quilt at First Presbyterian Church. “We have some quilters who are in their 90s,” Joyce Nolting said. Others have just barely reached the age of Social Security. A couple years after the Piece Makers organized, Arlene Christensen decided she would like to have some help putting together a quilt top she had stitched. A friend suggested she join the Piece Makers. “They’ve welcomed me,” she said, adding that there are several women from her congregation – First United Methodist – who now regularly quilt with the Piece Makers. “It got me quilting,” she said, “but mostly it’s the friendship.” “This is their social time for many of the ladies,” Char said. “They miss it if we have to cancel.” A lot of quilting gets done with the socializing – with time out for a little lunch about half-way through the morning. “Everybody’s got their little niche,” Char said. Being an expert quilter is not a requirement. “The older ones, like Bubs Stancer, are teaching us,” she added. “When she stitches – it’s perfection.” Janean McKay, who was a home economics teacher before her five sons were born, says she still doesn’t quilt. But she does make quilt tops. “We have a natural division of labor,” she said, explaining that one quilter tends to do a lot of baby quilts while another likes to use denim. “It’s wonderful what God provides,” Janean said. The Piece Makers have been given everything from just the right color of fabric to pull a project together to the sewing machines to stitch the blocks. “Elva Draeger gave us money for two sewing machines before she died,” Janean related. “As a result, we’ve given quilts to a mission in the Twin Cities that she supported.” The focus of the quilters is tri-fold: make quilts to give away, have a good time fellowshipping together, and make some more quilts to sell. “Last year we sold 75 quilts and gave away 72,” Linda Rassmussen said. Profit from the sales is used to buy quilt batting for the warm center layer of the quilts. And while much of the fabric and yarn used in the quilt tops is donated, occasionally the group purchases special fabric. Linda discovered some Minnesota-themed fabric this year and it was determined that the material would make perfect quilts to send home with the two foreign exchange students who have been spending the year in Redwood Falls. Last year, the group got their hands on some Timberwolves basketball team fabric and were able to have the team mascot, Crunch, autograph the quilt. It sold for several hundred dollars at the Tim Orth Foundation benefit in Olivia. Each year, dozens of quilts and lap robes are donated to various benefits; dozens more are given away to individuals who are in need of a group hug. “We give the quilts away to friends of the church,” Marlys said, explaining that those friends reach deep into the community. “If you are a friend or relative of a Piece Maker, that makes you a friend of the church.”

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