Archived Sections, Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Quilting is quaint craft from bygone times…or maybe not

Quilting for charitable causes isn’t some quaint carry over from the past.
Many Lutheran churches in the Twin Cities metro area have groups producing
quilts that are donated to Lutheran World Relief (LWR) as well as other
charitable organizations. Because more women work outside the home and
have busy schedules, there’s some evolution in the way quilting groups
operate. Quilting isn’t just for older women, though many of the faithful
quilters are older. There are groups that include young people — both female
and male.
The history of church quilting groups goes back many years. While their
origin may have been related to post-war relief efforts, the need for quilts
goes on. There is obviously no one model for successful quilting groups.
While most are composed of older women who have been quilting for years,
there are some that break the mold.
An example of the latter is The Block Club at Redeemer Lutheran Church,
1800 Glenwood Avenue, west of downtown Minneapolis. The group is as
diverse as the congregation and has been in existence only since 2004. On
the Saturday Metro Lutheran visited, a group of more than 15 people were
gathered around sewing machines in the church basement. Ages range from
8 to 90. Quilter Mae Luoto, 90, is a 60-year member of Redeemer. Manuel
(Manny) Lewis, 19, is a male addition to the group; he’s a student at
Metropolitan State University and aims for a career in fashion design. He’s
interested in the interplay of fabrics sewn into quilt covers and finds
concentrating on quilting is a stress reliever.
The group is also different from the norm in that its emphasis is on helping
people to learn a skill as well as enjoying fellowship during the 9 a.m. to 3
p.m. Saturday sessions. There are other unusual aspects: One woman, an
immigrant from Africa, is recovering from abuse, while another member is
recovering from drug addiction.
At the Redeemer group, members usually are working on two quilts at a time
— one for themselves and a second to be donated. The club planned an
auction of 20 quilts July 26. Some of the quilts made by the group
incorporate needlework “rescued” from thrift shops. Nica Taylor, 15, a
student at Hopkins High School, is a relatively new member of the club, still
learning, while Mary Britt grew up learning quilting from her mom.
The Redeemer group is looking for donated sewing machines so club
members can enhance their sewing skills at home, says Sharon Peterson, a
member of the group. Anyone interested in the group or who has a sewing
machine to donate may contact Sharon at 612/312-9423.
A sampling of the many quilting groups in the metro area and contact names
* Bethel Lutheran Church, south Minneapolis — Operation Love meets second
Tuesdays with about ten in attendance. The group makes about 50 quilts a
year, with most going to LWR with some to Lake Wapogasset Bible Camp and
Camp Knutson for fund-raiser auctions. Margaret Johnson can be reached
through the church number: 612/724-3693.
* Elim Lutheran Church, Robbinsdale — The quilting group meets twice a
month, August through May. Members bring bag lunches to enjoy. Olga
Challman says, “We feel there are local needs for quilts and donate ours to the
Luther Park auction, Lutheran Social Service, and Harriet Tubman Center for
battered women.” Olga can be reached at 763/535-7691.
* Peace Lutheran Church, Bloomington — Known as Peace Lutheran Quilters
or The Tuesday Quilters, this group makes 30 to 40 quilts, baby size to queen
size, per year. Quilts go to Peace House Foundation, a boarding school for
AIDS orphans in Tanzania, and an American Indian reservation in South
Dakota with the remainder staying in Minnesota through Binky Patrol,
Community Emergency Services, Cornerstone, and places that provide
furniture to families in need. Denise Thoen is the “youngster” of the group at
age 43. She can be reached at 952/942-5936.
* St. Timothy Lutheran Church, St. Paul — About 18 regulars meet twice a
month. Some members sew quilt blocks at home to speed the work. Quilters
make about 50 quilts a year for LWR, plus some baby quilts for local charities.
Vera Fullerton may be reached at 651/488-6544.
* Transfiguration Lutheran Church, Bloomington — TLC Quilters completed
252 quilts last year, most for LWR. They also supplied lap robes for veterans,
baby quilts for Bundles of Love, and quilts for Cornerstone. This group was
established long ago but revived in 1997. It has produced 1,000 quilts within
seven years. Contacts are Carol White at 952/881-7082 and Elsie Dahlstrom
at 952/884-1609.
Trevor Knoblich, LWR’s program associate for material resources and
manager of warehouse inventories, commented, “Last year showed a
significant increase in the numbers of quilts requested by our partners —
452,870, the most we distributed in a year since 1999. (Of that number,
177,450 were the work of quilters in Minnesota and surrounding states and
shipped from a St. Paul warehouse.) In 2008, requests have increased even
further … so our current inventories are not able to meet the needs expressed
by our overseas partners.”
“When it comes to making quilts … the generosity of U.S. Lutherans is
unstoppable,” said Brenda Meier, LWR director for parish and community
engagement. “That’s why we’re putting out a call for more quilts … confident
that they will respond. Even a few more quilts … from each congregation
already making them would be significant. Even better, if congregations not
already involved would start a group to make quilts … our inventories would
increase to meet the demands from our partners.”
Those LWR partners in countries around the globe received 1,494 tons of
quilts and kits (sewing kits, health kits, school kits, etc.) in 2007, thanks to
the generosity of Lutherans, many of them in the Twin Cities metro area.
More information about LWR parish projects is available at or
by calling 1-800/LWR-LWR2.