Warm hearts and busy handsUsing donated sheets, yarn, thread, and plenty of ingenuity, a group of quilters working out of St. John’s Lutheran Church has kept thousands of people warm over the years.
By: By Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
Using donated sheets, yarn, thread, and plenty of ingenuity, a group of quilters working out of St. John’s Lutheran Church has kept thousands of people warm over the years.
The quilters make between 600 and 1,000 quilts a year, sending them to the North Dakota State Hospital, local day care centers, law enforcement officers, veterans homes, Indian reservations, the YWCA in Fargo, Lutheran Social Services and Lutheran World Relief.
“If the police have to go and answer a call, when there’s family problems, and you get there and someone doesn’t have something to be wrapped in — and they can pull some quilts out of their trunk that we’ve furnished them with? That’s a good feeling,” said Velma Roeske of rural Jamestown, who has been quilting with the group for about 20 years.
Though St. John’s is their home base, the quilters are an ecumenical group, with members from churches all over Jamestown.
Most of them are women, but a few are men.
Some of them are accomplished with needle, thread and sewing machine, and others just help out with hand-tying the many, many knots that keep the quilts together.
“I get in on the tying, that’s the fun part,” said Gladys Ley, of rural Jamestown, another long-time quilter. “We get together as a group, we visit and we have fun.”
Instead of trying to coordinate schedules so that everyone can get to one place at the same time, the quilt-making process has been turned into a sort of distributed assembly-line.
A few people enjoy cutting up fabric, so they’re the ones who take piles of neatly-folded donated sheets and cut them into 4-inch or 6-inch squares.
From there, the squares go to the quilters who enjoy sewing, such as Roeske and Ley, who stitch them together to make the top layer of a quilt.
“We try to put them together to form some sort of a design,” Roeske said. “You try to make them attractive, too, so they look nice.”
Ley is the only one in the group who makes crib-sized quilts, either with the squares or, sometimes, with sweatshirts.
Once the top layer of patchwork squares is sewn together, it goes back to the church, where another set of quilters takes the top layer and pins it to a middle layer made of pieces of sheets and a backing layer made of a single sheet.
The pinned-up quilt is then brought back to the sewing quilters, who stitch the three layers together — and send it back to the church.
When there are enough quilts at this stage of development to make a gathering worthwhile, people get together and use needles and yarn to tie the three layers of quilt together. This step doesn’t take any expertise — just time and patience.
“We’re always looking for people that can tie,” said Sharon Dockter, another quilter.
Though distributing the steps to different people sounds complicated, it allows the group to produce quilts very quickly.
When the group first started, Roeske said, people took clothing apart and used small scraps to make the quilts, which took a lot of time.
“Man, if we got 50 quilts in a year done, we really thought we had done something,” Roeske recalled. “And now what are we doing? We’ve been as high as a thousand.”
More volunteers are always welcome to the ecumenical group, young or old, male or female. Anyone interested should call Shirley Unverferth at 952-1303.
“I like the fellowship of the ladies and the satisfaction of doing something for somebody else,” Roeske said.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453
or by email at