The Laying of Hands – the Growth of a Quilting Group

hands making a quilt

by
Jan 25, 2013

In the latest edition of LWR eNews, we wrote about a quilting day at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, NH. It’s a great story about how the quilting group from Our Savior’s Lutheran Church (OSLC) brought a group of college students together for service.

To rally a campus community around making quilts is inspiring enough. But the story of how the quilting group got started — and got growing — is a testament to how God makes amazing things happen.

Humble Beginnings

Formed in the 1980s, the group began as a small group of women who met out once a month to assemble quilts for various causes, including LWR Mission Quilts. The first quilts were made from used clothing, soon followed by donated cottons and knits.  They made and blessed about 15 Quilts a year.

two women working on a quilt

Evelyn Johnson and Annette Houston, two quilters at Our Savior Lutheran Church

In 2004, the group decided to try for 50 Quilts, in honor of the congregation’s 50th anniversary. They increased their sewing days to two a month.

Then came the Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 2004.

“People in our community were stunned by the devastation in Southeast Asia. They began asking what they could do that would make a difference,” says a member of the group.

So the group came up with an idea. They’d hold a “quilting marathon” for tsunami victims. The event would go from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and the church would provide snacks, lunch and supper for volunteers.

They advertised it in the local newspaper and made it clear that all were welcome to join — men and women, young and old, novice and experienced sewers.

Sixty-seven people showed up for the marathon and made 32 Quilts! But they left with a question the group didn’t quite know how to answer. “When is the next quilting marathon?”

Reaching Out

The tsunami’s devastation left a hunger in the community to reach out in a tangible way. Quilting fulfilled that need, while also providing fellowship and fun.

Empowered by this enthusiasm, the group decided to host two more quilting marathons early the next year.

By 2005, the group was meeting bi-monthly for three hour sewing sessions with three additional marathons. That year they made 103 Quilts.

The group drew participation from throughout the community and surrounding churches. At one point, someone suggested reaching out to the nearby Dartmouth College community. So they did!

In 2009, the OSLC quilters led the first of what would become an annual quilt marathon during the campus’ Martin Luther King, Jr. Day festivities.

Something Real

The group believes the appeal for community members comes from several sources.

First, they say, quilting is a way to “put their hands on fabric that will truly help one person, one family, one village,” a group member said. Participants have said things such as, “I am so grateful to have something concrete to do that will really mean something to someone in need.”

The congregation is also adamant that anyone can quilt. Don’t know how to sew? They’ll teach you. Not sure how to design a quilt top? Use one of their quilt top kits!  They make it easy to participate, making quilting inviting to the community.

Multiplication

In the past eight years, the OSLC quilting group has contributed more than 1,600 Quilts to LWR! They also quilt for local needs as well.

Because of the overwhelming support of the community, the group often finds itself with an abundance of fabric. While the group appreciates the contributions, they work hard to ensure that not a scrap goes to waste. They use what they can. What they can’t use, they donate.

But they’d also like to use some of their abundance to help others find joy in service and quilting. They’ve put out the call: they will help nearby congregations with fabric and technical expertise to start their own quilting group!

Is your congregation interested in taking the OSLC group up on their offer? If your congregation is in the New England Synod of the ELCA, you can contact them directly at (603) 643-3703.

is Lutheran World Relief's Staff Writer

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Categories: Lutherans, Mission Quilts, Quilts & Kits
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