Quilters put love into every stitch

Women use skills to make keepsakes for strangers who need them

They're just scraps of fabric now, but the women in the Hands-On quilting group know how to turn the cast-off material into a comfy refuge.

For the past two years, a handful of quilters have gathered one day each month at the Craig Fire Station to make blankets for children in need and for victims of assault and abuse.

Armed with sewing machines, thread and boxes overflowing with bits and pieces of fabric, a group of six quilters set to work Saturday.

The hours spent in the casual setting is an anticipated social event, and an opportunity to create a sparkle in a stranger's life, the quilters said.

"You have to do this to make it count," said Cheryl Bush, head of the quilting group. "I think every quilter wants to do something that is community outreach and children need to have something that is made for them. This is their comfort, their gift from us."

Hands-On members made nearly 16 quilts for children this year. Last year they finished 25.

The time spent quilting with friends is a form of therapy, said quilter Paulette Bray.

"It's a great way to socialize and always be quilting," she said.

For quilter, Barbara Neilson, the handmade creations are expression of love for the children who receive them that she may never meet. Quilts also make personal gifts to the grandchildren and children who request them.

"I feel that everything I make has heart and soul in it," she said. "You hope that when you give them away the people you give them to will treasure it."

Hands-On Quilters have been known to win a few awards at the Moffat County Fair. But the group isn't concerned with competition.

The quilting sessions are a time to make mistakes together and bounce ideas of each another.

As a professional quilter and class instructor, Bush freely offers techniques and assistance that she may charge quilters in other settings.

After quilters complete the tops, Bush sews on the backing with an industrial quilting machine at her home.

Hands-On Quilters are making patriotic quilts that they'll send off to a quilter in California who is compiling memorial quilts for every family that has lost a loved-one to the Iraqi war.

The group is hosting another event in August that invites community members to have their quilts documented and registered in the state's archives.

Many of the Hands-On Quilters have witnessed the bust and revival of quilting. It dropped off in the 1960s, Bush said, but a cutting tool and mat invented in the mid-1970s made the art-form popular again.

According to some accounts, quilts were made by Southern women to raise money for the Civil War effort. Historians also claim some quilts were designed in patterns that distinguished safe houses and routes for slaves to travel safely to freedom.

Even today, the Hands-On Quilters know their labor is cherished. Interest in quilting seems to have skipped a generation, as granddaughters want to learn the trade, they said.

Daughters of quilters seem to be scarred by the long hours of perusing in fabric stores with mom, they said.

"I made a quilt for my grandson's high school graduation," Paulette Bray said. "He said, 'You're doing that all by hand? It's got to be valuable.'"

The quilters also point to a picture of a young boy who died of blood complications earlier this year. The photo shows him smiling, wrapped in a quilt made by the group.

"Sometimes kids just want one snuggly thing that's theirs," Bush said as the other quilters nodded their heads in agreement.

"It's a want thing, not like in home economics when you had to make something," she said. "Sure anybody can go to Kmart and get a quilt but it's not the same."

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