Quilting grows in popularity

Pioneer craft is a hobby and cause for Hands-On Quilters guild members

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Cheryl Bush is a professional quilt-maker. Borders, bindings, patterns, and fabric are just some of the tools she uses for her craft.

Bush and fellow members of the quilting guild, Hands-On Quilters, share their skills once a month to make quilts for charity.

"We make quilts child-sized and donate them organizations that give them to children who are either sick or in a bad place," Bush said.

Bush said some of the quilts have been given to local abuse prevention groups and others are distributed through an organization called ABC Quilts.

"The group usually makes around 30 quilts a year," Bush said.

Hands-on-Quilters meets from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. one Saturday a month -- usually the last -- at the Craig Fire Station.

The quilters haul their sewing machines, fabric and tools into the meeting area to make a special blanket for someone they don't know.

"A lot of the children don't own anything -- for them to be able to wrap up in one of the quilts is very comforting," she said.

Bush said the group members range from expert to novice and that was one of the nice things about the group.

"It is a great opportunity to learn the craft and practice with out much investment," she said. "All the fabric is donated."

Gina Schwingdorf, having recently joined the group and completed her first quilt, said she has wanted to learn to how make quilts since she was young. She said her grandmother made quilts as a hobby and her mother crocheted.

"Neither of them live close enough to show me how -- this is a great way to learn," Schwingdorf said.

She came to the last meeting to pick out her fabric for her second quilt.

"I am really learning a lot about what fabrics go together, the importance of weight, colors and patterns," she said.

Barb Nielson said that she has made 170 quilts and that she numbers every one. She spends her winters in Mesa, Ariz., and summers in Craig, and most of her spare time is spent making quilts.

"I make them for gifts, but these small quilts -- they are just to share a little love," she said.

Leta Kernen said that she had been quilting for about eight years and that she learns something every time she comes to the club meetings.

"The sense of accomplishment I feel after finishing a quilt is indescribable," she said. "And these baby quilts are pure love."

Kernen said there are around 15 regular members but rarely can everyone be at every meeting.

"We are so grateful for the use of the space," she said. "This room is perfect for light, and there are tables to cut on and sew," Kernon said.

Bush said that quilting has gained a lot of popularity in the past 10 years and that there are more tools, magazines and patterns available for the crafter than ever before, along with more than 1 million Web sites for quilt-makers and quilt-buyers.

"There are quilting machines now, so most of us that are in business don't do it with the old-fashioned way," she said. "But that is always an option."

Bush said making a quilt is like building a sandwich.

"You have a top, a bottom and the filling," she said. "How the sandwich looks is pretty much up to you."

She said there are some basic rules but the most important was the weight of the fabrics should be the same.

"You wouldn't want to use a light cotton fabric with a wool or flannel and colors, prints and patterns should complement each other," she said.

She said the top usually takes the most time because that is the design of the quilt. When that is complete, the bottom is fitted together with the cover with a layer of batting between.

"You tack the layers together, then sew a series of stitching to bond the layers together," she said.

This can be either done by hand or machine and can be very simple stitches, straight up and down, diagonal or can also be a pattern.

When that is completed an edge or binding is applied. The stitching holds everything in place and allows for small pockets that hold and absorb air to be formed. The same quilt can be used year round because of the insulating value.

"It makes quilts both practical in that they wear better than blankets and decorative because you can make them to go with or match any decor," she said.

The group members always are looking for others to join them, and they accept donations of fabric scraps.

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