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Quilting as artistry, fellowship, charity

A Cardinal Quilt Guild raffle quilt for junior high science students in 2016. Ann Markusen / Special to the Pine Journal

Across Minnesota, thousands of quilters devote time, design, construction and sewing skills to create warm wraps for the body and hangings for the wall.

In the late 1990s, when some ambitious members of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota dreamt of a Textile Center, potential funders questioned, "Who would come?" For a year, the weavers traveled around the state and found hundreds of groups quilting in church basements, knitting and crocheting, and weaving in distinctive immigrant traditions: the Finns prominent in our region. They got their funding.

In the Cromwell-Wright area, at least three groups meet to quilt together: the Bethany Quilters and Bethlehem Quilters — both church-based — and the Cardinal Quilt Guild. Bethany Quilters meet monthly for two consecutive mornings and Bethlehem Quilters meet every Tuesday morning.

At both churches, tables are spread with fabrics of many colors and weights in various stages of construction. Women (and an occasional man) hover over them with scissors, pins, needles, thread, and yarn, measuring tapes tucked under their arms. When quilters donate to charity, Duluth's Damiano Center gives them white sheets to dye for backing. Lots of stories shared during these hours!

Yvonne Peterson of Bethany remembers quilting in the old two-story church that my grandfather built. "We took old wool coats and tore them apart. Nothing fancy, mainly creating for warmth." The Cardinal Quilt Guild is just 12 years old. At the 2006 Cromwell Harvest Fest, several expressed a need for a broader forum for social interaction among quilters.

"We met for the first time in 2007," Dawn Lippo said. "We are currently 13. Twice a year, we offer quilting retreats to the larger public at the Cromwell Pavilion. Lots come, some from afar and stay overnight. We limit it to 25 or we'd have power problems because of our expensive equipment."

Every year, the Cardinal Quilters contribute a quilt for the Villa Vista's Veteran's Day celebration. Veterans drawing lots to win. They donate another for the annual Cromwell Area Community Club raffle. In the winter of 2016, they made a "Space Quilt" for a junior high science raffle to raise funds for student travel to an environmental camp.

Sue Mahrer, a Cardinal Quilt Guild member, recalls her route into quilting: "I'd always been interested in looking at quilts. I started learning with the quilt group at the Proctor Emmanuel church. The women there taught me so much — how to make a quilt step by step. Since then, I've gone on my own."