For past 30 years, Maplewood Quilters create about 25 quilts each week

By Monica Sawyn | For The Compass | January 29, 2015

Group donates quilts to local families in need

MAPLEWOOD — The Maplewood Quilters, most of whom are members of Holy Name of Mary Parish, meet once a week at the church to produce as many as 25 quilts in one day for local families in need. Watching them work is almost like watching a choreographed dance as they smooth, cut, tie, exchange places, move back and forth and back again in a well-practiced rhythm.

Members of the Maplewood Quilters pose for a photo following a recent morning of quilting. The group has been in existence for more than 30 years and produces about 25 quilts each week. (Monica Sawyn | For The Compass)
Members of the Maplewood Quilters pose for a photo following a recent morning of quilting. The group has been in existence for more than 30 years and produces about 25 quilts each week. (Monica Sawyn | For The Compass)

It’s almost impossible to photograph them. They never stand still.

The first “station” is a table with tall legs, so there’s no stooping. Fabric is laid out and cut to size, tops paired with bottoms. At the second, filler is placed between the layers that are tied together with yarn. At the third, the edges are folded and pinned to create a finished edge. At the fourth, two women with sewing machines sew down the edges. Then it’s time to fold them up and add them to the stack. Done.

And, all this activity is accompanied by lively conversation and good smells emanating from the kitchen.

The number of quilts produced is a bit mind-boggling. While some years are more prolific than others, 25 a week for over 30 years means a lot of homeless people have been helped, a lot of fire victims have found warm comfort when so much else has been lost.

This year, the quilters have branched out. When coordinator Jeanette Spaid read a newspaper article about Brown County children, removed quickly from abusive homes for their protection with only the clothes on their backs, she made a call to the county’s human services agency and asked whether quilts would be welcome. It was an offer eagerly and enthusiastically accepted.

“Any phone call we get is bad, but this is wonderful,” the social worker told Spaid, adding that the quilts would follow the children into foster care. They would be something warm and comforting and all their own, a token of other people’s caring, a bit of security in a suddenly-changed world.

Bertha Villers of Forestville, who attends St. Peter and St. Hubert Parish in Lincoln, brings her own machine from home to stitch the edges of a nearly-finished quilt. (Monica Sawyn | For The Compass)
Bertha Villers of Forestville, who attends St. Peter and St. Hubert Parish in Lincoln, brings her own machine from home to stitch the edges of a nearly-finished quilt. (Monica Sawyn | For The Compass)

These quilting ladies aren’t youngsters. They grin at the acknowledgement and admit that the oldest member there that day was 85. The youngest was 62. Some of them are following in the footsteps of their mothers who began the group.

“Thelma Schmelzer was down here on her 90th birthday,” one of them offered.

They do it because they love to sew. And although they don’t surround their day with vocal prayer together, they are faithful Catholics who believe in serving the Lord through serving others. While most are from Holy Name of Mary, some also travel from Algoma, and at least one from Forestville, to join the band of selfless sewers.

Spaid said that at one time they sent the quilts to the Salvatorian Mission Warehouse in New Holstein, which sent them on to Third World countries.

“Then we thought, ‘Why not give them locally?’” Spaid said. They soon discovered the need was great. They’ve gone to homeless shelters in Algoma, Sturgeon Bay and Green Bay, and last year 90 were sent to Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Institute for distribution to Spanish-speaking people in the area who needed assistance.

Amazingly, they never have to buy fabric. People donate from their stashes, or from the homes of relatives who have died.

“One lady brought us 17 bins of fabric after her mother died,” Spaid said. “Another lady sends us fabric from Arizona every year. Motels give blankets or sheets that can be used for filler or for backing.”

Two years ago, Joe and Ruth Kerscher backed a truck into Spaid’s yard filled with bolts of fabric they had bought at an auction — and when it was unloaded, they brought another truckload. The quilt group found storage wherever it could be had (including the rectory which was vacant at the time) and two years later they have converted almost all of it to colorful tied quilts.

The only thing they sometimes have to buy is the batting, or filler, for the quilts. For that they go to Hobby Lobby where they’re given a generous discount.

Quilting day at Holy Name of Mary is definitely not a hardship. It’s a happy time where friends old and new find joy in their craft and at the same time serve others in need.

Monica Sawyn | For The Compass

Bertha Villers of Forestville, who attends St. Peter and St. Hubert Parish in Lincoln, brings her own machine from home to stitch the edges of a nearly-finished quilt.

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