Many hands make light work, the saying goes.
Ruth Lamke, Union, remembers when that was the case in the quilting room at the County Seat Senior Center in Union. They could work fast enough to finish a quilt each month, Lamke recalled.
But these days, Lamke often finds herself quilting alone at the center. On a good day, she has help from two others, Rosie Schrader of Clover Bottom and Melva Puls, just outside of Union.
But that is not nearly enough to keep going, so the quilters are faced with the possibility that they may have to take down the quilt stand and close up shop.
More than just a loss of a single activity at the center, it also will mean a loss of income, said Administrator Catherine Christensen, noting the quilters donate as much as $1,000 a year to the center’s Support Committee, which provides all of the activities, entertainment, supplies and more for the seniors.
“If the quilting were to stop, it would have a huge impact,” said Christensen. “That (financial) loss would be a big hole to fill. We’d have to find other ways to raise money for the support committee to provide the activities.”
The quilters raise money for the center in two ways — by selling raffle tickets to win one of the quilts they make and from quilting for hire — or in other words, charging people who hire them to finish their quilts.
The queen-size quilt in the stand now will be the last one they finish if more quilters don’t begin coming on a regular basis, said Lamke.
It was brought to them with the applique finished, and the ladies are quilting it, which means they are adding the stitches around the pattern to make it stand out.
“This is probably one of the more complicated quilts we have ever worked on,” said Puls.
Longtime Activity at Senior Center
Quilting has been an activity at the Union Senior Center for as far back as any of the ladies can remember, even back when the center operated out of the American Legion Hall.
All three ladies said they learned to quilt from their mothers and grandmothers.Schrader remembers having to work on a smaller quilt to the side of the one her mom was completing until her stitching was good enough quality.
“Man, I thought I was big stuff when I was good enough to go on the big quilt,” said Schrader, with a smile.
Lamke said she learned on a quilt that was going on a boy’s bed, since “they didn’t mind if it wasn’t perfect.” She laughs remembering how her mom would pull out her stitches if they were too big, so she would learn how to quilt it correctly.
Having to redo her stitches encouraged her to do better and get it right the first time, said Lamke.
Many of the other quilters who used to come to the Union Senior Center have had to step away from the hobby for health reasons. Their eyes are failing or they just aren’t physically able to do the work anymore.
Puls falls into that category. She isn’t able to quilt as much anymore because of neuropathy in her hands as a result of cancer.
“It feels like my fingers are asleep,” said Puls. “I’m just really slow now, so I’m not a lot of help.”
Some quilters have passed away. That includes Lorraine Berghorn, the woman who started the quilting group at the senior center.
Lamke said she is typically at the Union Senior Center every day from 9 a.m. to noon and works on the quilt much of the time. She alternates her time between quilting and working on a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.
Willing to Teach Others
Although the quilting is being done at the senior center, the ladies said the quilters don’t have to be seniors to help. All ages are welcome.
Stay-at-home moms whose kids are back in school would be ideal, if they are looking for something to keep them busy during the daytime, the ladies noted.
“You don’t even have to know how to quilt,” said Lamke. “We’ll teach you.Anyone who wants to learn, come. We’ll be glad to teach you how to do it.”
Today’s younger generations may find quilting a perfect antidote to the digital overload many experience.
“I find quilting very relaxing,” said Schrader. “That’s why I love it.”
“Me too,” said Lamke. “I call it my therapy.”
The ladies are able to chit chat and socialize while they quilt. They even play games of bingo while they quilt.
The ladies particularly love watching the pattern emerge from a quilt and how beautiful it looks when it’s finished.
“They all turn out pretty,” said Schrader, “some prettier than we expect.”
Christensen said it will be a shame if this is the end of the quilting activity at the center, and not just because of the financial donation they provide.
“It boosts morale for people to see them back there quilting,” she said. “It gives the senior center a homey feel.
“And it is beautiful work that they do.”
For more information on joining the quilters, call 636-583-5432.