by Cori Hilsgen
Without bragging very much about it, Josie Meyer, 91, has been using her quilting skills to help other people for many years.
Meyer, who grew up in Sartell, moved to St. Joseph when she married her husband, Cyril, in 1950.
She is unsure of the exact year she started quilting but when asked how long she has been quilting she replied: “Forever, I’ve been doing that since I got married.”
Besides being an active member of the Church of St. Joseph quilting group, Meyer also works on many other quilts with women at the St. Joseph’s school building in Waite Park.
Together these quilters stitch and sew quilts to donate to Catholic Charities Emergency Services to distribute to people who need them.
Meyer began quilting with this group in the early 1960s. At that time, her mother donated quilts to her home parish of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Sartell, and Meyer knew they needed help so she joined the group. After Meyer helped a few times, she knew she wanted to keep sewing.
The group first met in a house in Waite Park where rooms were small and it was harder to gather to stitch the quilts. Quilting fabric and supplies were stored outside the house under a tarp.
The group then moved downtown St. Cloud and later to other buildings owned by Catholic Charities until moving to the current space in Waite Park.
The group creates and donates more than 400 quilts each year. In the early years, Meyer quilted with a sewing partner, Lucy Meyer, who was not related. The two women sewed as many as 12 quilt tops each week to donate.
Meyer has slowed down, but she continues to finish as many quilt tops as she can which is determined by how she is feeling and how much fabric has been donated to her.
Meyer usually still averages about one or two quilt tops each week or two.
Sometimes she will take a short break.
What is remarkable about Meyer is how skilled she is at using any fabric donated to her for the quilt tops. She will recycle and use any fabric she receives.
Her son Mike (Jeny) Meyer co-owns Pam’s Auto with Pat Huesers (Tamara) of St. Joseph. The sales staff at Pam’s donate uniform shirts when they start to show too much wear-usually after about every 18 months or so. Other fabric comes from Catholic Charities when fabric pieces are donated by people in the area to be used by the quilters.
Meyer is the processor of the fabric. She irons it and cuts as many squares as she can from the fabric, cutting it in 6.5-, 5.5 – and 4.5-inch blocks.
Meyer takes the uniform shirts apart by first cutting off the buttons. Then she uses a razor blade to open every single seam on the shirts. The separated pieces of the shirt are ironed flat, the logos removed and then the blocks are cut from the fabric that remains.
Meyer uses every piece of material she can. She will even use pieces from the shirt collar, often sewing small pieces together to make full blocks.
When using other pieces of fabric, she saves even the smallest pieces to create colorful patchwork blocks.
“I like everything about quilting,” Meyer said. “Sorting the fabric, cutting the fabric, even ripping the clothes.”
Cyril died in 1999, but he and Josie have a large family of nine children which includes Mike and Jeny Meyer, Theresa and Joe Berg, Ray and Jackie Meyer, Andy and Jai Meyer, Jerome and Susan Meyer all from St. Joseph, Sheila and Al Burski, St Augusta, Mary and David Haukom, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Judy Hauglie of Baxter and Don and Cathy Meyer, Avon. Meyer also has 29 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.
Jeny and Mike Meyer reside in a house close to Josie. They are parents to three children Tyler, Josie and Max.
Jeny has been quilting with Josie and the quilting group in St. Joseph for three years and recently helped Josie piece together a quilt top. The quilt is made out of black blocks that were made from some of the recycled Pam’s Auto work shirts.
Jeny said people often help Josie cut fabric.
“If she has larger pieces of donated fabric, I help cut blocks, so do her daughters when they visit,” Jeny said. “Through(out) the years, I have helped lay the quilts out on the floor for her if I happen to be there, but she does that on her own, too. I enjoy coming to play with fabric with her. She always has a fun variety to look through. Lately, with the stay-at-home order, I have been here more frequently, and have helped with the last several quilts. She knows I like the crazy patchwork blocks, so we had a good time looking through them, and using them up.”
Jeny said Josie is always glad to get the stack of blocks decreased in size, however, the next day she is right back to sewing small pieces together to make more blocks, adding to the stack.
Jeny commented about Josie’s quilts.
“I love them,” Jeny said. “She does not waste a thing. Some blocks have as many as 10 pieces in them. This woman is inspiring. What’s equally impressive is how beautiful these thrown aside scraps end up looking. What I might have tossed aside is her artwork.”
Author: Cori Hilsgen
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people’s stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.