by Cori Hilsgen
Area quilters from the St. Joseph Catholic Church are busy stitching together, volunteering hundreds of hours to finish many beautiful quilts for the annual church bazaar July 3-4.
The quilters recently stitched on a butterfly quilt made from grandma hankies. They will soon be working on a barn quilt and have completed many baby quilts.
This group gathers in Heritage Hall stitching from 7:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Mondays and from 7:30 a.m. until finished on Tuesdays. They gather from the first Monday in August until the end of November and then start again in January working through March, usually taking the months of April-July and December off for extended breaks.
A couple of the quilters, such as coordinator Delrose Fischer and piecer Judy Meemken, work year-round without breaks. Fischer began helping the quilters in the 1990s and became the coordinator in 1996.
Meemken has been piecing the quilts for 32 years but has decided this will be her last year. She plans to retire in June. Because of her age, she said it’s getting too hard to work on the floor, piecing the quilts together.
“Judy does a really nice, professional job of putting the quilts together,” Fischer said.
The quilters are looking for one or several people who would be interested in taking over Meemken’s duties of piecing the quilts together. The group would pay for the fabric for the quilts.
Fischer said they will have 22 queen-size quilts and 17 baby quilts ready for the annual quilt auction this year.
For the butterfly quilt, Fischer found the pattern and gave it to Meemken to piece together. Many of the 56 hankies on the quilt were donated by people in the area. The butterfly hanky bodies are appliquéd on fabric, and Meemken hand-embroidered the head and feelers on each of the butterflies.
For the barn quilt, Fischer traveled around the area taking photos of area barns, including St. Joseph, Avon, St. Wendel and more. She then worked with Dave Thole from “Shirts Illustrated” in Crossroads Center, St. Cloud. Thole has been helping put Fischer’s photos on fabric for several years and Fischer said he often has helpful suggestions. The quilt displays 42 old barns from the area.
The concert quilt will include 12 blocks of concert T-shirts from the last 10 years of Joe Town concerts. The first year’s T-shirt is autographed by Bobby Vee and his two sons, Tom and Jeff. That quilt will be auctioned off at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 3.
Fischer’s niece, Darlene Ostendorf, again volunteered her talents by hand-embroidering five of the baby quilts for this year’s auction.
Ostendorf, who lives in St. Cloud, loves to help and donates many sets of embroidered dish towels to the bazaar each year. Last year she donated 28 sets and currently has completed 18 sets.
One baby quilt features Mickey Mouse holding an American flag for a “Proud to be an American” quilt.
Fischer estimates it takes at least 100 volunteer hours to complete a quilt and they are always seeking additional helpers. The group has never had a male help with the stitching, but Meemken said males are always welcome.
The quilters have a system. Fischer puts together the “cheater,” or pre-printed quilts and baby quilts and then Meemken pieces the other quilts together. Jan Pfannenstein puts the binding on and Geri Schwab hems the quilts. Betty Schloemer and Fischer do the ironing of the fabric for the quilts.
One quilter, Ione Jacobs, travels from St. Cloud. She is not a member of the parish but enjoys volunteering with the women. Irene Symanietz, 93, is the oldest sewer of the group.
Lori Pfannenstein provided lunch to the quilters as they stitched on the butterfly quilt. Fischer said they are always looking for more cooks who are interested in bringing in one meal at 11:30 a.m. on Mondays. The cooking can be done at home. Meemken helps set up the meals and does the clean up after.
Fischer said she gets ideas for new quilts from various places, including calendars. She is already planning an antique-tractor quilt for next year’s auction.
Fischer will start displaying the quilts in May in Heritage Hall. Each quilt will be displayed for two weeks.
The quilts will be displayed on a hay wagon in the annual July 4 parade. The barn quilt will be fully displayed on the back of the wagon.
This year’s quilt auction will be held at 1:30 p.m. instead of 2 p.m. as it has been previous years.
Business manager Sandra Scholz said last year’s quilt auction raised $11,300. For more information or to volunteer, call Fischer at 320-363-7306.