The author of this article lives in northern Wisconsin, U.S.A. where she and her husband are members of Trinity Lutheran Church. She retired from working in the school system in 2013. The couple have two grown children, a cat named Millie, and recently upgraded from years of tent camping to a small 5th wheel camper, anticipating a bit more comfort on their weekend trips.
“I began to sew, with instruction from my mother, followed by several years in 4-H, and home economics in high school,” Sharon V. states, “It is an honor to use some of Mom’s leftover cottons for this project, fabric my sisters and I divided after she passed away. She’d be most pleased that it was put to good use.”
–By Sharon V.
It’s January, the bustle of the holidays is over, and once again, I feel the urge to sew. Now this isn’t altogether new for me; sewing, more specifically making quilts, is one of my great pleasures. But it’s what I want to sew that distinguishes this time from most other sewing days: I’m anxious to begin a few more of the same type of quilts I’d started in January 2014, the first winter after I’d retired from the better part of 25 years as a teacher’s aide in our local school system. I had been surrounded with fabric I’d collected, one way or another over the years, and needed to determine a way to use it. Some I’d inherited from my quilting mom’s stash after she’d passed on, and in one plastic tote, I’d gathered material I hadn’t intended to use in any current or future items of my own.
I started cutting them into 3 ½” squares, and when I had a great sampling of squares, I began playing around with them, laying them out on my living room floor in a diamond pattern. I thought to myself, “I could make these into a small quilt” and proceeded to fashion the squares into strips, then the strips into one patched piece about 40” square. The resulting pattern reminded me of the design of an art project my kids made in Vacation Bible School when they were little, where they wove rows of colorful yarn around two crossed popsicle sticks, creating a diamond and calling it a God’s Eye pattern.
That first quilt was fun, and throughout the winter season and spring, eight more quilt tops followed. As I worked on each, I graced them with titles that reflected the origin of a specific fabric, the color palette, or theme. For instance, the first quilt top featured fabric from a discarded man’s cotton bathrobe in a barn red color, leftover from a rug I’d woven earlier, and I began referring to that one as “Barney’s Bathrobe.” Another one had a lot of green material in it, thus becoming “Salad Greens.” I hadn’t yet entertained a destination to direct these little blankets; I was just enjoying making them.
Soon, it was later spring, and gardening and outdoor work beckoned. Sewing was set aside. It was during this summer-to-fall “break” that our church hosted a meal to benefit a former pastor and his wife (now retired) who were taking on an assignment in Europe, and the spark of a destination began to take root, unbeknownst to any of us, just God.
Rev. Rex and Linda Rinne had no definite date on which they would leave the States, just a seasonal, and fairly broad idea. In late fall, I constructed a few more of the small quilt tops, now 12 total, but just before Christmas, I required shoulder surgery, the recovery of which prevented me from doing any more sewing for months…
The next step was adding the backing, and two of my sisters graciously made a drive north to begin the process of cutting fleece to the exact size of the tops, sometimes having to join two pieces together. Once I again, I felt the desire to get back to my baby quilt endeavor, thus implementing a means to heighten the physical therapy already requested by the doctor. As I began to regain some strength and mobility, I slowly started to sew again, making adaptations as needed. At first the sewing machine sat on a table too high for my arm to raise, and I had to lower the machine, setting it on a wooden tv tray, 6 inches lower. The tray was rather wobbly, but adequate. I was careful when using it and made do with the adjusted setup. In time, my muscles attained an ease that allowed me to return the machine to the table, but, again, I wasn’t fully recovered, and had to take a slower approach. I am not a zippy sewist in the first place, but with persistence was able to complete the machine stitching to secure all the quilt layers together.
Now that they were done, the idea of sending these to people in Europe via the Rinnes in the Czech Republic sprung to the forefront of my mind, and I contacted them, inquiring if this would be feasible, and if so, how to go about the process of forwarding them. With renewed vigor because I had a purpose for the quilted blankets, and with the Rinnes’ direction, I packaged them well, grabbed the address I needed and went off to the post office to send them out. After relaying all the necessary information to the postal clerk, I was shocked at the mailing price she quoted. Twice the cost I had anticipated! So I retrieved the box, and tried another carrier, only to learn that delivery through their service wasn’t possible. I was stuck with how to fulfill my mission, and went home to “ponder.”
I shared my woes with a fellow sewist at church the next Sunday, one of the seasoned quilters who regularly meets with a few other ladies to construct full-size quilts for missions on Monday mornings. A big surprise came my way the very next day! She called to tell me that she and a couple of the mission quilters wanted to provide the mailing fee! I was delighted, but humbled, and realizing God’s part in all of this, tears immediately surfaced. She met me the following day with the necessary funding, on which I once again took the box of baby blankets to the post office. This day, however, they were successfully mailed out, due to the generosity of many, and God’s guiding hand.
The Rinnes took over from there, and after some research, enlisted the assistance of fellow missionary Ben Helge who contacted Slezská diakonie, an agency that could distribute them to people who would benefit from one of the little quilts. They then used them as most needed. How happy this makes me! I’ve heard it said that “God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.” And I truly believe that’s what’s happened here. He allowed me, an ordinary person, to use the gifts granted by Him in the first place, with Divine guidance and intervention of other “ordinary people” to help make someone else’s life better. In quilting circles, the design pattern of these quilts is called “Trip Around the World.” I am thrilled and eternally grateful to know they are making that trip! To God be the glory!