COOK- Nothing conveys warmth and love quite like a homemade quilt, and a Christian expression of that was on full display in October when the pews of the Trinity Lutheran Church sanctuary in Cook …
COOK- Nothing conveys warmth and love quite like a homemade quilt, and a Christian expression of that was on full display in October when the pews of the Trinity Lutheran Church sanctuary in Cook were draped with more than 100 quilts lovingly made by the church’s quilters group for those in need around the world.
The group has been quilting for good works for decades, current leader Gerry Ruuska said. Norma Thomas said her mother was turning out quilts for the church in the 1950s. Literally thousands of quilts have been produced to be distributed by Lutheran World Relief (LWR), an organization that works to address global poverty by helping people based on need, regardless of race, religion or nationality. Some of the Trinity quilts are also given to the Salvation Army in Virginia, and others find their way to people in need here at home in Cook.
Since Ruuska took on her leadership of the group in 1990, along with Thomas and Lorraine Carlson, Trinity’s quilters have made almost 4,000 quilts, Ruuska said.
The church celebrated All Saints Day on Nov. 5, and over 170 quilts produced this year created a colorful display in the sanctuary, adorning pews, railings, and even neatly folded and tucked in the bottom of the altar.
“We’ve run out of room,” Thomas said.
Given that the group’s annual goal is 50 quilts, it can easily be said Trinity’s quilters are a bunch of motivated overachievers.
And all those quilts were produced in just two months, Ruuska said.
“The ladies picked the time, they didn’t want to have to come all of the time,” she said. “So we picked the months that were slowest for them. For March, they were pretty well done with their spring cleaning and they hadn’t started gardening yet. And October was a good month because they were done with the gardening and outside stuff and it’s before the holidays. It works. The ladies love it.”
But pinning down just who all is “in the group” of quilters isn’t exactly easy.
“We have about 12 that are regulars who show up and tie quilts,” Ruuska said, “but there’s probably a whole lot more that we don’t even know about. They know that we do it and they’ll maybe make tops for quilts and then bring them down to the church and we’ll put them together.”
There’s a designated quilting room at the church, but sewing the tops is mostly done in quilters’ homes, by choice.
“The ladies didn’t like carrying their sewing machines from home, and they didn’t like our machines,” Ruuska laughed. “We do keep a machine here at the church in case somebody wants to use it, or if they need a machine and want to borrow it they can.”
Once a week in March and October the quilters gather at the church to tie and finish the quilts.
“It’s a wonderful thing, and we have fun doing it,” Thomas said.
“And we always stop for coffee,” Ruuska said.
“Coffee’s always at 10,” Thomas added.
They’re always looking for new volunteers, and one doesn’t have to have expert seamstress skills to contribute.
“Can you tie a knot? You can quilt,” Ruuska said.
There’s little direction about how to make the quilts other than the size, 60”x80”, and to use big pieces of material.
“Their (LWR) suggestion is just big pieces because a lot of the quilts they give out are laid out on the ground for use or tents are made out of them,” Ruuska said. “But as long as the ladies want to do it, we use what we can get.”
That includes some quilts from expert quilters that may not measure up to their usual standards.
“They may make something and they’re not satisfied with it,” Ruuska said. “One little thing is wrong with it. We’ve gotten some beautiful quilt tops where maybe they weren’t happy with how they turned out.”
The church also gets some of the quilts through donations.
“It’s not just our church, because everyone in Cook knows that we do this,” Ruuska said. “We get donations from all around the area. You know, when grandma has been quilting for umpteen years and the kids don’t know what to do with the quilts when she dies, they know we will take them. So they bring it to us.”
Ruuska admits that she’s done so many quilts that she has a hard time identifying her quilts in the sanctuary.
“I couldn’t pick out the quilts I’ve made anymore,” she chuckled. “I know that there’s probably 30 quilts here that I’ve made, and I couldn’t tell you which 30 they are.”
On the other hand, she doesn’t have a problem picking out quilts made by the group’s most prolific quilter, Hope Sampson, who’s turned out over 300 quilts.
“All these denim quilts that you see scattered around here that have about the same-sized blocks, those are made by her,” Ruuska said.
“She uses the same style, which is wonderful,” Thomas said. “Why change it?”
Last year, the quilts from Trinty could have been shipped from LWR’s Minnesota warehouse to Burkina Faso, Dijibouti, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, Niger, Peru, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania, demonstrating that a little bit of homegrown God’s love goes a long, long way.