Quilting for Good
Stitch by stitch, an industrious group shares art from the heart
By Drew Myron
Quilts are like zucchini, says Margaret Davis. “You can only give so many to your kids and grandkids,” she says.
The solution? Donate the soft, handmade works of art to those in need.
Each year, ScrapBag Quilters—a group that meets weekly in Wamic—makes and donates hundreds of one-of-a-kind quilts to more than a dozen charity organizations in the region.
These made-with-love treasures have been given to patients undergoing treatment at the Celilo Cancer Center in The Dalles; youngsters removed from their homes and placed at the Department of Human Services; and elderly folks living at the Oregon Veterans’ Home.
Closer to home, Maupin School kindergartners rest on miniquilts, or “nap mats,” and quilt covers keep the medical ice bags chilled in the Wamic ambulance.
“You’re just glad you can do something for someone,” says Betty Lawson. “And it’s a chance to get together.”
Blending creative outlet with friendly gathering, Betty—along with Roberta Holmes and Peggy Harmon—started ScrapBag Quilters in 2003.
For nearly 15 years, the group has met every Monday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., sewing, cutting, chatting, laughing and sharing a potluck lunch. The cost each week is $1. The rewards, say members, are priceless.
For many in this industrious crew, quilting is an art learned in childhood and carried through the years. For others who are new to quilting, the group offers an opportunity to meet people and make friends.
Betty, who is lovingly called “our dumpster diver,” likes the possibility each new project offers. In a nod to the group name, she likes gathering scraps.
“I like when you can make something out of what you have, and something that’s not been made before,” she says.
Just as quilts vary in color and design, the process varies, too. Some quilt by hand, and some by machine, from vintage Singers to traditional Kenmores to more modern technology.
Yvonne Young connects her quilt designs and computer to a longarm machine that measures 12 feet by 4 feet.
No matter the method, the thrill is the same.
“I like quilting because it’s a big math problem,” Yvonne says. It’s a challenge.”
Margie Dolson agrees. Self-taught through years of trial and error, she stands before squares of vibrant fabrics, her eyes bright with excitement.
“I love color,” she says. “I love creating something and choosing the right color and the best placement. You do get hooked.”
It doesn’t take much to get addicted.
“These are hardcore quilters,” jokes Cindy Koch. Courtney Stephens is a newbie who joined with no quilting experience.
“I learned here,” she says. “It was a really simple design, and it was great.
“It’s just sewing,” she tells herself as she cuts each square and puts them together. “And it works! It’s a long process, but it’s very satisfying.”
Rural life can get lonesome, notes Ina Andre, who lives in Pine Hollow, as do many of the members. Others come from Wamic and Maupin.
“I just wanted something to do,” Ina says. “And it’s been wonderful.” Camaraderie thrums through the light-filled room of the recently renovated Wamic Community Center (formerly a school), where the group of 10 to 15 has met for the past several years. Quilters huddle together examining fabric, contemplating design choices, and assisting each other with tricky measurements and decisions.
“It’s just a wonderful group of people,” says Joan Lambert, who retired to Pine Hollow more than a decade ago. “It didn’t take me long to fit in with the gals. It’s something I look forward to each week.” Margaret, who joined a year ago, nods.
“These are the friendliest, most open-armed people,” she says. “I’ve really felt taken in. Each week I can’t wait until the next week. Every day I wake up thinking, ‘Can I sew today?’”
ScrapBag Quilters meets every Monday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Wamic Community Center. The cost is $1, which goes to rental space. For more information, call Betty Lawson at (541) 544-2484.