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Kept in stitches

The church community at Highview Christiania has rallied and brought new life to a longtime quilting group. Membership has doubled in three years and supplies are suddenly plentiful.

There is a closet at Highview Christiania Church that seems to have taken on magical, even miraculous qualities in recent years. Every time members of the church's quilting group open its doors, it has sprouted new pieces of fabric and other supplies.

The quilting group has been around at Highview for as long as any of its current members can remember, but for much of its existence it was a small operation. Members spent their own money to buy what they needed and met a couple of times a year to stitch together the quilts and blankets they donated to charitable organizations. It was a good group, and the members had fun working together, but there was only so much they could do with limited resources.

Then, about three years ago, things changed.

It was a request from St. Paul's United Hospital that really got things going. The hospital was looking for blankets for its care cart, a wheeled microwave cart that is put in patients' rooms near the end of their life. The cart has CDs and a lamp for soft lighting and literature about grieving. There is also a blanket that the family can take home with them.

Those blankets, and the work done at Highview to create them, did something remarkable at Highview. They breathed new life into the quilting group. Membership in the group has doubled in three years, and the entire congregation has rallied to support the effort.

"We've been blessed," said quilting group member Lorrain Swedeen. "We've had four sewing machines donated."

To support the blanket-making effort, the quilting group launched a craft and bake sale to be held each year in conjunction with the church's annual Norwegian supper. Church members donate items for that sale, and they donate more to the group. They've donated quilt racks and more.

They keep that magic closet stocked.

In the years before the United Hospital blanket project, the quilting group had a couple of shelves for its supplies. Now, the group has two closets that always seem to have just what the quilters need.

"If we think of a need, all of a sudden we have a resource for it," Swedeen said. "We are very fortunate to have things donated and we don't even know where it comes from. We open the closet and it's there."

In the old days, the group made 40 to 50 quilts and blankets a year. Now they make 120 blankets, 57 baby layettes, 63 school bags and more quilts for silent auctions. The group meets weekly rather than twice a year.

All of the blankets receive a blessing before they leave the church. They appear to be in demand wherever they go.

"(Recipients) know we're coming at 11, and they show up at quarter to 11," group member Maryann Dietz said.

They still have plenty of fun, though. Some of the group members are experienced quilters. Others are novices who joined after the program was rejuvinated three years ago. They meet Thursday mornings to sew and chat and sip coffee. They solve the world's problems, they say.

They like the idea that the items they produce bring comfort to people in difficult times.

"I think we develop a feeling a little bit of pride," Dietz said. "I keep telling people we shouldn't be so proud, but it's a good feeling.... We've done something."

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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