Fifteen years ago, four women started an informal quilting club in the basement of Christus Victor Lutheran Church, stitching and tying second-hand fabric, shipping their crafts to refugees around the world.
In a year’s time, they turned out 12 quilts, but they idea grew. And this year, with their numbers swelled to roughly a dozen, that same church basement produced 143 puffy blankets of red and blue, patterned with checks and plaids.
And before they boxed them up, bound for Thailand or Ukraine, they spread them out across the pews for a Sunday blessing. From the altar to the sanctuary door, the quilts hung in reds and blues, checks and plaids, flowers and balloons – a decoration that made for comfortable seating.
“The acoustics are a little different,” said Larry Santeramo, president of the Church Council. “And it’s very warm in here.”
Christus Victor cooperates with Lutheran World Relief, which in 2014 sent its quilts to people who needed them in such countries as Nicaragua, Peru and Angola. In September, LWR began shipping quilts and other care packages to Syria to aid migrants fleeing Syria.
“When you see the refugee camps on TV, every once in a while you’ll see a quilt,” Carla Stolzenthaler said at the church.
A small church, Christus Victor draws about 150 people, seating them in six rows of pews. But its quilters, most of them retired, meet every Monday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
“We never get through a day without needing some Band-Aids,” Stolzenthaler said.
Quilters work off a pair of Singer sewing machines – a third doesn’t work at the moment – and a set of cardboard templates for measuring. Most of their fabric is donated, and most of it comes from old bedsheets, but sometimes somebody has a coupon for the fabric store.
It costs $2.25 to ship each box, money the quilters hope to recoup from donors.
“That’s what God calls us to do,” said the Rev. Anne Marie Nuechterlein, visiting pastor on Sunday. “To care about the least of these people, to care about the people we might not see.”
The original quilters note that the current group enjoys modifications unavailable in the early days. Men in the church built lifts out of plywood to raise the sewing tables up to a comfortable height.
“For us old folks, it’s really hard to bend over to do tying,” Stolzenthaler said.
One of the men fashioned a special needle threader for the quilters, though he now lives in Greensboro, and the church sends half-finished quilts for him to hem. “He always does a zigzag stitch,” Stolzenthaler said.
With the finished quilts spread out in the sanctuary, the parishioners thanked God for blessing them with a good eye for color, the hands for fine stitching and the talent for thinking up new patterns.
Now, they said in unison, we dedicate these quilts to your service, trusting your love to follow them.
Anyone interested in donating to the church’s quilt project can make out a check to WELCA/Joleen Propst and send it to Christus Victor Lutheran Church, 1615 E. Highway 54, Durham, N.C., 27713.