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ALC Quilters create blankets for missions

Shirley Barkuloo (from left), Margaret Utesch and Betty Bondhus add ties to a quilt.

WORTHINGTON — On Sunday mornings, the Bibleland classrooms at Worthington’s American Lutheran Church are filled with Sunday School children learning stories and lessons from the Bible in a setting decorated to look like those long-ago times. 

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On Wednesday mornings, those same classrooms are occupied by an older generation — the women of the church’s quilting group, who turn out blankets for missions in assembly line fashion. They are diligent about their work, but have fun doing it, too.

The origins of the quilting ministry goes back at least 50 years, according to one still-active member.

“It went in with our Circle meeting,” recalled Margaret Utesch, who recalls bringing her son along to the Bible study group when he was just a tot. He is now 55 years old. “It was the Rachel Circle. We’d have our meeting and coffee, and then we’d make a couple quilts.”

The women’s quilt output has increased significantly since then, generating about 200 quilts per year, estimated Elaine Hovland, the chairwoman of the group. The majority of the quilts are donated to Lutheran World Relief. Members of the congregation drop them off at the LWR warehouse in Twin Cities. From there, they are dispersed to people around the world. Depending on the location, the recipient may use the blanket to keep warm or as a shelter from the sun and heat.

On a recent Wednesday morning, the women were working in teams on various aspects of the quilt-making process. In one room, Hovland and accomplished seamstress Betty Pomrenke were seated at two sewing machines, stitching together the various pieces of fabric, getting up occasionally to iron a seam or patch a hole.

Across the hall, another team was measuring, cutting and tearing the cloth into suitable sizes for the quilts. In an adjacent room, yet another group of women was busily tying the quilt with needles and yarn. In order to keep the ties uniform, they utilize an old sheet with holes cut in it — the “holy cloth” — which is laid over the top of each quilt to mark the tie locations.

Some of the women have been making quilts via this method for years, while a few others, like Pomrenke, are more recent recruits.

“It was a good way for me to meet a lot of people ” after she moved to Worthington and joined the church, explained Pomrenke.

In addition to the group of 10 to 15 women who show up every week, additional seamstresses work at home and regularly drop off finished quilt tops to be added to the stash.

With so many willing hands, the work progresses rapidly, and pretty soon it’s time for coffee. The women take a break at 10 a.m. and head upstairs, where the church secretary has the coffee ready. They are joined by the Rev. Gary Andersen for a cup of java and a sweet treat provided by one of the women.

But soon break time is over, and it’s back to work. The women resume their tasks, chatting amiably as they do so.

The quilting endeavor goes on year-round, although the membership changes as some head south for the winter months.

They rely on donations for most of their materials. The basis of most of the quilts is used sheets, but just about any dry goods can be utilized in some way or another. They sometimes get used sheets from area motels.

Mattress pads and blankets are sandwiched between the layers, and when those aren’t available, they use batting purchased in a big roll.

“Batting is very expensive,” noted Hovland, adding that generous benefactors in the church help with those costs.

Although it’s most important that the finished quilts be serviceable, the women try to make the quilts look pretty, matching prints and colors the best they can.

Sheets and other materials can be left at the church office.

“Drop them off, and we’ll find them,” said Hovland.

For the women, there’s satisfaction in taking cast-off materials and turning them into something useful that will be utilized by people in difficult circumstances around the world.

But there’s also the joy of the fellowship they experience each Wednesday morning.

“The best part is we can all be together,” said Hovland. “We just miss it if we can’t.”

ALC member Carole Wiese served these bars during the coffee time. She used dried cranberries in place of the raisins.

No Bake Oatmeal Bars

3 cups marshmallows

½ cup peanut butter

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

¼ cup honey

1 ½ cups oatmeal

1 cup raisins (or dried cranberries)

In top of double boiler over hot water, heat the marshmallows, peanut butter, butter and honey, stirring occasionally until smooth.

Remove from heat and stir in the oatmeal and raisins.

Spread mixture in a greased 9- by 9-inch square pan. Chill and cut into squares.

Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers can be reached at 376-7327.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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