Quilters Stitch Up Home-Sewn Fun

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As the Strawberry Patchers Guild completed their fifth annual quilt-a-thon Friday night, the merry bunch of exhausted quilters laughed, joked and bragged about the work they completed.

The 192 lap-sized quilts made by the dexterous ladies will be given to the Department of Public Safety to be used by officers in the field.

"If there's an accident somewhere, we are in the trunk waiting to help," Nancy Bollard, chairman of the guild said. Officers will use the quilts to comfort children and adults in traumatic situations.

Working from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. three days in a row, the guild created an assembly line to process as many quilts as possible.

"We have people who tie, press and sew," Thelma Anderson said. A member for three years, Anderson brought her twin sister to help and even took home some quilts to work on overnight.

This is not for members only; each year, the Patchers invite the public to help, as well.

About 20 women gathered for the old-fashioned quilting bee each day, Debbie Stanton said. Stanton has already been appointed as next year's chairman.

"My first visit to the group was three years ago at the quilt-a-thon," Stanton said. "I read about it in the newspaper and said, 'This is for me.'"

Stanton, an instructor at Quilter's Outpost in Payson, showed up with her sewing machine and stayed.

"I found such a wonderful bunch of people."

To date the Patchers have stitched 2,622 quilts and donated them to DPS, Willene Smith said. She is the founder of the Patchers and statewide chairman for the DPS Quilts project.

"For a small group, we do an incredible amount of work," Bollard said. "Willene is in charge, she sets our goals high so we have to work. Everyone bonds it's a great time," she said.

The quilters themselves and local shops, like Quilter's Outpost, donate large amounts of scrap material to help with the project, but they also need financial help. To fund this three-day work session and other community service projects, the Strawberry Patchers produce an "Opportunity Quilt" each year. Last year's quilt provided $1,800 in revenue, quite an opportunity to buy the material for the quilt-a-thon.

The public's first chance to see this year's opportunity quilt will be at the annual Memorial Day Craft Fair. Sewn by the members, this pine and maple tree patterned quilt will be raffled off next fall. Tickets are $1 each or six for $5 and will be available at each craft show.

The women like to show off a bit, too. In June, the Patchers host an annual two-day quilt show, displaying more than 200 colorful, handcrafted creations.

This year, the event is strictly a white-glove affair, Stanton said. The Patchers will be handing out white gloves from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, June 7 and Saturday, June 8, to all who enter the cultural hall in Pine. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.

Once inside, you will appreciate the handcrafted magic of the Strawberry Patchers. The quilters spend countless hours on patterns with names like "stack and whack," "9 patch," and "the drunkard's path." Guests might also find a "friendship star," a "log cabin," a "pinwheel" or a "cherry dash."

To keep up with this workload, the 27 members of the Patchers meet twice a month at the community center. The first Thursday is the business meeting and the third Thursday is the "fun and games" meeting, Bollard said.

The Patchers bring in instructors and traveling teachers to learn new patterns. They work on mystery quilts and draw names from a hat to see who is going to sew a square and ultimately who gets the quilt. Other members research the history of quilts and share the information at the meetings.

To find out how you can join the Patchers, call Bollard at 476-2305, or Stanton at 476-5111.

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