Flying Fabrics, Nimble Fingers

Rim women sew up a storm for charity

 Clara Lightbourne (right) sews the trim on a pillowcase, as Patty Ennis turns her material to the other side to complete the job, as they diligently work during the Quilting Sisters’ Bernina 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge event.

Photo by Andy Towle. |

Clara Lightbourne (right) sews the trim on a pillowcase, as Patty Ennis turns her material to the other side to complete the job, as they diligently work during the Quilting Sisters’ Bernina 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge event.



It looked almost like a production line as these DPS Quilt Angels perform a task that can only be done by hand; and that is tying the little yarn knots that help hold the batting in place in a quality quilt. Pictured are: Penny Smith, Sharlene Helgerson and Sigrid Mohr.


A basket of color, these leftover pieces from the Quilt-a-Thon will find another use on another day.


Randi Shaw is too busy for chatting as she sits at her serging machine that cuts and sews the edges of a quilt in one smooth operation.


Tabitha Donsbach, her sister Elizabeth, and brother Kevin, all pitched in as runners to help the DPS Quilt Angels during their annual Quilt-a-Thon.


Thelma Andersontakes some time away from sewing to snip off some loose ends.

The fabric was flying and nimble fingers created a blur as a couple dozen women recently devoted several long hours sewing for charity. At the Quilting Sisters, formerly Quilters Outpost in the Swiss Village Shops, about a dozen women made 140 pillowcases for charities as part of the shop’s participation in the Bernina 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge March 24.

The challenge is a year-long initiative sponsored by the sewing machine manufacturer and American Patchwork & Quilting® magazine to help local charities by making pillowcases for their clients. Among the Payson area charities to benefit from the project are Habitat for Humanity, Vets for Veterans, Humane Society of Central Arizona, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Payson Care Center.

The Quilting Sisters’ classroom will be open four more days for volunteers to come in and make pillowcases for the challenge. The pillowcases can also be made at home, using patterns and instructions on the challenge Web site,

More work was being done March 31 and the shop has also set April 8 and April 20, May 5 and May 23 for pillowcase sewing days. The work takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on those days.

To learn more, call the shop at (928) 468-6360. It is at 904 N. Beeline Highway, Payson. New owners Richard and Cheryl Dolby will have a grand opening May 1 starting at 10 a.m., showing off their expanded inventory, new machines and workshop area. There will be refreshments, specials and drawings offered throughout the day.

Meanwhile, up in Pine, the DPS Quilt Angels Quilt-a-Thon drew about 17 women to the Pine First Baptist Church March 24 and March 25 and about 12 on March 26. Through the three-day event, the women had a goal of making 300 lap-size quilts for DPS officers and other public safety personnel to carry with them to give to victims in accidents and emergency situation as a means of comfort.

According to coordinator Willene Smith, they actually produced 362 quilts, plus 10 dog beds for the Humane Society of Central Arizona. Almost all of them have already been delivered, she said.

The women quilting were assisted by two youngsters who served as runners.

“The women would ring a bell and the kids would come running,” Smith said.

The Quilt-A-Thon has been taking place for many years, sponsored by the DPS Quilt Angels Chapter of the Arizona Quilters Guild.

The guild has provided the Department of Public Safety (DPS) with more than 5,500 quilts since 1990 when the program began. Back then, Smith was browsing through an Arizona Quilters Guild newsletter when she spotted a request regarding ideas for local groups that the organization might be able to make quilts for.

Because both her husband and son have a background in law enforcement, Smith immediately thought of DPS — after all, they have officers all over the state, so the quilts would benefit many people throughout Arizona, rather than just one specific region.

When she made the suggestion, she was immediately charged with getting the program started. That was October 1989. She set a goal to have 100 quilts ready by April 1990, but by January, she had already received 200 finished child-sized quilts.

Smith is quick to point out that she is just one of many women who has made this amazing endeavor possible. She gives a lot of credit to co-chair Gloria Fohr’s exceptional organizational skills and the dozens of women who have a passion to use their talents to bless others. And this is really the heart of the program — to provide each DPS officer with a child’s quilt so that they can offer comfort to those who have been traumatized in any way.

Although the DPS is the primary recipient, the DPS Quilt Angels have also provided quilts to our local police and fire departments, as well as the Time Out Shelter.

Although the Quilt Angels rarely know who receives their quilts, they sometimes hear from the officers about circumstances when the quilts were used. The only thing that the Angels require is that they be used to bless those in need. So far, the quilts have been a source of comfort to not only children, but the elderly, newborns, and even a dog who had been hit by a car.

Once, a DPS Angel recognized one of their quilts being clutched by a child in a Laundromat. When she commented on the beautiful quilt the child smiled and said, “My angel gave it to me.” The real-life angel just smiled knowing that it had served the purpose for which it had been made.

So how do the Angels manage to supply the 700-plus DPS cars with enough quilts? Through dedicated, year-round passion to meet twice a month in addition to holding the annual three-day quilt-a-thon where they work nonstop, cutting, assembling and sewing.

The DPS Quilt Angels welcome any who have a heart to serve and bless. If you would like to know more about this wonderful group, you can call Willene Smith at (928) 476-3587.


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