Quilting Friends return to share their talents that benefit the Sisters

Beverly Howell and her friend Jean Person loaded their car with a trunkload of donated fabric and made the trip from southeast Tennessee to Maple Mount this week to attend the gathering of Quilting Friends.

“I was interested in being able to help,” Howell said. “I came in 2020 before the campus was shut down because of Covid. I’ve been chomping at the bit to come back.”

“Sister Amelia is so much fun,” Person said. “And we get to help the Sisters.”

The Quilting Friends was the brainchild of Sister Amelia Stenger back in 2002. She received many donations of fabric from people, and also knew many women who loved to quilt. Each year this group came in February or March to sew quilt tops with donated fabric and leave them for the Sisters to quilt. The annual tradition ceased three years ago with Covid, with this year the first time many of the volunteers have returned to the Mount. The participants were gathering from March 26-29, 2023.

The quilt tops will either be hand quilted for the Mount Quilt Club, or machine quilted to use for Quilt Bingo in September, both of which serve to support the mission of the Ursuline Sisters.

Laura Merz, of Aurora, Ky., has been coming to the Quilting Friends since the second year it was held.

“I thoroughly enjoy it. I get to see a lot of people I haven’t seen in three years,” Merz said. “I love to sew,” which she’s been doing for 60 years.

Mary Ruth Clark lives outside Newburgh, Ind., and has been coming since the beginning.

“I just enjoy being here. I like being around the Sisters and Sister Amelia,” Clark said. “It’s so peaceful here.”

The women used to fill the large meeting room in the Mount Saint Joseph Conference and Retreat Center, but with the Center closed, they set up their sewing machines in Maple Hall – the new name for the Auditorium.

Carin Oliver, of St. Charles, Mo., has come six times over the years. On March 27, she was making an item for Christmas.

“I like the camaraderie with the ladies,” she said. “We work hard, but it’s a lot of fun. These sewing machines started humming at 8:30 this morning,” Oliver said. “It’s a long day, but it’s for a good cause.”

Oliver said she’s been sewing close to 50 years, but got serious about quilting about 30 years ago.

“My mom taught me to sew so I could make my own clothes,” she said. “I made my first quilt when I was 18 and gave it to a boyfriend. We broke up at 19, but I never got the quilt back.”

Oliver is friends with Ann Jacobs, who invited her to her first Quilting Friends. Jacobs is Sister Amelia’s niece, and she and her mother, Ursuline Associate Mary Teder, returned for another year.

Jacobs was sewing 85 aprons for Sisters to use during mealtime in Saint Joseph Villa.

“I’ve probably made over 300 aprons in the years I’ve been coming,” Jacobs said.

Maple Hall was set up with sewing stations and its walls lined with donated fabric. Sister Amelia said a former participant donated batting, which saves the Sisters a lot of money. Jacobs uses small pieces of fabric that aren’t used for quilts for the aprons. Smaller pieces are used for dog beds. Even smaller pieces are used for scrap quilts. What isn’t used at the Mount is donated to another group that sews for people in Appalachia, Sister Amelia said.

There were newcomers this year as well. Marilyn Adkins, from Sacramento, Ky., used to attend the Runaway Quilters, a group that brought their own projects every fall.

“I’ve been quilting for 20 years,” Adkins said. “I had friends who were getting together to quilt, it just sort of took over. It’s an addictive hobby.”

Adkins said she has sewn all her life. On March 27, she was working on a brightly colored Scrappy Nine-Patch quilt.

“Sister Amelia handed me the fabric and asked me to make a quilt for a teenage girl. I’m enjoying it tremendously,” Adkins said. “I just love to sew. This way I can sew and someone else benefits from it.”

Judy Hayden of Calhoun, Ky., also came for the first time. She and Sister Amelia led agriculture workshops together for years.

“I would do almost anything for Sister Amelia,” she said.

Hayden was clearly enjoying her first Quilting Friends.

“I love it,” she said. “I enjoy the camaraderie, that’s the best thing.”

For veteran quilter Sally Fitzgerald of Bowling Green, Ky., the sewing is only part of the fun.

“We’ve missed everybody,” she said.