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Their handiwork is good work

It might be cold in the wintertime, but at least once a month the basement of the Elmira Mennonite Church is a place of warmth as dozens of women meet to make quilts and share some companionship.

For 10 years, the Needlesisters Quilt Guild – with a membership of some 65 women ages 20 to 70 – has been holding regular meetings in the basement of the EMC building on Church Street West.

The purpose of the guild is to promote quilting within the community as well as to make quilts for others.

Sheila McMillan (left) and Edna Keown, of the Needlesisters Quilting Guild community project committee, were joined by Julie Martin-Jansen, Laurie Thomson, and Cindy Culp (sitting) of Elmira District Community Living at the group’s regular meeting at Elmira Mennonite Church Monday evening. The guild donated 38 quilts.
Sheila McMillan (left) and Edna Keown, of the Needlesisters Quilting Guild community project committee, were joined by Julie Martin-Jansen, Laurie Thomson, and Cindy Culp (sitting) of Elmira District Community Living at the group’s regular meeting at Elmira Mennonite Church Monday evening. The guild donated 38 quilts.

“Community is very important,” said Sheila McMillan, a member of the Guild’s community project committee, which is charged with coordinating the guild’s efforts for the purpose of helping worthy community recipients. It’s part of an agreement it has with the church: in exchange for free rental space, the Guild offers up its collective skills and efforts by supporting the surrounding community. This often means making and donating quilts to be auctioned for various organizations’ fundraisers, including the Mennonite Central Committee, and other times donating placemats for the local Meals on Wheels. This month, the committee chose Elmira District Community Living (EDCL).

“It’s really important to us to do things that benefit as many people in the community as possible,” said McMillan.

On Monday the guild presented the EDCL with 38 comfort quilts, 34 of which were made on the busy morning and afternoon of Jan. 31.

“It was a good group: everybody worked really hard,” said McMillan, joking that when some members strayed from the task at hand, others were there to lead them back to the fray.

“A couple of them were saying at a quarter to twelve, ‘oh, I think I’m ready for lunch, let’s stop for a break’ and it was kind of my own little sweatshop and I said, ‘push on for another 20 minutes, just finish that top [part] before you quit, just one more’ so we kind of rushed on forward and it went well,” she quipped.

The quilts are small enough to be portable and to be used when sitting down to rest or for travelling in a wheelchair. Each was made of six-inch squares that were donated by Needlesisters members, and each square tells its own little story of being a fabric that someone loved and bought to use on a project and then had a little left to be able to share with someone they have never met, said McMillan.

“We hope that these quilts will provide comfort to the residents of the association for community living and that when they are used, the user know that quilts provide comfort in both a physical and emotional way.”

Batting was donated by guild members, some backing was purchased and some yardage was donated by friends of the committee, McMillan explained. The committee then put together kits in preparation for the project day.

While the project objectives on Jan. 31 were clear and the participants eager to work hard, time was also spent socializing: quilters would chat with each other across small tables or get up to visit others.

“It’s a social activity too, even though we jokingly called it our little sweatshop that day,” said McMillan with a chuckle.

Snacks – “to increase the sugar levels so we could work longer” – were also on hand, as several members brought and prepared food for their peers.

“It’s a lot of fun to do. It’s a nice project; we all love what we do within the quilting.”

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