Young members of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes at Fort Peck in Montana will soon be warmed beneath the cover of quilts hand-stitched by a church family in the rural Boyd County community of Burnaugh.
Members of Burnaugh Baptist’s Stitches of Love quilting group said they were initially excited about crafting and contributing a big batch of their creations for an upcoming Montana Mission Project. With an ambitious plan to cut and sew 30 quilts in eight weeks, the group’s members said they were at least a little daunted when Pastor Pete Miller corrected their numbers and told them they actually needed quilts for 60 children.
Rather than abandon the effort, founder Becky Taylor and members Kelly Griffitts, Sue Perry and Mary Miller got busy with the help of new members Ova Maynard and Linda Shelton to make as many coverings as possible.
“We just got together and started cutting and ironing and sewing,” said Griffitts, whose home became the unofficial center of the local quilting universe in the weeks which followed.
“We crashed my house for a long time,” she said with a laugh, describing the repeated scene with everyone covered in threads and material at the end of their work sessions, which she noted always included a good meal. “Baptists ... we have to eat!”
The noble effort was assisted through quilts donated by members Donna Triplett and Glenna Smith, who were unable to participate in the combined effort. Becky Yates, a new member who recently received a sewing machine and was eager to learn the art of quilting, learned she had little talent for it and made herself useful by providing the Tuesday work sessions with comic relief.
Griffitts said everyone pooled their resources to get the job done.
“Quilters have stashes, and we all have stashes,” she said, as each member of the group who was at the church Friday morning smiled and nodded in agreement. Their fabric and material “stashes” included printed images of many things the quilters knew would be welcomed by any young person. Their finished piles include “weiner dogs, bull dogs, cats, rabbits, trains, fire trucks, alphabet characters, circus scenes, butterflies, Scooby-Doo” and a few designs which may have never been stitched together before. The quilters point out one quilt they’ve titled “The IF Quilt,” which began as an effort to make a western-style corral pattern. The complicated pattern ended up being assembled in a mirror image of the intended design, which incidentally revealed a series of lines which seem to make the word “IF” appear within the lines.
“So, it’s a whole new pattern,” Perry said with a laugh.
When the last threads were trimmed and the quilts were counted, the group had gathered or sewn 64 covers (37 of which were hand quilted to bind the top, batting and backs), ranging from full size to lap quilts. Each member of the group, whose quilts have been used to help cancer patients and ailing children pay medical bills, agree they put more than just a lot of time and energy into each quilt they create.
“We’ve prayed over these quilts,” one said as the others quietly agreed with the statement. “We are up for whatever the Lord wants us to do.”
Pete Miller said the quilts will be a component of the multi-church mission to Montana, explaining he and other men will be tackling a list of construction projects at locations across Big-Sky Country.
“We will be building ramps, pouring sidewalks, painting, replacing eaves and drywall. There’s a whole lot of construction work to be done,” Miller said. “I’m not sure we can get all the work done. There’s a good possibility we won’t get it all done. It will be a full schedule.”
Miller will be among a crowd of 70 from the Greenup Baptist Association, including fellow pastors Joe Ed Rice, Jeff Ferguson, Ronnie Mays and Tom Leach. Miller said local people would likely be surprised to learn more about the lives of the Native Americans they hope to help.
“These are people who really have a great need ... and we want to do what we can to help.”