Life is a Gift
The Tabitha Quilters Sew With LoveStory: Claudia Mosby Photos: Betsy Erickson
For a few hours every week, the Tabitha Quilters gather over colorful fabric splayed across tables and sewing machines in the Fellowship Hall at St. James Lutheran Church in Redding, where they work on projects threaded with love to be sent to others, both near and far.
Some cut fabric strips, others blocks. Some machine-sew borders, others tie and finish by hand. While each has her own particular style, the end goal is the same: to bless others with quilts that offer warmth, comfort and love.
Off to one side of the stage area stand four cupboards referred to as The Store, where all donated sewing machines, fabric and notions reside. Sometimes donated clothing finds its way into the mix, evident on a recent Thursday afternoon as Marj Brown cut into blocks a scrub uniform bearing a colorful animal print that would serve as the basis for her next project.
“We find a use for everything,” says Colleen Lawson, a longtime seamstress and member of the group, which is one of many outreach ministries at the church. “When we get fabric we can’t use, we cut it into scraps and make stuffed dog beds that are donated to local animal rescue shelters,” adds member Sandy Weatherford.
Last year, the group produced 269 quilts for organizations ranging from Shasta County Child Protective Services and the pediatric unit at Mercy Medical Center to the Red Cross, World Lutheran Relief and tornado survivors in the Midwest.
When Weatherford’s granddaughter was in the neonatal intensive care unit at UC San Diego, her daughter took one of the quilts Weatherford had made for the baby to cover her incubator, but noticed many of the others were without blankets. “They can’t put the quilt in the bassinet,” Weatherford says, “but they drape it over the incubator to keep the bright lights out of the baby’s eyes.”
How the group would make blankets for the 28 incubators on the unit was not in question. “There is no wrong way to make a quilt,” says member Barbara Grosch. “The only requirement is that it keeps a baby warm.” The uniqueness of each blanket is significant, because when the incubators are re-positioned, the quilt helps parents immediately identify which one contains their baby, Weatherford says.
More recently, Colleen Lawson was inspired by the local news. “I heard that the opening of the Redding Veterans’ Home was going to be delayed,” says Lawson. “I said to my husband, ‘In that time, I could make a quilt for every veteran in the home!’”
She and the others did just that. They started with a basic color pattern of red, white and blue and a design theme of stars, stripes and flags and let their imaginations guide them from there, completing 154 quilts in 176 days. Measuring approximately 36x60 inches, they are designed with multiple uses in mind.
“We were already making quilts for residents of the Vistas,” says Grosch, “so we understood that some of them would be used with wheelchairs and others might be hung on the wall for decoration.”
Founding member Leanna Austin says sometimes they started with a fabric square and looked for others to match it, and other times they used a block with an emblem representing one of the military branches of service as the centerpiece and then cut fabric they thought would go with it.
Once completed, the church holds a blessing ceremony before the blankets are sent to recipients. For the veterans’ quilts, the church held a dedication ceremony on Veterans Day last November, which drew members from the community. “We didn’t expect to have that kind of reaction,” says Austin. “It was very emotional. When other people are blessed by what we do, we are blessed.”