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Making quilts keeps Divas in stitches
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When a Yuma quilting club asked soldiers in Afghanistan to choose designs for handmade quilts, one request raised eyebrows — and quickly gave way to grins.
Most soldiers asked for quilts with logos of their favorite sports teams. But one fellow pined for something different. So he asked the Yuma ladies to decorate his quilt with monkey ninjas.
Needless to say, members of the Monday Night Quilting Divas had to scour the Internet to find the curious-sounding cartoon critters.
“I've heard of Ninja Turtles, but never monkey ninjas!” said Carol Smith, laughing. “I wasn't sure we would be able to get that fabric, so I told my grandson we would do the best we could.”
The quilts were made with love for soldiers serving in her grandson's unit. Yuma native Shawn Clark, who asked for an L.A. Raiders quilt, came up with the idea of asking his grandma's quilting pals to help him and his buddies stay warm on cold Afghan nights.
“I was afraid to ask how many guys there are in his unit. Thankfully there are only 12,” Smith said, chuckling once again. “That was very doable. It's much better than 30 or 40.”
But these Quilting Divas aren't just sweet and generous. They're also no strangers to working hard in order to share their comfy quilts with folks near and far. The ladies donate quilts every year to local foster children and to veterans living in nursing homes. To club members, there's just nothing sweeter than a quilt's gift of warmth for both body and soul.
“Quilts are comforting. They're soft, they make you feel warm, they protect you,” Smith said. “Plus you know that someone went to the trouble to sew all those pieces of fabric together for you. I think that makes it even more special.”
Each year, the Monday Night Quilting Divas create 40-50 quilts for children living in foster homes. They also donate about 55 quilts every year for veterans.
“We just hope the quilts make their lives better,” said club member Myrna Fredericks. “Knowing that makes me feel great, like it's all worth while.”
Quilts made for the children come in several smaller sizes and boast bright and lively patterns.
“We're always looking for new patterns, especially for boys, which aren't as common,” Smith explained. “Anytime I run across some fabric with sports figures or race cars, I pick up some so I have some on hand.”
Quilts made for the veterans are the perfect size for being laid across the lap.
“We just think it's important for us to show our appreciation to the veterans for their service,” Smith said. “One veteran said his quilt was one of the few things anyone had ever given him. I just think that is what we should do, give back or help other people when we can.”
The Quilting Divas gather every Monday at Log Cabin Quilts and typically spend several hours quilting, chatting and just having a good time. Around 10 ladies attend each time.
“We work really well as a group. They're all great ladies and do great work — and they're all funny! Ladies usually have a great sense of humor,” Smith said. “Plus we really learn from each other. There are always new techniques to learn.”
The ladies especially enjoy their time together when they go off to quilting camp. For the past three years, the Divas have enjoyed four-day camps near Show Low, Ariz.
“Oh, it's unbelievable, I tell you,” Fredericks enthused. “One lady remarked that she found out what it was like to be a husband. We didn't have to clean. We didn't have to do dishes. We had to do nothing but sew!”
The fun and camaraderie they enjoy inspire the Divas in the work their donations demand, along with the occasional heartwarming story from someone who has received a quilt.
Fredericks cherishes the memory of meeting a family who had been blessed with a gift of quilts. She was showing people some quilts at a former workplace one day when a woman mentioned that she had several of Fredericks' quilts at home. It turned out that she had opened her home to four foster children several years ago.
“I couldn't believe it,” Fredericks said. “She told me that when the girls were given their quilts, they grabbed them and just hugged them. She said she knew when the girls weren't having a good day because they would come home, hop into bed and wrap themselves up in their quilts.”
Just retelling that story warms her heart to this day. “It was just amazing,” Fredericks said.
However, she couldn't understand why the woman still possessed the quilts if they were given several years ago to foster children?
“It's because she adopted them,” Fredericks said happily, adding that she eventually had the honor of meeting the children. “They were just nice young girls and now they have a really nice home to live in, with people who love them.”
Although the Quilting Divas don't often hear those happy stories from people whose hearts they touch, that precious feedback does happen once in awhile — like in the case of a certain monkey ninja quilt. Did that soldier love his unique gift? Once the package reached Afghanistan. Smith's grandson quickly reported back with reactions from the soldiers in his unit.
“Oh, he said the guy loved it. He said the soldier really loved his quilt because it matched perfectly with his monkey ninja jammies!”
Features editor Darin Fenger can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6860.