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Rural Prairie women making a difference

Group strives to Reduce, Recycle and Reuse – one quilt at a time

Some seniors may remember saving wool, old woollen clothes and blankets until they had a 100-lb. gunny sack full and sent it to a company in Winnipeg, Man. In exchange they received new woollen blankets. Was it frugal or out of necessity to mend, patch or reuse articles or was it the birth of the term “recycling?”

The Herschel Quilting and Recycling Group strives to Reduce, Recycle and Reuse, and twice a week from January to the first week in April, women from Herschel and surrounding community meet in the Herschel Memorial Hall to create quilts using recycled material. Bags and boxes of donated materials are sorted into similar colours and fabrics for easy access.

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During the Second World War the Herschel United Church Ladies Aid made quilts in the Herschel Clubroom for the Red Cross to be shipped to soldiers. Carded sheep wool was used for batting and woollen thread for tying. Since then, quilting has progressed from the Helping Hands Ladies Aid in the basement of the Ebenfeld Mennonite Church in 1957, to the amalgamation with the Herschel United Church Women in 1990, to Herschel School in 1994. In 1995 Herschel Quilting and Recycling received a grant from Enbridge Pipelines Inc. (formerly Inter Provincial Pipeline) and in 1998, moved to the Herschel Memorial Hall.

The group is made up of dedicated volunteers who want to make an environmental difference. The members are mainly farm women who have to drive on gravel roads in snow, sleet and fog, but are determined to come out to quilt. Some even take work home.

Quilters at work (l to r): Marlene Wiens, Margery Martin, Ann Rice, Lynn Hollick, Shirley Weenk.

Quilters at work (l to r): Marlene Wiens, Margery Martin, Ann Rice, Lynn Hollick, Shirley Weenk.
photo: Courtesy

The recommended size for quilts shipped overseas is 60×80 inches so seven rows of nine blocks (9-1/2 inches square) are needed. On a large table the blocks of quilt top material are arranged, stacked, numbered then sewn in rows. Material for backing and batting are cut to fit the quilt top and the three layers are sewn together, turned right side out and pinned and clamped to a quilt frame. Supple fingers navigate needle with double thread down through all three layers then back up in a small stitch, tie ends in a double knot and trim. When tying is completed, the quilt is removed from the frame and displayed. Lighter-weight quilts are shipped overseas to disaster areas in warmer climates, while larger quilts with thicker batting are for cooler climates and stay here at home.

The highlight of the year is the annual quilt sale in April where half of the quilts are sold. If more than one person wants the same quilt, an auction is held and proceeds go to the United Church Mission and Service fund, miscellaneous expenses, hall rent and to purchase large rolls of quilt batting. The remaining quilts are taken to Saskatoon, Sask. to the MCC (Mennonite Central Committee Foreign Aid), baled and shipped overseas to those in need.

Threads that bind fabric and people together benefit the environment and those less fortunate, a foundation for rural life on the Prairies.

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