Senior Sara Hebior of Westosha Central makes a quilt with a sewing machine during a Family and Consumer Science Class (Submitted/The Report)

Quilts serve multiple purposes

By Jason Arndt
Staff Writer

When a quilt is made and given to someone as a gift, the blanket is often used for warmth in the cold winter months, but the quilts serve several purposes.

According to Heather Deegan, who owns Buttons and Bolts Quilt Shop in Salem, gifted quilts are symbolic at special engagements.

Special engagements include, but not limited to, baby showers, wedding anniversaries and holidays.

“It is something that is very heartfelt,” said Deegan. “It can be used as an heirloom to be passed on to other generations.”

Westosha Central High School teacher Denise Laabs, who instructs students on quilt making through a Fashion and Design course, agreed.

“It’s giving love to someone who maybe doesn’t always have a chance to experience love on a regular basis,” said Laabs, who picked up the hobby about 10 years ago.

Laabs has applied a personal touch to her hobby, making quilts from old clothing for her six grandchildren.

The endeavor takes several months, Deegan states, starting with someone cutting up fabric to sew together, known as piecing.

Following piecing, quilting begins, with quilters adding layers of matting, backing fabric and stitching more layers of fabric.

While most quilters assemble the blanket by machine, said Deegan, though some still sew the quilt by hand.

Assembling a quilt takes about 40 hours along with costs associated with supplies, she said.

Once completed, in time alone, the value is about $400, but does not include fabric expenses, which is approximately another $150.

Although the process is labor intensive, quilt makers find the activity an artful expression, Deegan states.

“It is definitely a hobby now. Before it used to be utilitarian,” she said.

The hobby is extensive, according to QuiltGuilds.com, which shows nearly 100 quilting guilds or clubs in Wisconsin alone.

On the website, QuiltGuilds.com lists guilds in all 50 states, in addition to Canadian provinces.

Of the guilds listed, there are more than six in the Southern Lakes Newspapers region, which also includes one guild in Northern Illinois.

“It’s a very large community, there are a lot of people that do it,” said Deegan. “That I am aware of, there are probably a few clubs in this area that meet one or two times a month to discuss quilting.”

In addition to discussion, club members invite experts into their groups to give pointers, she said.

“Sometimes they have a lecturer come in and speak, they do some show and tell, where they like to show off what they have been doing,” Deegan said.

Meanwhile, the hobby also serves a teaching lesson in Laabs’ class at Westosha Central.

Future quilters
Laabs instructs about 35 to 40 students annually on the craft and said there are some elements of STEM involved.

Westosha Central High School senior Claudia Fox constructs a quilt using a long-arm quilting machine in the school’s Family and Consumer Science Department.

STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, fosters critical thinking skills, and is a mainstay in education these days.

Laabs points to the application of math, which focuses on geometry and fractions, including instructions on reading a ruler and precise measurement.

For engineering and technology, her students use computer software to design patterns, which are applied throughout the process, and use multiple sewing platforms.

“It allows students to lose themselves in creativity,” she said.

After months of manufacturing the quilt, students learn another lesson, giving back to the community.

Community contributions
The quilts are donated to local nonprofit organizations, including The Sharing Center, Horizon’s Shelter for Battered Women and Children, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa and area cancer benefits.

Laabs states local nursing homes receive quilts.

“Students sometimes have an elderly relative or friend they’d like to share one with,” she said.

Along with local organizations, the students contribute quilts to their annual spring charity Fashion and Art Show, which selects a specific charity every year.

“This year the girls are making a patriotic quilt and a Green Bay Packer quilt, and the charity will be for ‘All the Right Reasons Foundation…Helping our Homeless, Unemployed Vets and Active Troops,” she said.

The student benefits, she said, are two-fold, which include the value of serving their community.

“What an amazing opportunity for students to learn and experience the concept of giving back to the community, just because it’s the right thing to do,” said Laabs, who also reports students carry the hobby with them following graduation.

“At least half of my students continue to quilt after they graduate. I have former students come back to use the Gammill long-arm quilting machine and share with me how much they still enjoy the art.”

A Gammill long-arm quilting machine, according to its website, uses specialized software and a computer controlled machine to make precise stitching.

 
 

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