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GOSHEN -- A group of Mennonite women has introduced the custom of quilting to young adults at Goshen College through the Passing on Traditions program.
The idea was born last May during work on the Goshen College musical, "Quilters." Deb Brubaker, professor of music, helped students set up a quilt to work on as part of the set. The students' interest in sewing inspired her to bring together generations to pass on stories.
At least five women approached Edna Reed, vice president of Mennonite Women USA, with the idea of a quilting program. "The least I can do is get this idea together," thought Reed, who organized multiple quilters from the church and arranged to have College Mennonite Church as a base for the program.
The group began meeting weekly last fall, and before the end of the semester, five comforters were knotted to send to refugee camps through Mennonite Central Committee.
"It's very utilitarian," Reed said. "When creating a quilt or comforter to send overseas, you should be able to wash it in a river and dry it over a bush."
Besides comforters, Passing on Traditions has been working on a quilt to auction off at the next Mennonite Relief Sale. Reed says students hope to finish the quilt and have it on display by graduation April 26.
Reed says more than 30 students -- even some men -- have attended the Wednesday night program. Although 22 students attended one evening, usually five or six show up each week. Reed has kept track of everyone who contributes so she can include their names in the quilt's story.
Program helpers Brubaker and Shirley Dyck have their own story to share. The CMC members are survivors of breast cancer. Together they created a wall hanging to auction off at the Mennonite Relief Sale with their cancer stories so viewers would understand their inspiration.
Expecting the wall hanging to sell cheaply, they were surprised it went for $1,350, and even more surprised when they heard it was their doctor who purchased it. Reed says this experience showed them how significant stories are in the process of quilting.
Joy Hess was one of the quilters Reed recruited to help students. Her favorite part of quilting is selecting the pattern and colors. "It's what makes a quilt individual," she said.
Talashia Keim Yoder began a job at CMC as the pastor for young adults. She had worked with Brubaker in "Quilters" and had seen how students connected with the craft. "Anytime you make something, it fulfills a need we have to create," Keim Yoder said.
Matilda Yoder is a first-year history and literature double major. At home in Columbus, Ohio, she practiced knitting and crocheting, but had never quilted until she came to Passing on Traditions. And although her hand cramps up every week, she keeps coming back. "It's nice to talk to people," said Yoder. "And I seem to be getting better slowly."
Rebecca Sommers, an avid quilter and president of Mennonite Women USA, has also helped students design and create the quilt. "We wanted to teach young women what this is all about with the idea of it going on to missions," Sommers said. "You don't have to be experts right away. It's just learning the technique."
Even with the beginner pattern the students are working on, Sommers said, "Something so simple can create something so beautiful."