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Quilting Bee-lievers at First Baptist Church in Plano posted: 4/26/2004
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Category: General Method: All Series: In The News
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The quilters at First Baptist Church in Plano created a quilt to commemorate their church's 150th anniversary. Margaret Shafer leads both groups.
(George Henson Photos)

Reprinted with permission from George Henson and The Online Baptist Standard
2004 George Henson

PLANO, TX--Needle and thread can be prime tools for ministry, Margaret Shafer believes. And she is teaching women both inside and outside her church to use them.

Several women in Shafer's Sunday school class at First Baptist Church of Plano approached her nearly four years ago about teaching them to quilt. She agreed but thought it would be a short-lived venture once they discovered how time-consuming the work was.

"I didn't think they were too serious, quite frankly," she admitted.

Apparently they were. Each week, 29 women meet for fellowship and to work on their quilting projects. Not all the women are from Shafer's Sunday school class anymore, or even from her church. In fact, the group now boasts participants from six denominations.

All share not only a joy of quilting, but also a desire to minister. Each year, the group makes quilts for a Hispanic mission church.

"We decided that making something we could share with others was something we wanted to do--something we needed to do," Shafer said. She acknowledges that it was a year after the group started before they took up the mission project.

"We weren't sure we were good enough. But I don't think there is anything they won't try now," she said.

In addition to expanding their project line to include handbags and vests, as well as quilts, they also have adopted new ministry projects.

Red Hat Quilters at the Life Care Center in Plano (above) take the same pride in their handiwork, as do the quilters at First Baptist Church in Plano.

The First Baptist quilting group is helping the Red Hat Quilting Club, a new ministry Shafer started at an assisted-living facility. She teaches more than a dozen women at Plano's Life Care Center to make quilts for themselves and a large one to auction. Each participant in the club wears a distinctive red hat of her own choosing.

Since arthritic hands no longer allow the members of the Red Hat Quilting Club to maneuver a needle and thread, the women who meet at First Baptist Church cut out cloth in shapes for them and apply a backing to make them iron-ons.

In February, for instance, various-sized hearts became the pads for the hands and feet of teddy bears. While Shafer provided the shapes and an example, members of the Red Hat Quilting Club applied them where they liked, making each one unique.

Scoring the backing with a hat pin and peeling it from the fabric also provides therapy for hands and fingers.

In addition to cutting out the shapes for their older friends, the First Baptist quilters also stitch around the edge of each square and do any sewing that is needed, such as fastening button eyes onto teddy bears.

"These ladies put a lot of time and effort into things they'll never see," Shafer said. "They are just so willing to give of their time and money for these ministry projects, it's wonderful."

The First Baptist quilters are glad to help the Red Hat quilters create things they can be proud of, said Celia Price, a charter member of the church-based quilting group.

Margaret Shafer goes to the Life Care Center of Plano each month to teach residents how to make quilting squares that are put together and finished by the quilters at First Baptist Church of Plano.

"I have a dad who died in a nursing home, and my mom is borderline ready. You just come to a point in your life where you realize you won't always be able to do all you want to do, and you need to help others while you can," she said.

Barbara Roberts, another member of First Baptist, came to the club because her mother-in-law had made the top of a quilt featuring a donkey. Roberts wanted to finish the quilt but didn't know how.

She finished that project long ago and now is happy to help others the way she was helped.

"It's good to know that you can help someone too," she said. "I could be in that home some day--we might all be there--and it's nice to be able to help them make something pretty."

While the women are glad to help the Red Hat quilters and make the quilts for the Hispanic mission, they particularly are proud of what they refer to as "the quilt"--their first major project.

In March 2001, the women were asked to create a quilt for First Baptist Church's 150th anniversary that August. Shafer looked at old photographs of the church's various buildings and drew sketches for each square. She also drew pictures of the various churches First Baptist in Plano had started as missions. She then included drawings of the church's stained glass windows.

The 15 women then involved each took squares. When combined, their work became the church's sesquicentennial quilt.

"These ladies just took those drawings of mine and went to work on them, and what we wound up with is just beautiful," Shafer said. The quilt hangs in the church's welcome center as a commemoration of the church's history.

Teaching women to quilt has been one of great joys of Shafer's life.

"It's the most satisfying thing I've ever done to see these ladies develop in their skills to the point that they have," she said.

Shafer's gift just keeps on giving, Price added.

"You can't keep this kind of thing to yourself. My husband keeps asking me, 'When do we get to keep one?" she said with a smile.

Reprinted with permission from George Henson and The Online Baptist Standard

2004 George Henson

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