HUDSON: A dozen women buzz around two tautly drawn quilts, poking them with yarn and tying knots to secure back and batting to a swirl of patchwork colors.
As they complete their labor of love, their minds wander, imagining where these latest creations will go.
Maybe it will comfort an elderly man in a nursing home in the Philippines, or a patient in an Iraqi hospital.
Maybe some woman will spread it on the ground to display the handcrafted Ethiopian souvenirs she hopes to sell at a roadside market.
“I think, will this end up on a camel’s back? Or used by someone to carry wood?” asks Bev Bubnis.
Or maybe some itinerant will sling it over his shoulder after bundling his world’s possessions inside, offers Esther Williamson.
These quilters — members of a Gloria Dei Lutheran Church guild called “The Ties That Bind” — will never know, but they have all the faith in the world that their work will find its way to someone in need.
Last year, their monthly gatherings at the Ravenna Street church produced 125 quilts that were forwarded to Lutheran World Relief Fund.
That was a record for the church, which answered the national group’s call for all quilting guilds to exceed expectations. In recent years, the Hudson group had held steady at about 100 quilts a year.
Their contribution added to half a million quilts — yes, that’s 500,000 handmade quilts — that the fund collected and distributed to people in dozens of countries around the world.
Williamson and Sue Larson are among the Hudson women who helped kick-start the local church’s involvement some 30 years ago.
Back then, a woman named Herta Reisinger was closing up her interior decorating business and dropped off boxes filled with fabrics and samples. The quilts seemed a natural idea for the material.
Today, the women use basically the same process as they did at the start.
A handful of volunteers — the women come from Hudson, Stow, Cuyahoga Falls and Aurora — use their sewing machines at home to combine 10-inch squares or a “crazy quilt” design into 60 x 80 fronts.
Then once a month, the women come together at the church to spend four hours or more attaching the covers to batting and bed-sheet backings by tying knots of yarn in the middle of each square.
As their supple fingers dance across the material, Sue Holman and Kathy Janosik talk about a country that might be on the receiving end of their gifts.
“I do a little research on Wikipedia and then I talk about what I learned while we work,” Holman said.
At the January gathering, Holman told the women about the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees pouring into Jordan to escape their warring nation. Maybe this blanket of flowers on a golden background will find its way to a child living in a tent in the dessert.
On a wall nearby, thumbtacks on a map signify the African nations of Tanzania and Burkina Faso have also been topics since October, the month when the women shipped a year’s worth of work to a Maryland warehouse and began anew.
A few of the Hudson women visited the warehouse, where they saw how 40 quilts are compressed into 100-pound bales, then labeled for destinations on almost every continent.
Holman said they don’t even know what countries the Hudson quilts go to, but she once saw a picture of victims of a typhoon disaster in India, with people on stretchers covered in patchwork quilts, and it made her smile.
As each quilt is completed, the women pause from their chores and gather around it, placing their hands on the material while someone recites a blessing.
Then they return to their places on the assembly line, be it threading needles with yarn, tying knots, or pinning the next quilt to a wooden rack.
Holman said when she joined the quilting guild 23 year ago, she did it for herself.
“I was new in town and it was a way for me to meet people. So my reason was a selfish one. It was about me,” she said.
But at some undefined point, her focus changed.
As I learned about the places they are going to, it became much more real, more meaningful,” Holman said. “Now I know it’s not about me.”