quilts

The Sierra Vista Woman’s Club has made 50 quilts and afghans in a year, which will be donated to local hospices. Three members of the Sierra Vista Woman’s Club display a sampling of their handiwork recently. The members are, from left, Gisela Halley, Lee Swearengin and Connie Collins.

SIERRA VISTA — What does a former hospice nurse do for Veteran’s Day?

She organizes the members of her club into a lap-quilt-making machine, of course.

Ellie Mae Frakes took six women (and some of their family members, too) from the Sierra Vista Woman’s Club, and together they are making 50 lap quilts and afghans that will be donated to veterans who are patients at three area hospices. They began the project in August.

“We worked hard,” she said.

The blankets will be handed over next week.

The idea to make the blankets came about after Frakes was looking for a service project which she and the club members could work on together, but safely during these COVID times. As a hospice nurse, Frakes knows how valuable a lap quilt might be to patients and their families. She also knew that quilt making is an individual task, yet everyone could contribute in some way. It was a natural fit.

“Everybody did what they could,” Frakes said. “(One member) didn’t make any, but she did a heck of a lot of cutting. (People) participated as they could, with their availability, because some people with a lot of skill didn’t necessarily have a lot of time. Some with less skill had more time.”

Even Frakes own sister, Tucson resident Ella Gomez, came down to tie the quilts that were not going to be quilted.

The quilts and afghans had to conform to certain parameters. Because the blankets were going to veterans, they are all made in patriotic colors, so some form of red, white and blue. They had to come in at about 36-inches square, big enough to cover a lap but not so big that it would present a trip hazard. They had to be able to be easily laundered, so no dry-cleanable or exotic fabrics such as velvet. They had to have soft cotton, not polyester, batting (the inside of the quilt). Then, because many hospice patients have compromised immune systems, the blankets had to be carefully sanitized and bagged before coming to the recipients.

Not all the quilts and afghans will be used as blankets.

“Some hospice patients and families actually don’t put it on their lap; they keep it as a treasure,” Frakes said. “You don’t know what they’re going to do with it so you want to make sure it’s adaptable.”

Novice sewer and quilter Connie Collins made seven quilts. She soon became addicted to making them.

“Once you get into it, you know, I’m compulsive so I can’t quit,” she said. “That’s why seven, then I had to go buy more (fabric) and keep going.”

Lee Swearengin, another member, made one quilt, which she is still working on but will soon finish. It’s been a journey, but a satisfying journey for her.

“I know my quilt is going to someone who really needs it,” she said, “and I’m hoping that it will be a comfort to them.”

Club president Gisela Halley, who made eight quilts, said she is not surprised by the hard work her members gave.

“(The Woman’s Club) is a very active organization,” she said. “Every member has to step forward. They were really very, very busy.”

Frakes is happy with the way things turned out and hopes to revisit the project again with the club, though with a bit of adjustment.

“We hope next year to start a little sooner,” Frakes said.