CAPE GIRARDEAU — A little more than one quilt per volunteer was the result of one day of the Ugly Quilt Weekend held at the DePaul Center in Cape Girardeau. By quitting time Saturday, more than 100 quilts were produced by 81 volunteers. Last week, an additional 75 quilts were completed.
The quilts, pieced together from a pile of mismatched, donated material, are distributed locally to the needy and to an inner-city parish, St. Vincent DePaul, in St. Louis. The first 100 are given to the St. Louis parish.
Some volunteers stayed a few hours and others the whole day. There was a job for everyone, most requiring no skill. Around the perimeter of the work area, 11 sewing machines were set up to sew the seams. Other tasks included tacking, threading needles, rolling and stacking the finished product, tying knots and cleaning up scraps with a push broom. The DePaul Center, part of St. Vincent DePaul Parish, looked like a quilt factory, with 32 tables arranged in various stages of quilting.
Alma Heisserer, Ugly Quilt chairwoman, calls herself a "busy body," and this project keeps her busy all year. She's not exactly sure how long Ugly Quilt Weekend has been held, but she estimates about 14 years. A retiree, Heisserer works on the quilts as a pastime.
"It's a wonderful feeling when it's cold to know the homeless have these quilts," she said.
Sponsored by St. Vincent DePaul Christian Service and Council of Catholic Women, the Ugly Quilt Weekend idea was brought to the church by the late Therese Pierce, who was inspired by an article in a Family Circle magazine issue.
A few pretty quilts sneak in occasionally because quilt-top donors give up their unfinished quilts or discarded, pretty coverlets. But for the most part, the fabrics are dull in color, with little design, and a lot of the material is tricot, double-knit and polyester. Once it's pieced together to measure 84 inches square, the top gets paired with a middle and bottom layer.
"We put anything together," Heisserer said. "Mattress pads, old quilts, bedspreads."
Gwen Essner stood alone at a table clipping tacking threads. Her three children were helping to stack finished quilts in the back of a pickup truck. Her 9-year-old twin daughters started volunteering at Ugly Quilt Weekend as Girl Scouts, but now they do it as a family. It's been a three-year tradition. Essner said this year was a little different. Her 16-year-old son participated for the first time in honor of Essner's birthday.
Co-chairwoman Pat Edwards was stationed in front of the stacked-up quilts and announced when the group had achieved a goal, keeping the crowd enthusiastic.
"Pat Edwards doesn't sew, but she's a great organizer," Heisserer said.
Edwards received the finished quilts at her table and stuffed toiletries, socks, gloves and scarfs inside one end of the quilt. She then rolled it up and secured it with the two neckties at the opposite end sewn on just for that purpose.
"We had new people who had never helped," Edwards said. "It shows the word is out and spreading. One lady who showed up on Sunday said she had always wanted to come and finally made it there. Another small faith group at the church said their participation was an action response. It was great to see them putting legs on their faith."
Heisserer and Edwards said they were a little behind in numbers this year because Notre Dame students who normally hold a mini quilt day during the year were unable to because of the ice storm in February. Last year, 187 quilts were made. The students usually produce 38 to 40 of those quilts.