Quilting for a Cause


By Ellen Johanson, Wesley Community Foundation Annual Giving Manager

Cheerful. Grateful. Giving. These aren’t just words; they’re qualities that define many Wesley residents. Talented, hard-working and creative are a few more. You can see these qualities when you visit the Needlecrafters, who make handcrafted items of beauty and purpose in The Gardens at Wesley Des Moines.

Donna Wilson, Cottage resident and group leader, said the group has been around for at least 25 years.

“It began for fun but has developed into a supportive group that shares the joy of being together and doing something we love,” said Donna.

Whether it’s making a quilt for the Tree of Lights, crafting aprons for Highline Montessori at Wesley Des Moines, mending clothes for residents or working on a commissioned project, the Needlecrafters would be “dead in the water without the sewing machines purchased by Wesley Community Foundation. Some people would not sew at all without the machines,” Donna noted, adding “For some of those who sew, the machines help to supplement their monthly income.”

The Needlecrafters are big supporters of the Circle of Concern, a Foundation fund that assists qualifying residents who have exhausted their financial resources through no fault of their own. Needlecrafters support this fund by making quilts to sell at the resident-run Craft & Bake Sale held each fall. They also donate a quilt each year for the annual Tree of Lights celebration. The quilts are always hand-made as a labor of love by one or more residents.

Part of the fun of working together on a project is that each person can contribute in the way she likes best whether it’s designing, selecting and laying out the fabric patterns, making quilt blocks or hand-stitching the borders. Donna believes the best quilts are those that are donated as incomplete projects that the women then finish together through a melding of their talents.

This year’s quilt features a traditional log cabin pattern in warm earth-tone colors. Made by residents Lucille Wheeler and Wilda McOmber (pictured above), this versatile quilt is reversible and machine-washable. The project started with donated quilt blocks, which Lucille redesigned and pieced together, before creating additional blocks. Wilda sewed all the borders with finely-detailed hand sewn stitches. This quilt was awarded to a lucky winner at this year’s Tree of Lights celebration and fund raiser in Des Moines.

The core group of Needlecrafters, whose cumulative quilting experience is 267 years, welcomes newcomers, including those with little experience or non-Wesley residents. Even if you don’t pick up a needle and thread, you’ll still be impressed by the joy of connectedness and gratitude that flows from the hearts and hands of these Wesley residents.