The whirring sounds of almost 50 portable sewing machines competed with the voices of very busy women in Gurnell Hall at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Placerville on Thursday. It was a monster blanket-making event with the Sacramento area chapter of Project Linus.
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Sitting beside each woman was a plastic bag of fabric strips and a sheet of backing. Piles of batting filled tables at the rear of the hall, waiting to be sandwiched between quilt tops and backing.
“All of the fabric we’re using today is donated,” said Yvonne Jones, who has been a Blanketeer with the Sacramento group. “Volunteers cut it into the strips and bag it, along with the backing. The Blanketeers each bring their own portable sewing machines, pick up a bag and start sewing the strips into a quilt top.
A bell rings. It’s not an angel getting its wings; it’s another quilt top that’s been completed.
“It can be a little competitive, with people racing each other to finish their quilt top — wild women with their machines,” said Jones.
The blankets that are made today, and everyday, for Project Linus are donated to more than 100 local organizations that serve children — hospitals, shelters, foster care and receiving homes, to name a few.
Project Linus isn’t just for ladies who sew and knit — it’s a great volunteer project for organizations, church groups and schools. Men, women and children can get involved in making blankets for children.
“We have Scouting groups that make blankets and schools and we had a charter school where the kids each knit strips and then they put them together to make 13 or 14 blankets that they donate to us,” said Jones.
Project Linus coordinators can even sign off on community service credits for students who make blankets and donate them.
“This is a great group that makes friendships and helps others at the same time,” said Jones. “Everybody wins.”
The national organization of Project Linus started in 1997 and the Sacramento Chapter, which includes El Dorado, Placer and Sacramento counties, began in 1998.
“When we first started, we made 38 blankets and we were so proud,” said Jones.
The project started when a Pulitzer Prize winning article about a little girl who used her blanket to help her through chemotherapy appeared in Parade Magazine. Karen Loucks began making blankets for Rocky Mountain Children’s Cancer Center and Project Linus, named after a blanket carrying character in the “Peanuts” comic strip.
Last year the Sacramento chapter delivered 8,380 blankets to children, donating to more than 100 organizations.
Some of the local organizations that receive Project Linus blankets are El Dorado County Child Protective Services, Progress House , Family Connections and the Breast-Feeding Coalition of El Dorado Hills. Placerville Police, the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department, Search and Rescue and the Sierra Law Enforcement Chaplaincy all carry Project Linus blankets for times when a child is involved.
Smaller subgroups and individuals are part of each chapter.
“People work on their own most of the time, in their homes or while they travel, to make blankets and then we have drop-off places where they can leave their finished blankets,” said Jones.
Each new member receives a package welcoming them and giving them directions about sizes of blankets needed and identifying their closest drop-off location. Seasoned veterans often help new members with a first blanket.
At the Placerville blanket bee, Marian Breitzae, Betty Jo Rose, Karen Molina and Marge Haase of Sacramento sew and talk. They generally meet at Betty Jo’s home to cut and lay out fabric for their blankets and then they work on their individual blankets at their own homes.
“We joined Project Linus when the Haiti earthquake happened, ” said Rose, ” and we made 108 blankets last year.”
The four purchase most of their own material or get it from donations of friends and family. They join the rest of the chapter members in these periodic group blanket making sessions for fun.
“Our chapters don’t have meetings because life is too busy,” said Jones, ” but we have a blanket challenge and an open house once a year and we get together a few times a year at different places to make blankets as a big group.”
Thursday, the blanket-making marathon was hosted by the Faith Works Youth Group of St. Patrick Catholic Church. The group also sponsored a lunch for the busy workers.
“They gave us the space,” said Jones, ” and we bought our lunch to help them, so we are helping each other.”
“The kids were really excited to be hosting this event,” said Elizabeth Frey-Thomas, youth group coordinator, “because the blankets are going to local children.”
While most Blanketeers provide their own material for blankets, donations are used for the big group events.
“We accept donated fabric and yarn and get a lot of donated yarn because many of our members are seniors on a fixed income. They can’t always afford to buy yarn, but making the blankets makes them feel productive and needed,” said Jones. “And the children do need those blankets.”
A handmade blanket is like a warm hug when wrapped around a child in time of crisis, whether the child is a newborn or 18 years of age.
Blankets can be quilted, tied, knitted, crocheted or fleece. They are all handmade, brand-new and washable. Each blanket bears a label that reads, “Made with tender loving care for Project Linus.”
“Love goes into these blankets and I think the children who receive them feel it,” said Jones.
To donate fabric or yarn or to join Project Linus, contact Claire Gliddon, coordinator at 916-965-8955 or sacprojectlinus.org or e-mail her at [email protected]
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530-344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @WSchultzMtDemo