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Sewing For A Higher Purpose ~ Around The Frame

Recently I had a customer pick up a grandmother’s flower garden quilt that was hand quilted by the Emmanuel Lutheran Church quilt group. While at the shop she told me she had a quilter friend she wanted me to meet so an appointment was made for me to meet Cathie Markstahler. It was a pleasure to meet Cathie and learn about her involvement with the Headwaters Sew and Serve group that meets at the YWCA Villa- now Headwaters Church complex on Wells St. I was so intrigued that I visited the group a few days later to see firsthand the work they do. I met Cathie’s Co-Leader, Ellen Dixon, who shared with me the group’s beginnings; that is to say it had several beginnings. It first started in 2005 as a sewing group called Georgetown Sew Sisters that met one evening a week at the church. This lasted about six months then the evenings became dark, and many elderly members didn’t drive after dark, and that was the end of that. In that short time, industrious quilters made a dozen large quilts for a local children’s home and afterwards the boxes of fabric and batting were stowed in the church attic for what may come next.

Members of Headwaters Sew and Serve and their colorful creations.

Fast forward to 2009 when a young mother of one with another on the way, needed community service to fulfill requirements for subsidized housing. That’s when Ellen, her fellow member and friend Kimberly, and neighbor Mary, pulled things out of the attic and mentored this young lady as they met one afternoon a week to create blankets for A Hope Center. The word spread that they were having little sewing sessions and more seamstresses wanted to participate. In the spring of 2009, they kicked off the second start-up of Georgetown Sew Sisters and they continued setting up and sewing every week at the church for three years.

In the Fall of 2012, they had an opportunity to move their sewing ministry to the first floor of an old farmhouse on the north side of town. This location was such a blessing as now they had their own space to set up machines and workspace and store the fabric and supplies. It was there where the group grew to more than a dozen participants and started hosting another church’s sewing group in 2014. These groups made quilts, little dresses, tote bags, pillowcases, and wheelchair accessories.

In 2021 the farmhouse was sold, and they needed to find a new place for our ministry. The church they were now attending had just purchased and moved to the old YWCA campus on Wells Street. The church leadership offered the group a spectacular space in one of the “cottages” to set up shop and they moved in over the summer of 2022. Since relocating, the ministry has expanded to two meetings a week and the space offers them the ability to have more women participate. The name of the group was then changed to Headwaters Sew and Serve to better reflect their mission. Now nearly 30 regular attendees use their creativity and passion to serve for the benefit of others as they enjoy the fellowship of like-minded women.

While I was there, I watched women sewing bindings on quilts while others were at a flannel board moving fabric squares around to design a pleasing quilt. I was introduced to their “coverups” they create for nursing home residents to help keep their clothes clean. No one wants the indignity of wearing a bib, so they are created using colorful fabrics and prints. Cathie recounted that one resident saw her fellow residents wearing them and wondered where she could purchase one. She was told they were free; she happily chose one to wear. Fidget quilts are created for people with Alzheimer’s disease. The quilts with their different textures and attached items can help soothe the restlessness they often experience.

A very important item they make are flannel sanitary products. Many young women in developing countries do not have access to sanitary products and can’t attend school during their menses due to this. By providing these washable pads they can attend school and not miss out on their studies. It is amazing how the items being made and distributed from their cottage impact so many people here in Fort Wayne and around the world. They partner with New Mercies Ministries, Rescue Mission/Charis House, Honor Flight, Red Tent Project, Agape Mobility Ethiopia, Catholic Charities, Fostering Hope, local nursing homes, a local animal shelter, and the VA Hospital.

The Headwaters Sew and Serve members are grateful for the donations of fabric and supplies they receive from people who support their mission to serve others and share the love of Jesus. Much of their fabric and supplies are donated by those who want to see them get used for a good purpose. The group praises God for the way He has provided them opportunities to serve in this way.

What does the future hold for this group: They leave that in God’s hands for His glory!

Lois Levihn is the owner of Born Again Quilts. If you have a quilt/textile related story to share, contact her at 260-515-9446 or bornagainquilts@frontier.com.

Lois Levihn

She is the author of the "Around the Frame" quilting column. She is a graduate of Wayne HS. Quilts have always been important to her, she loves the stories surrounding them, the techniques used in making them, & restoring them. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer