Saturday, January 6, 2018

Quilters Through The Generations - Ruth Thurn

Welcome back to Quilters Through The Generations!  Today you will meet Ruth Thurn, Karen Thurn's (of Tu-Na Quilts) mother-in-law.  You will find that Ruth is a kind-hearted, generous quilter who uses her passion for quilting to help others. And I am not talking just a few here and there, but hundreds!  Take it away, Ruth!

Ruth (Meidinger) Thurn

Have you ever made a quilt?

Yes, I have made at least 20 bed quilts and 3 wall hangings, for myself, my daughter, grandchildren, great grandchildren, great-niece.  I have also helped make hundreds and hundreds of quilts for Lutheran World Relief.

My sister, Violet, got me and my mom into quilting. Although, my mom was already doing some quilting. My mom, Pauline (Eckman) Meidinger started quilting when she was older and me and my 11 siblings were already grown.  She didn’t have time to quilt when we were little. Quilting is all about cutting up fabric and sewing it back together.   

My mother taught me to sew.  I made an apron.
I don’t recall hearing of any grandmothers doing any quilting.

Tell me a story about your first quilt.

I made a quilt for my daughter, Vicki. It was a scrappy quilt made of many pink cotton fabrics. I hand quilted it with help from friends, neighbors, and my sister, Violet.  She still has the quilt. 
(Unfortunately we don’t have a picture to share)

Have YOU taught someone to quilt? 

I influenced my daughter-in-law, Karen Thurn to quilt.  

You can see more of Karen's quilts over at her blog Tu-Na Quilts, Travels & Eats

Do you have a favorite block?

I like the bow tie block and have made several quilts using it. 

I made a bow tie quilt using shirts from my husband after he passed away. 

When my kids and their families were all together at my house, we gathered around it and hand quilted it. My daughter-in-law, Karen, put me up to making a quilt using Herman’s shirts. That bow tie shirt quilt is on my bed. I’ve washed it many times and it is in good shape.

Karen, Tu-Na Quilts, is in the blue long-sleeved shirt on the back left. 
Tu-Na Helper is in the blue long-sleeved shirt on the back right of the pic. 
Ruth's daughter is in the foreground of the picture along with her husband. 
Two of her sons are also helping and are on the left side of the picture. 
This quilt was made in 2000.

I also made wall quilts using my mother-in-law’s hankies.

When Ruth's mother-in-law passed away, she left over a hundred hankies. Ruth made wall hangings with them.

Do you participate in any quilt groups?

I quilt once a week with the ladies at St. Luke Lutheran Church making mission quilts which are sent through Lutheran World Relief. We take a break from Thanksgiving through the first of January but quilt all the other Tuesdays including summer, unless there’s a funeral or other church function that we can’t.

Below is a group of quilters at  the Senior Center ladies gathering at the Wishek for hand quilting. 
This was taken in the 90s. Ruth is taking the picture.

When I first started quilting, I invited my friends and neighbors to come help me hand quilt sometimes in the afternoons and sometimes in the evenings. It took several days to finish. We made a party out of it. I would then go to their houses to help hand quilt their quilts.

My inspiration comes from within myself. I have subscribed to some quilt magazines in the past.  

Below is a quilt she made for Lena, her daughter's German exchange student.

What is your favorite part of quilting?

The fellowship. 

Ruth Thurn (shown on the left) and her friend and neighbor, Frieda Ketterling (shown on the right), are quilting in Ruth's basement. Frieda would bring her sewing machine to Ruth's farm house and they would sew together. This was taken in the 70s.

My quilting job at church is sandwiching the tops. I have a partner that helps me a lot. If she’s not there, it’s not easy. We put the layers together, and pull things tight and pin around the outside. Then fold and set aside. Someone else comes and takes the quilt and sews around the outside and turns it right side out since it is an envelope style. 

Sometimes a pin is left inside. So we pull out the metal pin part and hold onto the ball end and pull. The pin comes out leaving the head inside.  The inside of the quilt is made up of sheets or we sew pieces we can’t use for the tops or the backs such as clothing with political statements or prohibited patterns. The back is made of whole pieces of fabric or pieced using good sheets or other fabrics.

I used to have the job of cutting the fabric into squares. But I can’t do that anymore. Sometimes I also help tie the quilts when the pile grows large and those ladies need help. I take kit tops and sew them at home. Each kit has the squares cut and numbered. I just have to sew it together. Our group of church ladies make 200 quilts a year. Most go to Lutheran World Relief but we also give some to others who have a need like a family who just had their house burn. If there is a need in the community, we give them a quilt or two.

 This picture is  of the church ladies taking a break during their Tuesday quilting day. 
Ruth is not pictured because she is taking the picture. This was taken several years ago.

We recycle a lot of clothes for the tops of the quilts. The clothes are washed and ironed. Someone’s job is to rip them apart or cut apart the seams. Then the squares are cut and laid out into a pattern and then numbered to become kit tops. Some of our group members take kit tops home to sew. My sister, Violet, sewed a one hundred quilt tops this year by herself. I’ve been working with the church ladies for 20 years.

We save cancelled stamps which are then sent away and the money is used to ship these quilts to Lutheran World Relief. We’re always looking for cancelled stamps that are trimmed. It’s a bit time consuming because we have to trim them ¼” around the outside edge. But it helps us send those quilts to those who need them.

Why do you quilt at church?

It’s something to do. It gets me out of the house. I miss it if we don’t have it. 

(Karen’s note: We can’t plan to visit Ruth on Tuesdays or she can’t come to our house as she has quilting that day. She takes her quilting work at the church very seriously.)

What do you do with your quilts?

I give them away. I only kept the quilt I made with my husband’s shirts (it’s on my bed) and a wall hanging made with my mother-in-law’s hankies. I made all the other quilts for others.

So now you can see that Ruth is one of the most kind-hearted and loving individuals I have ever come across.  To have a hand in such a large project has got to be a blessing!  

Ruth said this about her quilting with the church ladies. “We’re like a well-oiled machine. When one of the links is missing, it doesn’t work so good.” (referring to why she can’t miss a day of quilting.)

Let's do the math here... 200 full-sized bed quilts in a year.  There are 52 weeks in a year, but they take a 6-7 week break from Thanksgiving to New Year's so they have 45 weeks to make the quilts - That means 4-5 quilts per week! I think that all of the St. Luke's Quilting ladies are just as serious about their quilting as Ruth is.  And, no doubt, it involves more time than just the Tuesday's that they meet at the church.  I think they are all beautiful shining examples of generosity... something we can all aspire to be.

Have you ever made charity quilts?
Share your organization's name below in the comments...
Let's make 2018 another year of generous quilters!

Happy Quilting!


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  1. What a kind hearted and generous woman. I love that her favorite part is the fellowship. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. So wonderful to hear her story and all the quilts those good women have sent to others. Fun to know that she got Karen Thurn started - and what fun she is having! I am still trying to figure out how she gets those pins out, but I think I have it now.