Metro-East Living

They sew quilts, hats and scarves. Then they give them all away.

Belleville Fiber Arts group shares mission of helping others

The Fiber Arts group that meets at Westfield Manor, an independent living facility in Belleville, IL, creates a variety of items such as quilts, hats and scarves that they donate to many causes. Nearly everything the group makes is from donated ma
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The Fiber Arts group that meets at Westfield Manor, an independent living facility in Belleville, IL, creates a variety of items such as quilts, hats and scarves that they donate to many causes. Nearly everything the group makes is from donated ma

Whatever they do, and however they meet, the women of Fiber Arts share a common mission: Keep busy, and give away whatever they make. So far, they’ve made quilts, hats and scarves for the homeless; quilts for auctions and needy new mothers; and more. The sewing group meets at Westfield Manor in Belleville, an independent living facility, and includes members of St. Mark Lutheran Church in Belleville.

“We don’t say no; we just say, ‘How many?’” said Jan Showmaker, who lives at Westfield Manor. Fiber Arts fields donations and requests for their work through St. Mark.

Each woman plays to her strengths. Jan knits. Westfield resident Eunice Odom is known for her embroidery work. Peggy Anderson sews and marks the quilts with dots, so the layers can be tied together on evenly-spaced markings.

Janet Jacquot, of Belleville, is quick to offer lessons for those who don’t sew. Mae Newsome, of Swansea, does a bit of everything. And Cheryl Newsome, of Belleville, says she has no talent or skill and takes the good-natured ribbing.

“Normally she doesn’t participate,” said Jan, as the women tied yarn every three inches onto a red and white quilt. “She dictates.”

Cheryl laughs at the truth. She doesn’t sew, nor does she knit or embroider. But she has space in her home for donated materials, a drive to help others, and a wish to keep women like her mother-in-law, Mae Newsome, who lives with Cheryl, busy and engaged with the community.

“We were the people who were supposed to support” Westfield Manor, Cheryl said, referring to her church. St. Marks is part of the Lutheran Church, which started Westfield Manor. The church had a small sewing group, but found it difficult to schedule a meeting time at the church when most could attend. They then realized that Westfield had the space and also interested residents.

We don’t say no; we just say, ‘How many?’

Jan Showmaker, member of the Fiber Arts group

Peggy says nearly everything the Fiber Arts group makes is from donated materials, so it’s a “win-win.” Much of those donated materials are stored at Newsome’s Swansea home, although other members also hold the materials.

“These are good utility quilts,” Peggy said. The group gave 27 such quilts to those who were counting the homeless at the National Point in Time count in January.

“We tried doing the real quilting. Oh my goodness, it took us how many months?” Peggy said. “We decided not to do that again.”

That hand-quilted piece was completed, and raised $500 at an auction to support the St. Mark’s youth group.

The group also makes pillows to help patients at the Cancer Treatment Center in Swansea, and hats and scarves for students at Franklin School in Belleville and East St. Louis schools through churches in that city. They’ve made tote bags to send to Cambodia.

“The idea is that we are worker bees,” Cheryl said. “We don’t have to be the center of that.”

Westfield’s community manager, Angie Prost, says there are few outside groups that take advantage of the community space available at the center.

“They do really a lot of work for the size of group they are,” she said.

How to help

  • The Fiber Arts group is happy to take fabric, yarn and other sewing notions. To donate or volunteer, call St. Mark Lutheran Church at 618-233-7914.
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