Langley team creating warmth where needed

Church women meets weekly to apply their quilting skills to a global blanket project

by Bob Groeneveld/Special to the Langley Advance Times

Blankets rolling off an assembly line in a Langley church are destined to bring warmth and comfort to desperate families around the world.

Deanna Cazes is part of a group of about 15 women who meet every Wednesday to make quilted comforters at Langley Community Church.

In January, the Langley group bundled up 74 of the blankets into three cars and took them to Abbotsford – where they were accepted as part of the Mennonite Central Committee’s 100th anniversary global challenge.

The Great Winter Warmup, as it was called, sought to create and ship 6,500 of the comforters in January.

“It’s not so much a competition,” said Judy Foster, organizer of the Langley group, as a friendly rivalry between similar groups throughout North America.

She noted that the challenge was successful, and MCC has announced that it easily exceeded its target.

The Langley group will be celebrating its achievement at an anniversary banquet on Feb.15, open to all. People can get tickets online at the MCC website or through Eventbrite.

The quilts are efficiently built in stages, explained Cazes.

“They go together quite quickly, because they’re not individually quilted.”

Instead, the women have developed a kind of assembly-line approach, using a frame built by one of the women’s sons to make them a uniform 60 by 80 inches.

READ MORE: Quilters putting pieces together for Fort Langley seniors

“They’re made of three layers,” she said, explaining the process.

“The bottom layer is usually one piece, usually a sheet that has not seen too much use, and then the batting goes inside, and the top pieces are added.”

The batting is always new material, but the other parts might not be brand new, Cazes elaborated.

“Usually in quilting you try to use scraps and so on.”

The top, often taken from men’s shirts or other cotton garments, can be new material. Cotton is the preferred material because it doesn’t easily stretch and become mis-shapen.

“It’s all cut into squares,” said Cazes, “so the gals on Wednesday decide what would look nice and put all the pieces in position on the floor – the way they think would look good for a pattern. They label them so you know which row is which, and then they’re packaged up and taken home. One or two women do all the sewing, and they sew all those squares together.”

The following Wednesday, those sewn squares come back for the next step in the process., and they’re added to the previous stage on the frame.

Another team of women take on the next step – tying the top to the bottom and middle layers.

“They thread through and tie knots,” Cazes explained.

At that point, binding – or edging – is pinned on, and another team takes over.

The final step is to get them to the Mennonite Central Committee office in Abbotsford, which sends them overseas to places where warm blankets are needed.

The quilted blankets are shipped wherever people desperately need their warmth and comfort, Foster and Cazes explained.

Last year, the MCC sent out 53,000 such blankets to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Haiti, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Malawi, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), Serbia, Syria, and Ukraine, as well as to people in need throughout Canada and the United States.

The blanket project offers rewards beyond knowing of the comfort they provide, said Cazes, who became a member of the Langley Quilters Guild long before she became involved with the church group.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Cazes, “Usually somebody will bring some snacks, and we have coffee, and take a little break, and you do get to meet people.”

The women meet every Wednesday at the church, 21015 96th Ave.

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