by Beth Balmanno
Handmade quilts are often a family’s most treasured heirlooms. They are pretty and warm, and a representation of the hours and love poured into the process of turning pieces of fabric into works of art. Eighteen incarcerated women in Minnesota will soon be gifted their very own handmade quilt, courtesy of a group of generous quilters in the Elk River area.
Angie Roberts, the founder of the nonprofit The Nobility of A Quilt and owner of The Noble Quilter in Elk River, has made it her mission to bring comfort, joy and hope to those who need it the most through the gifting of handmade quilts. This month, she and a group of dedicated quilters gathered to make 18 quilts for women graduating from the Prison Fellowship Academy in Shakopee, a program that supports incarcerated women in their journey to reentry to society.
Renae Calva, family life pastor at Living Waters Church, was the one who approached Roberts with the idea. Calva knew of Robert’s nonprofit organization and the work she has done with other organizations, including Perspective Inc., Abba House, and Running for Justice.
The project immediately spoke to Roberts’ heart.
“I want to give hope and restoration to women, one on one,” she said. In fact, her nonprofit’s motto is: “Hope restored, one woman at a time.”
Making 18 quilts is no small task. Roberts reached out to customers and employees about helping with the project and the response was overwhelming. Women donated fabric for quilt tops, along with some bottoms, but most importantly, they donated their time. A group of eight women gathered on a sunny Saturday in February and spent the day in the classroom area of Noble Quilter to piece together and sew the quilts.
Collectively, the group of women in the shop that afternoon had more than 200 years of quilting experience. Freddie, an Elk River resident who Roberts affectionately refers to as her “adopted grandma,” estimated that she has made over 500 quilts during her life, including eight of the 18 quilts being donated.
“It’s a sickness,” she joked when asked about her prolific quilting. She then winked and added, “It keeps me out of the liquor store.”
Margie, an employee at the store and fellow volunteer, made all of the hearts that will be stitched into the center of each quilt. The heart is a key component of the design, Roberts explained. She wants the recipients to look at the hearts on their quilts and know that “they are loved as they step into their new life.”
Sherry Lundell, from Princeton, echoed this sentiment.
“We really need to support them and give them a new start. I think welcoming them with a beautiful quilt is a good way to offer that and to let them know that there are a lot of people out there who care and want them to be successful,” she said. “When it’s in their house, it’s a reminder that there are people out there thinking about them.”
After the quilts are pieced together, Roberts will long arm them, which is the process of stitching the quilt top, batting, and quilt backing together. The finished quilts will be presented to the women of Prison Fellowship Academy at an April 18 Prayer Walk in downtown Minneapolis.