That was where the magic happened

By Mary Dixon

THE WOMEN IN MY FAMILY have always used needlework to share their Christian faith and love with others. My maternal grandmother, Ella (or “GrandElla,” as I called her), and my mother taught me needlework of all kinds. My mother was a wonder with a needle, as were most of her eight sisters.

As early as I can remember (the early 1950s), everything began under the quilting frame.

The frame was brought down from the ceiling for all to sit around. Then a charity quilt would be loaded onto the frame. As a small child, I would sit under the frame, playing, when the quilting started. That was
where the magic happened. This was the side where the stitches made the foundation. Each quilting bee would start another foundation: Bible study. Then there would be tea and coffee, cookies, cakes and all sorts of great things, including stories and prayer requests.

My GrandElla hosted a church women’s quilting bee twice a month at her home. My mother was a faithful member of the bee.

Working together, the women made sturdy, practical, keep-you warm quilts that would go to families with whom the Methodist church did social care.

As I watched, fingers with thimbles worked the stitches.

Feet kept time to music—mostly church music. Hose, held with bands, rolled up their legs above sturdy, black shoes for the older women and small, practical heels for the younger women. My side of the quilt, the underside, was the plain side, but without the underside, there could be no beauty to behold on the top side.

My GrandElla explained that faith was like a quilt. A good sturdy foundation on the underside kept the top, seen by all, beautiful.

I made my first quilt when I was 10 or so. GrandElla and my mother guided me and always made sure my underside was a good foundation. They also taught me to be faithful in my work and life, and to share sturdy stitches as I grew.

Today I still love quilting for pleasure and the joy of helping others through creating Lutheran World Relief Mission Quilts and other charity quilts. I think of the faithful women in my family each time I work the LWR quilts, and know I am carrying on a family tradition.

A firm foundation, a beautiful top and love with every stitch to give warmth and hope. The times may have changed, but the story of giving care and love through a quilt has not. Quilting bees still bring people together to send quilts across the world, bringing hope and love. I cherish knowing that I am part of a large group of women who carry on a tradition of quilting in our churches and partnering with Lutheran World Relief to bring comfort and hope to many across the world.

Always I am reminded of the Scripture that inspired the women in my GrandElla’s bee: “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy” (Proverbs 31:20).

Mary Dixon is a former president of the ELCA Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synodical Women’s Organization.

This article is from the July/August 2022 issue of Gather magazine. To read more like it, subscribe to Gather.