Washington Catholics stitch together a love for quilting and service

Women from St. James Parish in Washington display a handmade quilt for a parish-wide project.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

WASHINGTON — During the COVID-19 pandemic, especially early on, Father Bernie Weir felt he was “going crazy” and needed something to do. He rediscovered an old hobby — quilting. He talked with a cousin who suggested he make lap quilts for people in wheelchairs who reside in nursing homes. The lap quilts are smaller than traditional quilts for beds and the size avoids tangles with wheels. The pastor of St. James Parish had fabric stacked up and thought to himself, why not take up the cousin’s suggestion?

He decided to make it a Giving Tuesday parish project starting in 2021. Giving Tuesday follows Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday after Thanksgiving and focuses on doing charity work. Father Weir chose to make the project an ongoing one with the goal of collecting handmade quilts through Ash Wednesday this year.

The project can involve the entire family engaged in choosing colors, designs and sewing. He even got fourth and fifth-graders at St. James Catholic School involved. “I am using this as a way to do faith formation (service, helping others), math (angles, numbers of squares or triangles) and art (colors and designs).” Fourth-graders will do the first two aspects and fifth-grade will do all three, he noted.


Father Weir sketched five-inch squares on paper and students were assigned to figure out how many smaller squares or triangles to fill that space. “It’s easy math,” he said. Then students figure out the quantity of quilting materials needed for the squares, strips and borders. The fifth-graders choose the colors and patterns and purchase the materials. The pastor’s only direction was to “make the colors look good together” and have eight colors in the quilt.

He makes the quilts and, if needed, gets the “quilting ladies” in the parish involved. The goal was 20 quilts ready to donate by this Lent, which begins March 2 with Ash Wednesday. “We are at 26 so far,” he said proudly.

Several parishioners make quilts at home and then get together to tie the quilts. Tying is a quick alternative to hand- or machine-quilting, said parishioner Joyce Marie. The front and back layer, with filling in between, are tied with a needle and thread and knotted to hold them together.

Marie has quilted for years and makes quilts for each grandchild at milestones in their lives: birth, graduation and marriage. “I have 18 grandchildren.” When Father Weir suggested the lap quilts, Marie said it was a good idea as “I have so many scraps. It’s a good thing.”

She does tying, some machine sewing, and has contributed seven quilts so far. She may be able to get one more quilt done, but has a project for a granddaughter to complete. She also loved the idea of getting the youths from the school involved in the project.

“We should be doing service anyway,” Father Weir said. “This is taking a hobby and turning into something to benefit others.”

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