Students make blankets and winter gear for Native Americans

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Abby Korschgen uses a loom to make a hat for Native Americans in the Dakotas during class at Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School in Burlington.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

BURLINGTON — Inspired by her mother’s knitting and crochet club, religion teacher Jennifer Baxter thought making hats, scarves, shawls and blankets for Native Americans in the Dakotas would be a good service project for seniors at Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School.

Baxter originally planned to have members of the Flying Hooks and Needles group from Stronghurst, Illinois, teach the seniors to crochet and knit. “But knitting and crocheting are not always easy skills to learn,” she said.

Senora Rosa Bailey, a Notre Dame Spanish teacher, suggested using looms and volunteered to teach the students in Spanish class how to create items on looms of various configurations. Loomers use circle looms to make hats or infinity scarves and rectangle looms to make blankets. “The steps are repetitive and have been pretty easy to pick up,” Baxter said.

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Flying Hooks and Needles donated most of the yarn and the Notre Dame art department donated additional yarn. A few teachers donated some looms. “This is our first time trying,” Baxter said. Students worked on the looms at the end of class periods. “The project is not complete, some are still working; some have made more than one item. The project will end as soon as everyone has made at least one item,” she said.

Brad Beard from Roseville, Illinois, makes frequent trips to reservations in the Dakotas to deliver supplies, Baxter said. “He is coming to speak to the senior class next month about his experience and why he is so dedicated to this mission. He will be delivering the items we make on his next run up north.”

Students have completed eight hats so far and 30 students continue working on or starting another hat, ranging in size from infant to adult. A few students are making blankets and scarves. Baxter has been so impressed with the project that she plans to do it again next year.

“The students have really enjoyed the project. In the beginning, it was frustrating for some when the yarn would get tangled or their loom would unwind. But when they got the gist, they have had a really fun time. It has been a joy watching them do this project.”

Student Owen Gulick said his first experience with working on a loom “wasn’t too hard. We learned the names of the tools in Spanish.” Wyatt Pearson said, “It was pretty easy to learn. I am making a blanket. Senora Bailey taught us how to make hats. I have taught three other people how to make blankets and scarves.”

Brayden Edmunds described the project as “complicated at times, but I feel pretty good knowing that what I am making is going to keep someone warm. Some of my family is Native American so it means a lot.” He said it is “unfortunate that people have to worry about staying warm. So it’s good for us to help them out.”

Before the items are delivered, Father James Flattery, parochial vicar at Divine Mercy Parish-Burlington/West Burlington, will bless them. “The Holy Spirit is responsible for the idea,” Baxter said. “We try to allow him to lead our classrooms. He planted the seeds, put the idea in our heads and we ran with it. To God be the glory.”


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