Sewing and quilting have become less common in modern households, but a few devoted groups of local mothers and grandmothers keep the art forms alive, indulging in something they love to do and helping the valley's neediest residents at the same time.
'Tis the season each fall when these groups are especially busy, setting up their sewing machines, quilting squares and supplies for local charities.
The Southern Oregon Chapter of the American Sewing Guild and a dozen ladies from Medford's Ascension Lutheran Church provide hundreds upon hundreds of items each year to local agencies that help low-income families and children.
Whether fabricating clothing for local schoolchildren or piecing quilts for veterans, the groups each boast a dozen to 20 active members who meet year-round, enjoying camaraderie and meeting the needs of their neighbors.
American Sewing Guild member Alma Gates says her fellow group members focus on a variety of items required by everyone from kids to seniors. The combination of friendship, education and community service makes their efforts a no-brainer.
"They just want to sew, and they all have all the stuff they could ever need," says Gates. "They don't need any more quilts or other items, but they love to make them, and they want to help their community."
A welcome sight for seniors served by ACCESS and homeless teens at Maslow Project in Medford, guild members maintain a 12-month production schedule. Regular annual projects include a huge delivery to ACCESS, with items ranging from door-draft stoppers and adult bibs to walker caddies, blankets and neck pillows. Four to five dozen fabric bags, loaded with toiletries and necessities for homeless teens, appear at Maslow Project every December.
In recent years, school officials at Oak Grove Elementary in Medford have identified more than 100 students in need of clothing. So sewing guild members produced more than 180 hand-stitched items this fall, including pants, shirts and caps.
Funds from a pair of grants, through The Cheney Foundation and Lithia Motors' "Love Bucket" program, enabled the ladies to shop for shoes, socks and underwear for the kids, as well.
Central Point resident and guild member Peggy Groves says the group offers a sense of community involvement.
"I joined 10 to 12 years ago when I was still working and would just go to events. Since I retired, I'm hooked. It's so much fun, and it feels good to help the community," says Groves. "You almost get kind of compulsive about it."
Nel Miller says a group of 10 to 12 women from Ascension Lutheran Church make 180 or more quilts per year, meeting every Tuesday of the year to produce the goods for a November quilting bazaar. Funds from the quilts go to support agencies that fund youth programs and college scholarships, and the remaining quilts are gifted to a long list of organizations including Gospel Mission, Northwest Seasonal Workers, Salvation Army, Dunn House, Maslow Project, Children's Services and CASA.
A favorite project of the group is Habitat for Humanity: Housing clients all receive a handmade quilt for each family member when they get the keys to their new homes.
Medford resident and church member Delores Thomas says the group delights in knowing that families in need, and people who can use the added comfort, are getting something more than a plain blanket or basic necessity.
"The people who receive our quilts really do appreciate them. These are nice, handmade works of art," says Thomas.
"We were told that one little boy who was given a quilt at a Habitat house grabbed his blanket and wrapped it around himself and hugged it. I think to get something of value is really appreciated."
"They say a quilt is a blanket of love," adds Groves. "It's really something that comes from the heart."
Both groups accept sewing supplies and donations. To offer quilting supplies to the Ascension Lutheran Church group, email Nel Miller at email@example.com.
To help support American Sewing Guild projects, email Alma Gates at firstname.lastname@example.org.