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The Wayne Senior Center Quilting Ladies
Wayne Senior Center 410 Pearl St, Wayne, NE 68787
Penny Vollbrach seniorcenter@cityofwayne.org 402-375-1460
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Like to piece but hate to quilt? Do you piece more quickly than you quilt? Does the thought of machine quilting your lovingly pieced quilt feel wrong? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you probably know about the quilting ladies at the Wayne Senior Center in Wayne, Nebraska.

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The quilting ladies have hand quilted over 200 quilts, using a floor frame, C clamps, and saw horses.
qframe.jpg (23465 bytes) They are friends after so many hours together, and know each others hand work as well as they know their stories, talking and stitching, stitching and talking. They watch out for each other, and complain at times, noticing who is there and who is not, who is hurting or well. The care they have for each other is as remarkable as their skill with a needle. The group has changed some over the years, but all remember those who used to quilt and have since moved on.
Each of the quilting ladies has a role, not formally assigned but recognized by the others because of talent, willingness, schedule, or experience. Meta keeps the quilting log book, where since 1990, every quilt the ladies have worked on is noted along with the maker, design, and dates in and out of the frame. Elsie H. is first in almost every morning and turns the lights on in the quilting room then takes the protective sheet from the frame. Barb has an eye for detail, and her hand draws the quilting designs, helping with a difficult pattern or fabric and she also sews on the bindings. Leona H. works while she watches over her granddaughter who dances about and empties the scrap buckets. Leona M., one of the longest running quilters, usually organizes putting the quilt into the frame, the hardest part of the quilting. Ruby M., Rose R. , Dorothy M., and Margueritte J. quilt steadily with regular, small stitches, reminding everyone of the next quilt to go into the frame. Others, too many to name, stop in and quilt when they can, but Meta, Barb, Leona, Elsie, Leona, Ruby, Rose, Margueritte, and Dorothy have formed the core of the Wayne Senior Center quilting group for the last ten years.

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It only takes about two weeks from start to finish to hand quilt a double bed sized quilt because there are eight seats around the floor frame, and generally all eight seats are filled by these expert quilters and old friends. There is a 2-10 quilt waiting list because the reputation of these ladies is known far and wide and because their charges are so reasonable. If someone wants a very closely quilted design, or if the quilt is oversized, it might cost a little extra, but most find it is well worth the price. The quilting ladies have worked on quilts of every design, color, and period. They report that they have never worked on a quilt that was not beautiful in every respect.

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qturn.jpg (29059 bytes) Quilting has always been a part of the Wayne Senior Center, beginning in 1969 when the Senior Center was located at 316 Main Street, now the Keith Jech Insurance Agency. Scrap books show pictures of raffle quilts and quilts hanging on walls and rails.

Newspaper columns in the Wayne Herald describe each of Mrs. Wes Pflueger's monthly visits to the Senior Center, when the Wayne Public Library's Assistant Librarian regularly brought at least one quilting book that could be "returned at the borrower's leisure". In 1970, Mrs. Mae Young was the lucky winner of meticulously pieced and quilted Grandmother's Flower Garden raffle quilt --Mae is reported to have brought the quilt "right home and put it on her bed." The raffle quilt brought in at least $22.50, and was used to buy a Kodak Instamatic Camera for the Senior Center.
quiltingsong.gif (44655 bytes)  The 1970 Wayne County Centennial prompted the Senior Center to celebrate its one year anniversary. Joceille Bull, first director of the Senior Center, described the event in her scrap book:It was real fun getting the float lined up for the large centennial parade. Mary Lipp gave us the idea for the title "Dinah's Quilting Party," and one day while Walt Lerner was in, he said, he would be the shoe cobbler; as everybody knows Walt ran a shoe repair shop here for 30 years or more and is working part-time up at Orv's Shoe Shop at the present.
Dave Theophilus said he would be the fiddler and Mrs. Theophilus the pioneer woman, Mrs. Christine Dillon was the drummist, Mrs. Albert Carlson our wonderful organist playing The Quilting Song on the pump organ loaned to us by Rev. and Mrs. Russell, Mrs. Emma Soules was at the Spinning Wheel, Mrs. Pearl Griffith churning the butter, ... The whole thing in a nut-shell was that it was a typical scene of people getting their chores done, and practicing on their instruments for the big evening at "Dinah's Quilting Party."

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The first Wayne Senior Center at 316 Main Street, and the second in the basement of City Hall (the old Benthack Hospital) had little space for the floor frame and the eight ladies surrounding it. Setting up the quilting frame meant that chairs and tables had to be taken down and stored against the wall.

 

In 1990, a wall was taken down adjacent to the Senior Center, and for the first time there was enough room so that the floor frame could be kept up all the time. Even so, the area was so small that Leona M. who at 60 years of age at the time was the youngest, had to crawl under the quilt to the back, so that the older ladies could quilt on the front. The hard seats of the folding chairs were cushioned with pillows, but the quilting ladies were glad for the added space and convenience. 

Around this time, Mrs. Emma Eckert, a Wayne quilter, found that she couldn't keep up with community requests for hand quilting, and suggested that ladies at the Senior Center begin quilting for others. Georgia Jaansen, then the Center Director, was enthusiastic because she herself was a quilter. The first quilt from this period, a Dresden Plate raffle quilt won by Patty Deck, was put into the frame on March 6, 1990 and completed almost two months later. 

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The move to the Wayne Senior Center on Pearl Street in 1997 brought a well-lighted, spacious room just for quilting, where there was enough room to comfortably sit in the new upholstered, pneumatic lift chairs on wheels. .quiltleona.jpg (19308 bytes)

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If you want to make arrangements to have a quilt quilted, call  402-375-1460 and you will be connected to the quilting ladies. If you have the time, visit the clean, beautiful space of the new Wayne Senior Center on Pearl Street in Wayne, Nebraska and enjoy a catered lunch (advance reservations required). Stop in and visit with the quilting ladies, admire the beautiful piecing and hand quilting of the latest quilt in the frame.

If you are very patient and earn their regard, you may be invited to sit and pick up a needle.

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Thank you to the Quilting Ladies for sharing your thoughts, time, and skill.   
published Quilters World August 2001
       Maureen Battistella 9.99