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Pat Berg, who joined the Park Rapids Crazy Quilters 20 years ago, shortly after the group formed, said the initiative "took on a life of its own." (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Crazy Quilters Guild perfects craft

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"A bed without a quilt is like a sky without stars..."

Quilts are the quintessential gift. The handcrafted works represent not only time and talent, but compassion, time spent to comfort the beneficiary.

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The Park Rapids Crazy Quilters Guild embodies this. Now in their 21st year, they have the area "in stitches" - via quilts, that is.

Through work meetings - quilting bees - and projects at home, the 53-member group sends, on average, 70 quilts a year to area organizations.

The quilts provide comfort to Headwaters Intervention Center domestic violence victims, those who've lost their home to fire, the Heritage community and natural disaster victims.

The Park Rapids Area Library, St. Joseph's breast cancer awareness initiative and the Hubbard County Food Shelf are among the benefiting organizations.

The group meets not only for community outreach projects but to hone their skills.

"It's a creative outlet," club president Evonne Evans said of quilts. "And there's something about the comfort a quilt provides."

Historically, quilts were a necessity, Evans said of the process that made clothing and evolved to bed covering and now art.

The pieced fabric was originally used as underwear. In the early 19th Century, quilting "bees" began to spring up. This was an important means of socializing for colonial and pioneer women and might be the only time they would see each other for months.

Through the winter months, the women pieced their quilt tops. Since only the central or main room of the house was heated, there was no room for a quilt frame to be assembled.

When warmer weather arrived, invitations for quilting bees would go out to the far-flung neighbors.

The hostess would have the makings of supper prepared and would have stretched her quilt top on the quilting frame. The ladies arrived early and positioned their chairs around the frame, conversation and needles clattering.

From the 1940s to the '70s, the popularity of the craft waned, until an exhibit of antique quilts was created and displayed across the country in the late 1970s.

The medium of expression regained prominence.

Quilting was not part of Evans' routine when she moved into the north woods. "Twelve years later, I'm a quilter.

"It's a way to meet people."

"I didn't know a soul when I moved here," former club president Pat Berg said. She joined the "hive" in 1992. "It took on a life of its own."

The Crazy Quilters, members point out, are but one of many quilting groups in the area whose members meet to share ideas, expertise, conversation and their finished products.

"Park Rapids is exceptional," Berg said of the number of quilting groups, including churches.

Crazy Quilters' skill levels range from beginner to advanced. Roughly a third of the members are snowbirds.

"We learn from each other," Evans said of the various quilting conundrums addressed at the meetings.

The economy may face pitfalls and pratfalls, but quilting has remained strong, she said.

Through the years, the Crazy Quilters' meeting places have ranged from churches to the city hall to the original library to the former Sew 'n' Sew to the current library location.

Business meetings are held at 7 p.m. the second Thursday of the month. Work meetings are held from 3 to 9 p.m. the fourth Thursday of the month, the library now their permanent location.

Donations of fabric are welcomed.

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