Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Chancery quilters looking for new markets
Story and photo by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the Oct. 4, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)
Volunteers have been assembling and donating quilts to charitable causes for 94 years. The women now meet in the basement of the Catholic Pastoral Center in Spokane. Pictured, from left, are Marguerite Baldwin, Martha Thill, and Marge Ivanis. (IR photo)
Ninety-four years ago, in 1913, a group of Catholic women from Spokane parishes organized to create quilts and other sewn goods for the needy of the area. In 2002, Mary Rotondi, then 96, said that she clearly remembered her mother, Mary Anna Brunk, of St. Francis Xavier Parish, starting the group to give Catholic ladies of Spokane a charitable project to be involved with on an ongoing basis. From the beginning the group donated the quilts the ladies made to Spokane’s St. Vincent De Paul Society.
Initially, said Rotondi, the sewing group met in a room in St. Francis Xavier School, but eventually the group moved to the old Chancery building on Fourth Avenue. There the group that came to be called the “Chancery Sewing Ladies” continued to create hundreds of quilts each year. In the late 1960s, the state purchased that Fourth Avenue chancery building to make way for the new east/west freeway, and the diocese bought the building that currently houses diocesan and Catholic Charities offices at 1023 W. Riverside Avenue. The sewing ladies moved their operation into a couple of rooms in the basement of this building and there, to this day, they continue to meet, each Thursday morning.
“We were a little concerned when the bankruptcy happened,” said Marge Ivanis, a member of St. Francis Xavier Parish, “because we didn’t know if we would have to find someplace else to meet. Now it looks like we’ll be able to stay here as long as the diocese has space in the building. The bishop is very much in favor of us doing this, the diocese rents the third floor and part of the basement, and we do share some of the money (from the sale of quilts) with Catholic Charities, because they provide this place for us to do our work.”
Since Spokane’s St. Vincent De Paul Society no longer has retail stores, the Chancery Sewing Ladies have decided to sell their quilts and give the proceeds to the St. Vincent De Paul Society to support its food bank and for other good works. “We’re continuing to make the quilts,” Ivanis said, “but we need other outlets, because making four and five quilts a week, and more considering that we also do baby quilts, we would like to offer them for sale to other people who would like to have them.”
The Chancery Sewing Ladies’ quilts are priced at $20 to $30, depending on the time and materials that go into making a particular quilt. Baby quilts are $10 to $15. Another possibility, as far as the Sewing Ladies are concerned, would be for retail stores, “perhaps hospital gift shops and that sort of thing,” Ivanis said, to buy quilts to re-sell. “We would be open to that.”
“Almost all of the work on the quilts is done here on Thursday mornings,” explained Rita Young, of St. Aloysius Parish. “Some people take one home if they feel like they want to finish a quilt, and they cut blocks at home, and so forth.”
All the materials used to make the quilts are donated. Fabric for the tops, fabric for the backs, and particularly fabric for fillers, is always needed. “One of the most popular fillers,” said Ivanis, “is old electric blankets. “One or two of our ladies will rip the electric blanket apart and take the wires out. One electric blanket will make two fillers. They’re very nice because they’re light-weight. A lot of people have electric blankets that aren’t working, and we like to have those.”
Some 15-18 volunteer Chancery Sewing Ladies meet in the basement of the building at 1023 W. Riverside Ave., Spokane, every Thursday from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. “That’s when anyone would need to come by if they want to buy a quilt,” said Young. Quilts make wonderful Christmas gifts, she said.
(For more information, call Marge Ivanis, (509) 487-4423, send her an email her at: MargeIvanis@icehouse.net; or call Rita Young at (509) 328-5688.)