Women from Hyde Park Mennonite Fellowship in Boise, Idaho, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints connected over shared interests as they knotted comforters for people in need last October.
Although most women from the two groups had not met each other before, they discovered they shared an appreciation for beautiful fabric, enjoyed lively conversation and had passion for helping refugees.
“I think God needs all of his children to contribute, no matter what faith we’re from,” said Trina Tadje, president of the Eagle Stake Relief Society. A stake is a grouping of LDS congregations.
The roots of this new collaboration of faith groups began at a book club that Beth Landis, a West Coast Mennonite Central Committee board member, attends with women from the Latter-day Saints, including Marlene Hansen.
When Hansen learned that Landis was part of a sewing group, the Knotty Ladies, she asked to visit. The Knotty Ladies are from Hyde Park Mennonite Fellowship and had been meeting together weekly for eight years.
During Hansen’s visit, she learned the group makes comforters for MCC to send to people around the world uprooted from their homes due to conflict, fire, hurricanes, earthquakes or floods. Recipients use the colorful handmade blankets as bed covers, room dividers and wraps.
As Hansen helped knot together the layers of a comforter — the pieced top, batting and bottom layers — an idea for a partnership emerged. Women from the Relief Society and the Knotty Ladies could create comforters for MCC together.
“I find it very rewarding to tie quilts and be able to visit with other women at the same time,” Hansen said. “It is good to work with people outside of your normal group.”
Hansen brought the idea to Tadje, who contacted Landis and was instantly drawn to her friendliness.
“I was just so grateful for her warmth and her willingness for us to participate in the great work that they’re engaged in,” Tadje said. They began to draw up plans for a comforter bash, where volunteers tie multiple comforters simultaneously.
Landis contacted her cousin, Carolyn Shank of Harrisonburg, Va., who agreed to donate pieced comforter tops she had already made for MCC. Friends from Landis’ church, who were visiting Harrisonburg, brought the tops back to Idaho.
The comforter bash took place Oct. 12. About 85 women from the Relief Society and 13 Mennonite women and children gathered at a Latter-day Saints’ gymnasium in Eagle.
Tadje used an MCC calendar to display photos and examples of service around the world on a bulletin board. Landis shared a devotional that explained MCC’s mission and highlighted how refugees and displaced people use the comforters.
She said each comforter is meant to convey a message of hope and caring as well as physical comfort. “It’s a lot more than warmth and a blanket,” she said.
Most participants had never worked on comforters before.
“It didn’t matter how fast or good you were,” Landis said, “you just tied square knots.” As each comforter was completed — 21 in all — someone rang a large school bell and placed a tally mark on a chalkboard to a roomful of cheers.
The vibrant comforters, each about 60 by 80 inches, were displayed around the gymnasium for everyone to appreciate. “They’re just stunning,” Landis said.
Landis was pleased with the fun everyone had. Events like the comforter bash provide meaning, purpose and belonging — what everyone is longing for, she said: “This was joy at its best.”
The comforter bash also was a chance to engage, Landis said. Women from both groups asked questions and learned how they are alike and different. They learned about each other’s beliefs and faith origins.
They found out how much they had in common as conversations grew naturally in a friendly atmosphere.
“I think there was a lot of joy in the creation,” Tadje said, “and there is so much value in making a new friend.”
Because of Tadje’s connection with the Idaho Mennonites, she has been able to link her son and his companion, who are serving in the Netherlands, with a comforter bash that Mennonites held in the city of Zwolle in January.
Landis said many women asked for the comforter bash to become a regular occurrence.
“It was impactful individually and collectively in ways we weren’t counting on,” she said.