Quilting Bee Buzzing in Montrose

Local crafters gather to create signs of welcome and encouragement for immigrants to the United States.

Photos by Mary O’KEEFE
Quilt ‘n’ Things owner Lana Norton, center, with Anna Marie Messerly (left) and Chieko Minohara-Biligan, supported the Welcome Blanket project and opened her store for artisans to work on their projects.


With the recent focus on DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – and overall immigration issues of the country being talked about in the political arena, there is a group of people who have focused on just the human element to create a symbol of warmth and welcome.

It was back in June when Lana Norton, the new owner of Quilt ‘n’ Things Fiber Art at 2411 Honolulu Ave. in Montrose, discovered a project on social media called the Welcome Blanket.

The project seemed simple and direct: create blankets for those immigrating to the United States. The project was founded by Jayna Zweimal who, according to its website www.welcomeblanket.org, wanted to connect those “already living in the United States with new immigrants through stories and handmade blankets, providing both symbolic and literal comfort and warmth.”

The quilts/blankets will be sent to Chicago where they will join other blankets that were created by people from all over the nation. The goal is to line those blankets side-by-side to reach across 2,000 miles, the approximate length of the wall along the country’s border with Mexico.

“One blanket [covers] 0.6 of a mile,” said Anna Marie Messerly, a participant of the Welcome Blanket project.

Since June, quilters and knitters have met every other week at the store in a quilting bee type of forum. Some met and knitted squares together; others came in for material to knit and sew at home.

Hoffman Fabrics donated squares, called “bali crackers,” that include a variety of colors.

“When people came into the shop they got to choose eight printed and eight solid [bali squares],” Norton said. “They would come up with their own design.”

Twelve blankets were completed and dropped off at the shop; more had been sent along to Chicago. Blankets included notes of encouragement and hope.

“My daughter [Linnea) found this project,” Norton said.

Linnea discovered the project on social media and said it reflects the generations of her family.

“My daughter, myself, my mom are quilters – and my grandmother,” Norton said. “I had done a lot of peace and justice work before [I opened the shop] and wanted to get our shop involved in thinking outside of ourselves. This was the perfect vehicle.”

Norton’s full name is Lana Shirgaokar Norton. Her middle name is her maiden name; her ancestors are from India.

“We were all there – our families were all there at one point,” said Chieko Minohara-Biligan of those who immigrated from other countries to the United States.

Notes of encouragement accompany many of the blankets and quilts made for Quilt ‘n’ Things that will be shipped to Chicago.

For those who participated, the project was a way to tell those immigrating that their journey will be tough, but it will get better, and they are not alone.

“I am very happy it went so well,” said Linnea, who is now a college student at University of California Berkley.

As the blanket project comes to a close, Linnea has joined another project, Click for Babies.

Click for Babies is a campaign to raise awareness of the many infants who are injured by being shaken. The project is organized by the National Center for Shaken Baby Syndrome and is in partnership with hospitals, public health and child abuse prevention groups, according to clickforbabies.org. “Click” refers to the sound when someone is knitting – the click of needles.

The campaign is asking people to knit or crochet purple hats for babies to help educate parents about the period of “purple crying,” the time when infant crying increases, which typically begins when the child is two weeks old, peaks in the second month and ends around the third to fifth month, according to the website.

Those at Quilt ‘n’ Things are now meeting on Thursday nights to knit as many purple hats for babies as they can. Everyone is welcomed to join in to help.