Residents learned a long time ago that a stitch in time helps many people
by: Barbara Sherman CRAFTS COME FULL CIRCLE — Peggy Conrad (left), Irene Jamrog and Margaret Bork form their own assembly line to create stuffed animals during a craft session, held Thursdays at Summerfield Estates.

Automobile assembly lines have nothing over some Summerfield Estates craftspeople, who have developed streamlined processes for creating felt dolls, greeting cards, knitted baby clothes, unusual-looking 'bunny bears,' afghans and quilts.

Most of the women have a specialty or specific task they like to do, and whether they work at them during the Thursday morning get-togethers or in their own apartments, they enjoy not only the process but also the satisfaction that comes from helping others.

Three separate groups participate in the community outreach program - the Clicky Stitchers knit and crochet baby items such as sweaters, booties, blankets and afghans, with the baby clothing going to neonatal units in area hospital and the afghans going to Tigard's Good Neighbor Center, which provides temporary housing and services for homeless families.

The second and newest "group" consists of Kathleen Knudeson and Cecilia Love, who make unique greeting cards.

While choosing the cutest item the women create would be hard to do, one of the contenders would be felt dolls made by the third group - the dolls come packaged with several outfits that stick to them, reminiscent of the paper dolls that were popular generations ago.

The felt dolls are taken to Doernbecher Children's Hospital, and Virginia Boutilier is the brainchild behind the unique project.

"Both my daughter and I were preschool teachers, and I made them for my students, plus they are good for car trips," Boutilier said. "It took a while to get other people here involved in making them."

Now there is a whole assembly line consisting of several women who cut them out, glue two together to make them more durable, put faces on them, make and decorate clothes, and package them.

"My twin grandbabies were preemies in the hospital," Boutilier said. "I later started making them for the hospital as a thank you for the great care my grandbabies got. I don't know what the babies thought of them, but the parents loved them."

Jean Shibley, who carefully glues on the faces and trim pieces, said, "It wrecks my fingernails and makes my wrist hurt, but I love doing it. I like to do the faces and most of the decorations, because I can do it in my room."

Knudeson creates beautiful original watercolors and then has them reproduced for greeting cards, with the colors and brushstrokes as brilliant as the originals; Love on the other hand makes pressed flower cards, carefully sealing the flowers to maintain the design.

"We would love donations of used cards that we could use to make new ones," said Love of the cards, which are sold in two Providence hospitals' gift shops.

Peggy Conrad cuts patterns for stuffed animals that are a hodgepodge of animal parts, although they sort of resemble long-eared teddy bears and are made out of colorful and crazy-print fabric.

Irene Jamrog knits squares for afghans, and Betty Murphy uses her huge quilting machine that takes up part of a room to make beautiful quilts.

Summerfield Estates activities director Shellee Baidenmann said that Murphy keeps her quilting machine in an empty apartment where she can go and use it anytime she wants, and Murphy was happy to show it off.

Leading the way, Murphy unlocked the door to the apartment where the quilting machine takes up the space that would be the dining area if someone lived there.

"I mostly do charity quilts," said Murphy, who has decorated some of the apartment walls with smaller quilts. "I love doing this - it keeps me going."

Baidenmann added, "Everybody benefits from these projects. Even those who can't contribute enjoy watching. I'm so proud of them."

Besides the satisfaction of helping others, there are occasional perks for the women who work so hard for others.

Doernbecher Children's Hospital invited the women who make the felt dolls over for a tour and elegant lunch, which they all enjoyed.

"It was a thank you to us," Boutilier said. "You could just feel the love. We thought we were pretty special. It was good for us and made us feel good about ourselves."

The crafts group is always happy to accept donations of yarn, fabric, trim and other items needed to keep their assembly line going into the future.

Summerfield Estates is located at 11205 S.W. Summerfield Drive.

For more information, call 503-620-8160.

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