Four sisters who grew up in rural Sleepy Eye remember their mom sewing all the time—making clothes, mending things and making quilts out of scraps of leftover fabric or cutting up old clothes.
Four sisters who grew up in rural Sleepy Eye remember their mom sewing all the time—making clothes, mending things and making quilts out of scraps of leftover fabric or cutting up old clothes. The Fischer sisters, daughters of Stark township farmers Herbert and Irene Fischer, learned to sew from their mom, kept sewing in 4-H (Stark Happy Hustlers) and on into adult life. Now they share the hobby of quilting. Some of their work will be featured at the Sewing for Sight Quilt Show on Jan. 14 at the St. George Parish Center.
The Fischer sisters, all graduates of St. Mary’s High School, didn’t end up living in Sleepy Eye, but are scattered around the area. Carol (class of ’67) Waibel lives in Searles; Kathy (’70) Morris lives in Mankato; JoAnn (’72) Eischen lives in rural Comfrey; and Donna (’81) Dewanz lives in New Ulm.
Each sister has a favorite style for their quilting projects. Donna likes bright colors—her sisters agreed that she has an eye for color—and always follows the pattern exactly. JoAnn said she has moved on from actual quilts and more into artsy projects, like wall hangings. Kathy has an affinity for oriental looking designs and is also “artsy.” Carol likes designs with flowers and uses the color purple a lot. The sisters said she does very difficult projects and also creates her own designs.
A difficult project is what brought the oldest and youngest sister together for quilting. Carol said she’s been quilting for over 40 years, starting with doll quilts and becoming a full-blown hobby from there. “I took a class in Searles to make a Double Wedding Ring quilt in 1999,” said Carol. “And Donna decided to come over and help me with that project.” All the sisters chimed in that the Double Wedding Ring is one of those difficult patterns that Carol likes—with curved pieces. “Carol would sew and I would iron for her,” said Donna.
All the sisters grew up sewing practical projects, like clothes, before getting started on crafts and quilts. “I was the first to start quilting,” said JoAnn. “And kept sewing clothes longer, also.”
They reminisced about how their mom would make quilt tops in the summer, from her fabric scraps, and then in the winter bring them out again to tie––a cozy winter pastime. They said Irene made Trip Around the World, Nine Patch and Crazy Quilts. “Mom didn’t have the tools we use,” said Donna. “She used cardboard squares to mark her fabric and cut out pieces.”
Now, of course, the Fischer girls have the cutting mats, special rulers and rotary cutters to get their quilt pieces just perfect.
Do they have a lot of fabric on hand? “Yes,” they laughed. “We call that UFOs—UnFinished Objects!” They not only have “UFOs” of their own making, but when Irene passed away she had a large stash, too. Each of the sister took some of Irene’s projects to finish themselves.
Several years ago, Donna made herself a list of all the projects she needed to get done . . . and worked her way through the list. “She told us to each make our own lists,” said JoAnn. “So we did.” Judging by the laughter that followed, it’s not a sure thing that everything on the those lists was crossed off—or maybe the lists just kept getting longer!
Kathy told a story of why that list just keeps getting longer. The sisters often take “quilting” road trips together. Last September they went on a bus tour to the Missouri Star Quilt Co., in Hamilton, Mo., organized by River City Quilts in Mankato. They visited 13 quilt shops, each specializing in different fabrics and projects. “I moved all my clothes into a plastic bag,” explained Kathy. “And filled my luggage with my new fabric.” A girl has to take care of her purchases.
The Fischer sisters travel once a year or so, and often just get together at one house to work on their own projects. They just enjoy spending time together with their common hobby. Sometimes they will choose the same fabric, or same project, and then each give it their own touch with colors, patterns or whatever comes to mind.
They also make quilts as wedding gifts when one of their nieces or nephews gets married. They all get together, including their sister-in-law JoAnn Fischer, to make that special gift. The next is in progress now.
The Sewing for Sight Quilt Show, co-sponsored by St. George Catholic United Financial and Sewing Seeds Quilt Co., is more than a quilt show. It serves as a fundraiser for a cause that Ann Wendinger, one of the owners of Sewing Seeds, learned of when she worked for Drs. Akre and Clark before she had the store. She met Dr. Christopher Wallyn, a visiting ophthalmologist, who had been making trips to San Lucas Toliman in Guatemala to provide sight-saving eyecare to the people there,” said Ann. Dr. Wallyn and his colleague Dr. Michael Merck had sponsored an eye clinic and eye surgery suite at San Lucas. She even went along to the clinic one year to assist the doctors and came back so impressed she wanted to do something to help.
Ann and her quilting friends Jackie Forst and Cindy Wendinger (who later became her business partners at Sewing Seeds) came up with the idea of the Sewing for Sight event to raise money for the doctors’ work.
This year will be the sixth annual Sewing for Sight event. It includes a day long quilters retreat, which raises funds through the registration fee paid by the participants, and the quilt show, which is open to the public for an admission fee in the afternoon. There is a large silent auction, a Quilter’s Second-Hand Boutique, The Quilted Market and Homespun Café.
Ann said the money raised this year will be used to help build a clean/new storage facility in the hospital in San Lucas. The show will include about 200 quilts, including those made by the Fischer sisters, along with others brought by the quilters at the retreat. The quilt show is open from 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14 in the St. George Parish Center, located northwest of New Ulm at 63105 Fort Rd.