In south Minneapolis, quilters work on the cutting edge

Hundreds of bolts of fabric for sale
Hundreds of bolts of fabric, many no longer being made, filled Grad Creations, Inc. Quilt Block shelves in Minneapolis.
Dan Olson | MPR News

As quilt shops go, Glad Creations in south Minneapolis is one of the oldest, busiest and most colorful in the country.

Detail of the quilt, ''Lollipop Tree''
Detail of the quilt, ''Lollipop Tree,'' made by Gladys Raschka, the mother of the owners of Glad Creations, Inc.
Dan Olson | MPR News

The store's shelves are crammed to the ceiling with bolts of fabric in every color of the rainbow.

Co-owner Susan Dyer helps people find the right scissors, pin cushion or fabric cutter for a job — even a "seam ripper with a magnifying glass," she said with a laugh.

"Quilters love gadgets," she said.

People have been making quilts for a very long time. There are remains of quilted floor coverings in Mongolia, evidence of quilted garments in Egypt, and a late 1400s bed quilt from Sicily.

Nancy Raschka-Reeves, left, and Susan Dyer
Twenty of the hundreds of quilts made by Nancy Raschka-Reeves and her sister Susan Dyer hung in the Glad Creations store in Minneapolis. The quilts serve as examples of patterns but are not for sale.
Dan Olson | MPR News

Dyer and her co-owner, Nancy Raschka-Reeves, are sisters. They have made hundreds of quilts over the years.

Twenty of their huge, bed-sized creations hang in a corner of the shop, creating a kaleidoscope of colors with what must be trillions of stitches. The quilts create a sort of energy field that Dyer says attracts visitors.

"We have people who come in and just stand inside of our ... quilts here," she said. "It just feels good."

"You can have sort of a whole mixed-up life. And you sit by your sewing machine, and things are organized. You can be creative. You can show your love for different people this way."

Upstairs, volunteers filled the second-floor workrooms for a good cause: making quilts for patients at hospitals and other institutions around the Twin Cities.

Volunteer Marian Nichols said workers have come together for 13 years to sew and trim. "This last year, I delivered 402 quilts," she said.

Raschka-Reeves said one of her jobs is to keep the volunteers supplied with coffee.

Line to sign up for Scrap Tamers Club
The first person in line arrived at 5:30 a.m. on Aug. 22 to sign up for the popular Scrap Tamers Club at Glad Creations Quilt Block in south Minneapolis. The sessions sell out within a day or so of registration opening. The club meets once a month starting in September and focuses on "learning new techniques, finishing your projects, making quilts from your stash and having some fun."
Dan Olson | MPR News

"We have all these ladies come once a month and bring their sewing machines and make quilts like crazy," she said.

In the tradition of quilters everywhere, Raschka-Reeves said, every piece of fabric is used. "They also save scraps and make little dog beds that they contribute to the humane society," she said.

Dyer and Raschka-Reeves were named quilt makers of the year in 2013 by Minnesota Quilters, the statewide group devoted to the activity. It's a title their mother, Gladys Raschka, won in 1999. The sisters learned the craft from their mother, who at 97 is a living legend in quilting circles.

Raschka-Reeves and Dyer laid out a quilt.
Sisters Nancy Raschka-Reeves, left, and Susan Dyer laid out a quilt called, "Lollipop Tree," made by their mother, Gladys Raschka, and designed by Kim McLean.
Dan Olson | MPR News

And now a younger generation is taking up quilting. Raschka-Reeves said the store's beginners' class is seeing younger faces.

"I think about a year ago almost everyone in [the] class had either a tattoo or something pierced," she said.

Raschka-Reeves said a cutting-edge development in the quilt-making world is what she calls the "slow stitch movement," or a growing interest in more traditional methods. "You're not just going to just push it through your machine and move on," she said, "but you're going to really enjoy every part of the process and take your time."

Dyer said quilting is both a craft and an art that is also meditative, even therapeutic.

"You can have sort of a whole mixed-up life," she said. "And you sit by your sewing machine, and things are organized. You can be creative. You can show your love for different people this way."

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