OSAGE BEND — Many area churches auction handmade quilts at their annual picnics. The key to fetching a premium price is making one that's both high quality and unique.
The quilters at St. Margaret Church in Osage Bend think they have just that.
Among the 25 quilts up for auction at the church's picnic this Sunday, will be an "American Spirit" quilt that took a dozen women several hundred combined hours to make. The 10-month project features around 2,500 pieces of fabric.
The red, white and blue quilt features various patterns along the edges, with a large American flag in the middle. The words "God bless America" are below the flag, and a bald eagle is above it. The eagle's eye alone took 20 different fabric pieces.
"They are some of the most talented quilters," church Deacon Fred Schmitz said. "It's a labor of love for them."
The quilters hope to use the proceeds to help fund the church's expansion and renovation of its parish hall, a $380,000 project.
Built in the early 1980s, the hall needs electrical, plumbing and HVAC work. The project includes a complete remodeling of the kitchen and 1,200 square feet in added space, including room for an additional classroom for weekly religion classes offered to children in the area.
Among other things, new stoves, flooring, cabinets and a well will be added, as well as something they haven't had before: a dishwasher.
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The idea for the quilt came last year in the form of a challenge from one quilter to another. "We need a patriotic quilt," said Rita French, who quilts with the church group. She was speaking to the other quilters, but looking specifically at Patti Tappel. In 2001, Tappel was inspired to create such a quilt after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
So Tappel started designing the quilt, with feedback from others.
"We wanted something that would bring in big bucks," Tappel said. "So it just kept growing and growing."
She started the two-month process of "paper piecing" it in October. That process allows quilters to sew through a piece of paper containing a computer-generated pattern with the fabric underneath. After the pieces are sewn into blocks, the blocks are used as the foundation for the quilt.
It's like putting together a puzzle, and requires extreme precision to create a beautiful product.
For more than half a year, the quilting group met from 7 a.m.-noon on Tuesdays to make the quilts. It's hard work, but it comes with a few good perks — fellowship, a beautiful view of the countryside vista and snacks from parishioners who volunteered on a rotating schedule. Some of the "snacks" have been more like formal dinners, the quilters said.
"It's really a good group of women," Janet Koetting said.
"We share our good times and our bad times with each other. We pray for people," Tappel added.
Osage Bend is nestled — almost landlocked — between the snake-like Osage River just a few miles south of Wardsville. Native Americans called the area "the great bend in the Osage," hence the town name. It has a population of around 450, and all but about 50 are members of St. Margaret.
With family farms decreasing in recent decades, the community has become more of a bedroom community, with residents working around Jefferson City or even Columbia. Many still farm part time.
But they have a strong sense of community amid the rolling hills with green pastures and wooded areas — land they simply call "God's country."
This Sunday, they hope their work pays off in the form of high bidders. They've sent letters to area politicians and others, hoping to convince them to come to the picnic and bid on the quilt. One parishioner even messaged Gov. Eric Greitens, half jokingly suggesting that he pass the message on to President Donald Trump. Greitens and Trump have reportedly met repeatedly this year.
"I think it's just going to take the right person. Someone who is a vary patriotic person," Koetting said.