September Project – blankets

Writer’s block hit me just when a new blog was due.  I just couldn’t think of anything exciting to say that would inspire everyone to help with our September project.  Not sure our supporters need too much inspiration as so many of you have sent box after box to the High Horses with no prodding at all.  Our projects this month are blankets that are sewn, crocheted, knitted, woven or purchased, new or gently used, and pajamas for kids in all sizes.  Also needed is bedding for the 100 new beds donated last month which includes pillowcases, sheets, pillows, and mattress covers.   Making a larger size quilt or afghan would be great, even if it means you only make one.

For this blog we’ll focus on blankets, quilts and afghans, but please work ahead on other things if blankets don’t appeal to you.  It seems we’re right on target for getting warm items to the kids and their families, it was 37 degrees the other morning in Wanblee and there was even talk of snow for this week.  If it doesn’t make it next week it will certainly be there before anyone wants it.

When I first started helping Pine Ridge there were families, especially elders, who refused to take blankets from people off the Rez.  Native Americans had no immunity to smallpox (now eradicated) and to a lot of other diseases Europeans brought with them to the new world, so when they were exposed and became ill, most of them died.  It’s long been thought one of the ways they were exposed  was through donated army  blankets that had been used on men who died of smallpox. From this article we learn, that blankets were not the culprit, lack of immunity to the diseases was the main reason for the deaths. But because this information was passed on to Native Americans thru the moccasin trail and for many other reasons , evident in Native American history, tribal people believed it. Only over time, have people on the Rez been willing to trust donations from the outside.  The reason we ask for new or nearly new items with a list of guidelines for used donations is because of the past.  Our Native American friends have been treated so badly for so long that we want to make them feel they are special and demonstrate that with the gifts they receive from all of us.

Native Americans believe they need to take care of Mother Earth and only take what is necessary to survive.  Animals were taken to provide meat for the family and their hides for clothing and to cover their tipis.  When the buffalo numbers decreased,  they had to find a new way to cover themselves so they traded items with the Europeans for cloth and wool blankets . Native Americans learned how to make quilts from the Europeans.  Native Americans have been making quilts for many years, you can read about the traditional star quilt here and it’s significance in their religion and beliefs.

Theresa wants to revive the art of quilt making with the local women and teach them the skills they need to make quilts for their families.  There are many women around Pine Ridge who make beautiful quilts and sell them, something Theresa hopes might be a possibility for some of the women in the Wanblee area if they can get the needed supplies, at least initially until they sell some. It will bring income to the family. Most of the quilts they will be making at first will be for their families and made in the “sewing bee ” fashion with some putting the quilt together and others quilting it by hand on quilting frames.  Hopefully , one day I will get to  sit in on the swing circle in Wanblee and learn how to make the star quilt under their direction.

Here are a few samples of quilts made for me by some Native Americans, one from a family I sponsored, who gave it to me to thank me for helping them and the other two I bought and need to get quilted.


Not all the quilts that Native Americans make are able to be sold as the stitching and the cloth used are not of high enough quality. Many of the quilts were and still are made from scraps of material or by cutting up old clothes and were/are used for bed covers, for covering for the housing, for insulating the home etc. Laundering quilts on the Rez is an issue,  so making really expensive quilts does not make sense except for those made for those special occasions. The quilts I’m making are the functional type for everyday use but am making them a little more interesting by using bright and cheerful colors.  Remember Native Americans love lots of color (Lakota colors are yellow, black,  red and white) so check your stashes and have some fun.  Please don’t use fabrics printed with owls as it’s a sign of death or coyotes as they are tricksters.

I made one of my quilt tops from corduroy squares cut from pants I could no longer wear and another from men’s shirts so think outside the box when looking for quilt fabric.  And the rest from scraps left over from other projects. Quilt backing can be cotton, flannel, sheeting or pieced from different fabrics if yours isn’t large enough.  Batting can be traditional or an old light weight blanket, flannel, lightweight fleece, etc.  Here are a few ideas for easy quilt making,….  strip quilt  (use a rotary cutter if you have one), bandana quilt (or cut large squares of fabric),  and a basic sew and turn quilt .

Quilt making can be expensive, if you purchase everything new it’s cheaper to buy a quilt ready made.  If you’re a beginner creating a stash is the most economical way to make quilts, recycle old clothing, scour resale shops and garage sales and ask friends for donations to build up your stash.  Making children’s quilts is a little cheaper as they don’t take large pieces of batting or backing.  Piece your quilt backs and your batting from smaller pieces, in other words never throw anything away if you’re going to make quilts. I  love to create for the younger kids as I see how excited my grandkids get when they get something new.

Since Christmas will be coming soon some of these quilts can be used as gifts for children.  Make a “theme” quilt using kids fabrics and send a book or stuffed animal to match, you can even add a pocket to store their treasure in.   Fabric stores sell quilt panels  for kids printed with maps, roads (add a toy car), cartoon characters, etc. that make great gifts and are quick to make.  Quilts for baby can have ties added to hold toys that can easily be detached for washing.    Some ideas…… superhero quilt from T-shirts, tic-tac-toe quilt,  a checkerboard game quilt, fox quilt,  (increase size for older child)  and an I spy quilt as done here, here and here.  Theses are a great way to use up scraps and great way to teach kids their numbers, colors, animals in a fun way etc.

Quillows  would make a great gift for older kids and teens using any fabric that’s not too childish or babyish, the last thing a teen wants is a quilt like his kid brother or sister’s!  Traditional quilts are good for this age group too and something all kids would appreciate is a fleece sleeping bag to use in the community bed, it’s sort of like a bed in a bed.  Here’s a tutorial for a no sew sleeping bag  made from fleece or you can make one from fleece yardage or even some of the fleece blankets sewn together. Here are a few other patterns to sew them here and here. You can also make tie fleece quilts as seen in these photos. There are a few ways to tie them as seen here on this Pinterest site.


Knitters and crocheters get those needles and hooks ready we need your help making afghans.  We don’t want to leave the “loomer’s” out, if you have one of the larger looms make squares and sew them together for an afghan or make a complete blanket using these looms here and here.  Of course you can always sew squares of fleece or denim together and make a rag quilt. Many beautiful afghans have been made in the past by our members and folks on the Rez love them.  Gather some friends and work on making an afghan together with each person using different colors or patterns, just make sure your finished size is all the same for ease in assembling.  I’m just putting the finishing touches on a corner to corner knit baby afghan, see a similar one in crochet here. There are lots of ideas on Ravelry and Pinterest  for making blankets and afghans.  Just google those sites for ideas. I’ve been going through my yarn stash and have some set aside to make baby sweaters when we do our warm clothing month.  Joan Nelson asked for a supply of free yarn to be sent to the Rez from a yarn company and we’re happy to report they’ve received it already.  Some women already know how to knit and crochet on the Rez and other’s would like to learn so they can have a hobby and keep busy and make things for their family and friends.

Please share pictures and patterns of your quilt/afghans with us here, our Facebook page or Yahoo group.  If you’re not a crafter and want to contribute send a blanket or a kid’s sleeping bag new or gently used or donate cotton or cotton/polyester fabrics or batting to the Wanblee ladies sewing group so they can make a quilt for their family.  Worsted weight acrylic yarn, crochet hooks in sizes G, H, I, or J and knitting needles in sizes 7, 8 or 9 are needed too.   If you have any looms you’re not using,  those would be great to get a child interested in learning to work with yarn and make something at the same time.  Please send a pattern and skein of worsted yarn along too.

I have a stack of quilts pieced together that I will show you once I get them finished. I made various sizes and used many colors.

Please send all your donations to Jerome and Theresa High Horse at this address.  Thanks for helping us warm the Rez!





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