After completing more than 3,000 quilts, Dorothy Hendrickson is still creating new and intricate patterns for current and future projects.
Her apartment at Baker Park is arrayed with completed pieces like Christmas presents she is making for her grandchildren and stockings for Santa to fill for her great grandchildren.
Although a severe stroke, suffered in 2000, hampers her ability to communicate, Hendrickson, 83, feels her volunteer efforts are the reasons why she is going to live to be 100. She has a multitude of quilting blocks ready to be used and more projects than she can possibly finish even though she works on two or three projects at the same time.
One of the reasons why she has so much material on hand is kind of a “paying ahead story.”
Strangers have come to her apartment to give her bolts of fabric, brand new, that belonged to their mothers or someone else they knew. One lady brought 39 yards of material and another person gave her 800 six-inch quilting squares. And so the circle of life – the giving and sharing – continues as long as there are people willing to share their talents and give something of themselves to others.
Hendrickson has been quilting since she was a young girl growing up in Shevlin with her siblings.
“My eight brothers and sisters kept my mom busy, and I started to help her with tying (securing the three layers of the quilts together) when I was about 8 years old,” said Hendrickson. “When Bud and I were married in 1949, we stayed in Shevlin to raise our four children. Our son Wesley was deaf and could not hear when we called him. So I would move my quilting frames outside so I could watch him while he played, and if he was out of my sight, our dog would fetch him back.”
Hendrickson started the Headwaters Quilting Guild in 1979 with eight other ladies at her home on Grace Lake. A member of the guild, Jane Smith, described Hendrickson as a master quilter who shares her knowledge with others.
“She is an amazing lady, not only in her talent but also in her gifting,” said Smith.
The Centennial quilt that hangs on the wall at Itasca State Park was designed and hand sewn by Hendrickson. And for the past three years, she has made and donated a quilt to the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary for them to raffle as a fundraiser at the group’s annual November craft sale.
Hendrickson has sewn more than 40 Quilts of Valor for veterans and now is creating baby quilts for homeless women veterans for the Baby Baskets distributed by the American Legion.
This past summer, you may have noticed that the blue ribbon at the Beltrami County 4H Fair went to Dorothy Hendrickson for her “Flying Eagles” quilt. That blue ribbon is only the last in line of the many she has received over the years at the Clearwater and Beltrami County 4H fairs. The 1988 edition of Craftsmen of Northern Minnesota has a picture of Dorothy Hendrickson, master quilter.
Hendrickson has a book of photos, quilts she has made for family and friends as gifts. Each child, grandchild and great-grandchild has a baby quilt from her, and the quilts keep coming through the growing up years; teens get one made with denim on the front and flannel on the back side. There’s always a special graduation quilt waiting to celebrate that passage into adulthood but the most special of all are the wedding quilts that she prepares ahead of time and keeps secure in her cedar chest, a gift from a dear friend of the family, the late Dorothy Smith.
“I make the quilts using patterns that they like,” said Hendrickson. “Sometimes I have to really search for a figure that they want and once had a hard time finding a good clown that I could use in a quilt. I found one clown pattern at a garage sale and the lady gave me that and a whole lot of material for a little bit of money. I’ve already used up two sewing machines and now I am just using the one in my living room.”
Hendrickson favors the Crazy Quilt pattern and claims that it is her favorite but is quick to say the 7,061 pieces in her Postage Stamp Quilt is one that is she is very proud of finishing. “Grandmother’s Flower Garden” is flourishing under her needle and thread; all the hand sewn pieces are being laid out with care and with no repeating squares.
Many young children, at CrossRoads Church daycare center, lay upon her polyester quilts at naptime, countless needy babies and children get the gift of a quilt when they leave the local hospital. Young mothers at the women’s shelter in Bemidji get to cover their children with quilts made piece by piece, patiently and carefully by Hendrickson.
Daughter Dar Metcalf of Coon Rapids likes to tell the story of her son, John, and his question: “How come Grandma Dorothy’s quilts are always warmer?”
“I told John,” said Dorothy, “it’s because they’re made with love.”