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Dolly McGrath, a professional machine quilter who lives and works north of Bemidji, works toward finishing a quilt made by her sister, Deb Hemstad, from past Bemidji Jaycees Water Carnival T-shirts. Bethany Wesley | Bemidji Pioneer

Bemidji Jaycees: T-shirt quilt represents years of service

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BEMIDJI – A quilt featuring the T-shirts from each of Bemidji’s annual Water Carnival festivals will be unveiled this week.

Longtime Jaycees member Deb Hemstad made the 120-inch-by-90-inch quilt, cutting each T-shirt to showcase the logo from that year.

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She had long planned to create the quilt, and began working on it this summer in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Bemidji Jaycees.

The quilt will be on display Saturday as the Jaycees gather to celebrate their 75th anniversary at the Hungry Bear Banquet and Conference Center. Social time begins at 4:30 p.m. A group photo will be taken at 5:30 p.m. and dinner and a program will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Following the event, the quilt will be on display, along with a collection of past Water Carnival buttons, at the Beltrami County History Center.

Hemstad began working on the quilt after this year’s Water Carnival celebration.

The Jaycees have hosted 68 years of Water Carnivals, but didn’t start issuing T-shirts until 1976, Hemstad said.

Each year is represented, although for a few years, the actual T-shirts could not be located, so she created images based on that year’s corresponding button.

A few extras were put in the quilt as well, including the Bemidji Jaycees 75th Anniversary logo and a list of past Jaycees presidents.

The size of the quilt was determined by the size of the logos themselves.

“I had to find the biggest logo and go from there,” Hemstad said.

The largest dictated that each square had to be about 14 inches wide. Then, the 75th Anniversary logo, which is about twice as long as each T-shirt logo, had to be put in the middle.

Fourth of July-themed fabrics are used as accents.

“I really wanted it to be patriotic and Fourth of July because of the Water Carnival,” Hemstad said.

She said she didn’t struggle with the decision to cut the T-shirts up. But working with each square was much easier once a stabilizing piece of fabric was put on the back. This made it so she was working less with T-shirt fabric and more with quilting fabric.

After she created the quilt, Hemstad’s sister, Dolly McGrath, a professional machine quilter, completed the backing and topstitching. McGrath, who said she does between 10 and 15 quilts a month, has been doing that work for about 10 years.

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