The church is appropriate for marking Dorothy’s ninth decade. She has attended services there all but the first three years of her life. The church has been the setting for some of the most important events in her life: She was baptized in the church at age 8. Shortly after her high school graduation, she met the man who was to become her husband – Walt Gruginski – at a Sunday School picnic and later married him in a whirlwind church ceremony when he got a 10-day pass from the Army during World War II.
In more than 80 years of continuous church membership, Dorothy said she has participated in every activity and served in most offices at one time or another besides being church pianist for many years. “I enjoy a very warm church family relationship,” she wrote in a short biography of her life.
Perhaps most remarkably, Raymond Baptist Church holds two of her most unusual and outstanding accomplishments in fabric arts: Quilted covers in a stained glass motif for two of the three huge windows overlooking the sanctuary. Earlier this year, Dorothy and the quilted window covers received national attention in an article written by Olympia writer Lana Russ and published in the February-March issue of “Quilting Newsletter”.
Dorothy’s accomplishments are all the more extraordinary because she took up quilting only a little more than 20 years ago. Once she learned how to quilt, she gave up knitting and crocheting and began stitching bed covers, wall hangings, baby quilts and other items. Some of her quilts are given to family members and friends for special occasions, some are donated to charity and most have been displayed at the Willapa Harbor Quilters’ annual quilt show as well as the Pacific County Fair.
Several of her quilts have been auctioned during the annual Habitat for Humanity fundraiser. More than once Dorothy’s quilts have sold for more than any other item at these fundraisers, bringing in more than $1,000 each time.
Unlike her other stitching accomplishments, the window coverings at the church have not been displayed anywhere outside the church. But they have drawn a number of local and regional admirers to the building to see the unusual items.
And they deserve every bit of attention given them because the window coverings – the first made in 2005 and the second in 2010 – were challenging, to say the least.
The first cover…
The first stained-glass cover, at the front of the sanctuary, came about after years of hiding the plain-glass window with plywood or heavy curtains to hide damage as well as to cut down on the glare it cast upon parishioners. The idea for a quilted cover for the window germinated in 2006, shortly after nephew John Gruginski lost his wife, Pam, to cancer.
“Most of us had almost forgotten there was a window there until at the close of Pam Gruginski’s funeral service Pastor (Joel) Estruth pulled the curtain aside and told us how sad Pam had been about the badly damaged window and wished it could be replaced by a stained glass window,” Dorothy wrote.
Not long after that, parishioner and quilter Deane McCoy displayed a small wall hanging in a stained glass motif on the front wall.
“Week after week I kept looking at it and turning over and over in my mind how I could make a ‘stained glass’ window quilt using the same technique,” Dorothy wrote. “I’m afraid many sermons went in one ear and out the other while I puzzled over how the quilt could be done. I knew I had the skill and could take the time, the sewing machines and other equipment, and a huge stash of fabrics to draw from – but I needed help.”
Nephew John Gruginski helped move the curtain aside to get accurate measurements of the individual panes, the sections, posts and frame. Later, when Dorothy needed patterns for the upper sections of arches and diamond panes, Steve Hagar and Pastor Estruth taped up huge sections of paper and drew the patterns.
After all the fabric patchwork was done, the panes were joined into sections, then panels and eventually all put together as one piece, with wood-like fabric simulating the window’s wood structure. She quilted the huge cover at home, managing the 10-foot by 12-foot mass of fabric that “seemed like an acre of quilt” through her sewing machine. Finally, pockets were sewn on the top and bottom of the muslin backing in order to hang the quilt.
“Then there came the part I was most worried about – whether all our measurements had been correct, and would it hang straight and smooth. John and sons Tim and Mark spent several hours hanging the quilt – and it did hang right,” Dorothy wrote in her history of that cover.
The first stained glass window covering was dedicated Jan. 9, 2005, to the memory of Pam Gruginski.
The second cover…
Five years later, Dorothy was asked to make a quilted cover for the sanctuary window facing Duryea Street. Light from that window made it difficult for the congregation to read song words and announcements displayed on an overhead screen at the front of the sanctuary; another cover would help.
Dorothy gave this project a lot of thought again, but for different reason. The window is larger than the first; a single quilted cover would be too heavy to hang. She decided on another approach – separate quilted pieces to cover the individual sections within the 12-foot by 16-foot window, allowing the window’s wood frame to separate the sections.
Again, she knew she would need help. It came in a number of different ways.
Four volunteers used ladders to reach the top of the window to trace its pattern. Before the ladders could be used, John Gruginski moved the pews; no small feat in itself, and then replaced them after the tracing work was done.
Dorothy, John and Paulette Gruginski drove to Fabric Depot in Portland to buy fabric for the new job. Ellen Hernandez and Yvonne Smith as well as Dorothy donated extra fabric.
On May 6, 2010, Dorothy applied some humor to a work team of 18 who were asked to help as “strippers, blockers, hackers and flippers”.
The strippers cut “what seemed like miles and miles” of one-inch strips of black fabric, Dorothy laughed. These one-inch pieces provided the “leading” effect between the colors on the windows.
Blockers cut a total of 176 8-inch by 13-inch blocks from the fabrics. Hackers made stacks of five different colors, and then cut them into five sections. Flippers sorted each set of five pieces into blocks for stitching.
The blocks were stitched by a number of people, including some who had rarely or never sewn before. Dorothy prepared the upper sections with diamond blocks and also added borders to the window sections. Quilting – including layering the pieced top, batting and lining – was done by Arlyn Harris. Dorothy cut the sections to the exact size, completed and turned under all borders plus added Velcro to each section.
Velcro also had to be stapled to the window frame before the sections could be hung. This task, as well as final placement, was made possible with the use of the Raymond Schools’ hydraulic lift.
Dorothy is the first to acknowledge the dozens of people who helped with the project. Volunteers for various parts of the project included John and Paulette Gruginski, Foster Johns, Ed Ester, Deane McCoy, Ellen Hernandez, Yvonne (Mills) Smith, Helga Schiel, Ron and Pat Jones, Arlyn Harris, Milly Neva, Ena Bale, Jan Aust, Nancy Brackett, Pastor Joel and Candy Estruth, Chloe Delap, Betty McAllister, Matthew Bale, Vivian and Les Edersheim, Laura Rohr, Sue Bale and Jan Johnston.
No church funds were used for the project. Financial contributors included Cecilia Hagar, Lucille Totten, Ron and Pat Jones, Laura Rohr, Dorothy Gruginski, Helen Campbell, Jan Johnston, Ena Bale, Yvonne Smith, Helga Schiel, Elizabeth McAllister, Jan Aust, Joyce Evans and Sally Givens.
Dorothy said there are no plans to make a similar cover for the third large window in the sanctuary. “It would make the sanctuary too dark,” she said.
At the dedication of the first cover in 2005, Dorothy wrote:
“I’ve really been blessed as I worked on this project, and I thank God for the vision and insight in solving the problems. … I truly enjoyed the challenge, and I feel the ‘stained glass window’ has made for a more worshipful feeling in the sanctuary.”
Dorothy has created other objects that are personal favorites – a favorite bed quilt pattern called “Prairie Homestead”; a nativity wall hanging she has made for the church and her home; and a Feathered Star wall hanging in her living room.
But undoubtedly one of her most viewed, and treasured, accomplishments will always be the “stained glass windows” in the Raymond Baptist Church.
Happy Birthday, Dorothy!
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