It takes someone special to lovingly donate so much time and effort to good causes, but that’s exactly what two Avera Morningside Heights Care Center residents have done.
Marguerite Nuytten, a former home ec teacher, has knitted more than 50 sweaters for poverty-stricken children overseas, while Florence Persoon had sewn more than 50 baby quilts recently for new moms in the area. Both of them have used their talents and passion for their hobby to make a positive difference in people’s lives.
Nuytten has knit colorful sweaters for young children for many years. While she started out using a pattern, she no longer needs one. Nuytten sends the sweaters to Knit for Kids/World Vision. Knit for Kids began in 1996 by Guideposts magazine. In 2009, the organization turned the program over to longtime partner World Vision in order to help even more children in need.
“I usually get a thank you card,” Nuytten said. “The very first card I got was from Russia. I send them to World Vision, and they send them to different counties. The last e-mail I got, the sweaters went to countries in Africa. It’s nice they give them out to the kids.”
Nuytten said she started sending her sweaters overseas more than five years ago. She is nearly ready to send another shipment.
“I have to get the right size box to send them off,” she said. “I wait until I have about six or seven before I send them in. This spring, I wasn’t feeling well, and I had to force myself to do a row a day. They’re almost ready to go now. They have to be blocked yet.”
Blocking a sweater means you pin it to the right size you want it and then steam and dry it, Nuytten said.
While currently working on an orange sweater, Nuytten came to the realization that she needed to add another color.
“I started to make this a solid orange one, but I don’t think it’s going to work,” she said. “It’s too bright, so I’m going to have to put some blue in it.”
While she didn’t learn to knit until she was older, it’s now something she does every day.
“I haven’t completed a day without knitting,” Nuytten said. “They kind of tease me here, saying I knit in my sleep.”
As a home ec teacher, she also taught knitting at different places.
“I’ve knitted for years and years,” she said. “I didn’t take high school home ec myself. I took the sciences. Then I got my major in science and home ec. A lot of people say they can’t learn. But every year, I manage to teach one or two people how to knit.”
Nuytten said she usually takes her knitting everywhere she goes, although she also enjoys reading.
“At suppertime, I get a couple of rows done and when we’re playing Bingo, too,” she said. “I don’t feel like I’m a lump sitting on a log when I get something done. All the waiting we do really bugs me. I think everybody should have a hobby before they get stuck (in a care facility).”
Nuytten recently made a turquoise blue shawl for herself. In the past, she’s also made quilts, afghans and booties.
“I have quite a bit of baby yarn around,” Nuytten said. “I used to knit booties for my nieces, but I haven’t done booties for quite a while now.”
Years ago, Nuytten knitted a large afghan that she puts on her bed at Christmas time.
“It has 50 different patterns,” she said. “You make them in blocks and then crochet together. Some of the patterns were relatively easy, but other ones are more difficult. I had to have the pattern in front of me when I was working on it.”
While she can easily knit sweaters and other smaller items in her room at Morningside, Nuytten said she doesn’t have the room to do larger projects.
While Nuytten enjoys knitting, she is somewhat of a perfectionist. To most people, Nuytten’s knitted items look perfect, but she can always spot a dropped stitch.
“I can find mistakes on all of them,” Nuytten said.
Like Nuytten, Persoon is limited on the size of the project she can do at Morningside. While she’s made countless quilts for different-sized beds, Persoon changed gears and started specializing in making baby quilts.
“My table isn’t big enough for big quilts,” she said. “I couldn’t put a big table in here, so I’ve been sewing baby quilts. I also sew bibs for the nursing home here, and I do a little mending for some. That’s why there’s yarn under the table.”
The first time, Persoon donated 20 baby quilts to Avera. The second time, which was in June, she gave 24.
“They have a baby show, and they give quilts to new mothers,” Persoon said. “They came and asked for some more because they were out. It took me a couple of months by the time I got all those done.”
Persoon creates the baby quilts using a variety of colors and patterns, from fluffy clouds to different animals and flowers. The material she uses is either purchased herself or given to her.
“I try to make the baby quilts out of flannel,” she said. “I even made some embroidered ones. I enjoy making them.”
Persoon said she learned to sew when she was about 8 or 9 years old.
“We were sewing little quilts for our dolls,” Persoon said. “Then when we went to school, we’d sew quilts with Mom. She’s make sure we made them right. Finally, we got to where we could sew them ourselves.”
Together with her husband, Nick, Persoon has three children and 11 grandchildren whom she enjoys making keepsake quilts for.
“Every time I had a grandchild born, they got an embroidered one,” she said. “I made a quilt for every one of them. I have one coming up. That’ll be 12. I said I have to make one more. I’ve done it for every one, so I want to keep it up.”
Persoon has two different Singer sewing machines to work on. One she bought on sale at Shopko. The other was given to her.
“The one from Shopko was on sale for $99 all right. It’s a headache,” she said.
After a while, Persoon was able to get the machine to function to her liking, but she prefers the other one, a Creative Touch Fashion Machine 1036.
“It sews nice,” Persoon said. “I went to get my hair done, and I said to the lady that I’d bought a new sewing machine and that I was so disgusted with it. She said she had one she wasn’t going to use anymore, that she was done with it. I told her I’d pay for it, but she said ‘no.'”
Unfortunately, the one given to her by a beautician no longer had a manual with it. But Persoon had spotted a Southwest Sewing and Quilting Center ad in the paper and gave it a call.
“I came here in January when I broke my leg,” Persoon said. “I got the sewing machine in March. It’s an expensive machine. There are a lot of different ways to stitch. The machine was a self-winder, so I had to know which way it is supposed to go.”
Persoon was pleased with her new sewing machine manual, which is neatly displayed in plastic sheets inside of a sturdy binder.
One of Persoon’s most-prized possessions is a quilt she made for her husband shortly before he died 17 years ago.
“He was in Luverne, and the nurse brought him home for Christmas,” Persoon said. “My three girls (Marian, Shirley and Carol) and I drew those pictures and then embroidered them. I did that for him.”
The special quilt displayed her husband’s life-history, including embroidered pictures of an Army hat, farm tractors, farm house, barn, silo and so much more.
“There’s Nick and I square dancing,” Persoon said. “Then there are the houses. The one on that side was the house he lived in and up there is the little school house. The one below is the little church.”
Other blocks included the names of everyone in their family, the jobs Nick Persoon had and the hobbies he enjoyed.
When the quilt was finished, Persoon carefully bundled it into a pillowcase and couldn’t wait to give it to her husband.
“He opened that pillowcase, and a tear came to his eye,” she said. “But he didn’t cry.”
Recently, one of Persoon’s daughters had come across the quilt in her cedar chest while she was moving into a new home in Marshall.
“She brought it over here and hung it up on the wall,” Persoon said. “It was brought here just the other night. Quite a few people came in and looked at it. My husband really liked it. It was everything he was doing throughout his life.”
Like Nuytten, Persoon had plenty of sewing materials stored in her room, hinting at the prospect of more projects in the future.