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1 stitch at a time: Castlegar woman sews 5,000 items for global good

Pauline Kabatoff-Weinert loves sewing and helping others
Pauline Weinert sits in front of receiving blankets and baby quilts that will be headed to Guatemala with a group of Selkirk College nursing students next month. The other items will also be sent off to good causes in the coming months. Photo: Betsy Kline

The first thing you see when you enter Pauline Kabatoff Weinert’s home is a wall quilt filled with stitched handprints of varying sizes labeled with names.

When she made the quilt in the mid-90s, she turned the traced hand prints of almost all of her family members into the stitching that holds the quilt together.

The work of art is a representation of Weinert’s priorities: family and sewing.

Pauline Weinert stands in front of her family hand print quilt. Photo: Betsy Kline

“I give so much with the hope that it will inspire others to do something,” she told the Castlegar News as we visited her home in March.

Weinert started basic quilting at age 14, but it was after taking quilting lessons four decades later that her passion really came to life.

For the last 30 years, 86-year-old Weinert has focused her passion for sewing into creating things to give away.

Between 1996 and 2023, she gave away 1,430 quilts of varying sizes, 858 pillows, 267 receiving blankets and 3,023 various other items.

With such ambitious aspirations, Weinert occasionally solicited help from her sisters, Anne Gretchen and Irene Mallow, as well as a few friends, including Nellie Makortoff. But the bulk of the work was done by her own two hands on her two vintage sewing machines and with needle and thread.

Weinert still sews on two vintage sewing machines. Photo: Betsy Kline
Weinert still sews on two vintage sewing machines. Photo: Betsy Kline

Over the last three years, she has focused a lot of her efforts towards Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes, donating 400 comfort quilts for snuggling, 256 doll quilts and 718 crocheted soap bags. Makortoff added another 50 soap bags and 472 decorative crocheted roses to the shipment.

Other recipients of Weinert’s handiwork include the BC Easter Seal Society, Vancouver Children’s Hospital, Castlegar Rotary humanitarian trips, RCMP Victim Services, Doctors Without Borders, Kootenay Family Place, Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery, Catholic Charities and others.

In 2005, Weinert was given a Rotary International Paul Harris Award in recognition of her world-wide contributions.

In 2005, Pauline Weinert was given a Rotary International Paul Harris Award recognizing her world-wide contributions. Photo: Betsy Kline

Weinert says she has also sewn a lot of things for her extended family over the years.

“But since 2013, after my husband was gone, I have just been concentrating on charity stuff,” said Weinert.

Sitting on her sewing table now is a pile of 50 receiving blankets and 30 baby quilts that will soon be headed to Guatemala with a group of Selkirk College nursing students on an international community health practice experience as well as another 50 receiving blankets and more quilts intended for a Rotary trip to Bolivia this summer.

Weinert still has piles of fabric around her Castlegar home and jokes that she may need to live another 50 years to use it all up.

She plans to keep up the sewing as long as she is able and is already planning her next project.

Just like Weinert’s family has left their hand prints on her quilt, Weinert is leaving her hand prints all over the world.

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Betsy Kline

About the Author: Betsy Kline

After spending several years as a freelance writer for the Castlegar News, Betsy joined the editorial staff as a reporter in March of 2015. In 2020, she moved into the editor's position.
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