Myrtle Farrell leans slightly over a table in Martin's Lutheran church basement, tenderly smoothing a wrinkle from the pastel patchwork sprawled before her.

Once Farrell gets the sea of fabric pressed and primped to her liking, she and fellow quilter Phyllis Peterson pass the multi-layered creation on to a nearby table for several more rounds of folding, fussing and fastening.

"It's like an assembly line " proclaims Esther Dau of the ladies' quilt-making process.

Eventually Dau, who sits kitty corner from Farrell, will get her hands - and her sewing machine - on the quilt to make the final stitches before declaring the quilt a finished product.

By the time 2:30 p.m. rolls around on this particular day, the group will have made nearly a dozen unique blankets.

For as long as any of these ladies can remember, quilting has been a Wednesday church basement ritual.

The quilters spend most of the mornings and early afternoons creating the blankets but also carve out a few minutes here and there for some coffee, cake and conversation.

Their quilting sessions are partly for fun, but mostly for a good cause.

Since late fall, these quilters have given away more than 100 quilts to places like the Dorothy Day house in Moorhead and Churches United for the Homeless.

Donna Myers of Amenia, N.D., said their quilts have ended up all over the world. Some have even gone overseas with Lutheran Social Services, Myers said.

The quilts also go to families whose homes burn down, and they've even been given to homeless people who sleep under the bridge in Fargo-Moorhead, Dau said.

"How can we go to bed at night when someone else is cold," said Dau, who is in charge of distributing most

of the blankets.

Dau, 85, works as an EMT for the Casselton Ambulance, and distributes blankets to the various hospitals whenever she's there.

While much of the fabric they use is new, the quilters use whatever they can get and try to blend colors as best they can. They rely heavily on donated material from people in the community.

The Casselton quilters get together each Wednesday from November until usually April. Each lady has her own task as part of the quiltmaking process.

Still, those who show up at the church on Wednesdays call Farrell the heart and soul of the operation. Incidentally, she's not actually a member of Martin's Lutheran Church.

"I'm the stray," says Farrell, who is Catholic. "But, they're still real nice to me."

Farrell, who also enjoys making baby quilts at home, is 96 years old. Her sister, Clara Wittman, 91, also is part of the quilting clan.

But even Wittman is quick to give Farrell credit for getting most of the quilting talent in the family.

Bev Bratten of Casselton said Farrell is amazing to watch. Even when everyone else gets tired, she wants to keep going, Bratten said.

"I don't know what we're going to do when she stops coming," she said. "I have never seen anyone like that."

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Mary Jo Almquist at (701) 241-5531