FARGO - It might have reached above 80 degrees here Friday, but that didn't stop 88-year-old Cecilia "Sis" Christianson from surrounding herself with dozens of colorful quilts while her nearby friends and family sipped on cold root beer floats. The group came to Fargo's Good Samaritan Society apartments to congratulate Christianson on a monumental achievement - sewing 1,000 quilt tops for Project Linus, an organization that gives quilts to children in crisis situations.
"It's just outstanding!" says Norene Baeth, Project Linus Fargo/Eastern North Dakota Chapter coordinator. "We're over the moon! She's made so many quilt tops we can't keep up."
Christianson says she started making the quilts after Project Linus posted an advertisement in her apartment building seeking people to sew - something she's loved to do for nearly 80 years.
"I started sewing when I was 9 years old," she says. "I sewed a doll dress, and I liked it. I've been sewing for a long time and sewn a lot of clothes for my family."
But Christianson's goal of reaching the thousand mark was nearly derailed when she fell and broke her arm in October. Daughter Loretta Heuer says her mother was upset when her arm took nearly two months to heal.
"Every time she went back to the doctor she'd ask, 'Can I sew yet?' The doctor would say 'Not yet.' But she was finally able to get back to it in January," Heuer says.
After that, there's been no stopping Christianson. Heuer says she usually completes at least one quilt top a day and as many as four. She irons the fabric, cuts the squares, figures out the design and sews them together. Then someone else finishes the back and insides of the quilt.
Baeth says Project Linus gives the quilts to children in shelters, hospitals, foster care and sometimes even funeral homes. And they couldn't do it without Christianson.
"She's getting cards and letters from people all over the country congratulating and thanking her," Baeth says.
As for the well wishers here today, she says a quiet thank you as they come up and shake her hand - resting atop her 1,000th quilt top, a light lavender blanket adorned in butterfly designs and glitter which has now left its mark on her black pants.
"Oh that's fine," she says. "Glitter always brushes off."
So what's next for this octogenarian seamstress? Maybe 2,000 quilts?
"Oh, I don't know about that," she says with a laugh. "I never thought I'd get this far.