300 Words about Quilting: Quilts & Charity
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You can’t imagine the pleasure I get from watching my wife and so many other Project Linus volunteers work to make quilts to give to children who are hurting. Each month they come together in Vancouver, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, to work on their quilting projects. The camaraderie is always present, the willingness to share ideas and talk through problems is gratifying to see, the colorful fabrics and patterns and craftsmanship fill the room with excitement. But the real joy comes at the end, when the volunteers sew on the Project Linus label and tie the folded quilt, ready for delivery.
That’s when the quiltmakers know that their gift of fabric and thread, time and thought, care and heart have been transferred to a beautiful quilt that a child will soon desperately need. The givers never see the children, but the love sewn in starts a healing that we often hear about later. A mother wrote to tell how her young child on the way to the hospital for yet another operation, insisted that the “hospital blanket” went along, worn down through years of love to pocket-size. A father wrote to thank the blanketeer for making the quilt that comforted the newborn who was clinging to life, and the frightened parents who held on to its hope. A mother gave hundreds of yards of fabric as thanks for the quilts that covered the dying father’s many hospital wires and tubes so that his children could say goodbye and then later have the quilts for comfort.
I take great pleasure – and great pride – in watching my wife and the many Project Linus volunteers work so hard to make beautiful quilts for children in need of a hug, because I have seen what it means to give a quilt made with love.
QUILTING MAKES A DIFFERENCE
One of my best friends was a special reading teacher in one of our poorest school districts. I had made three or four juvenile-themed quilts with no “destination.” I asked my pal if she had any extra needy students who could use a boost and she replied with a resounding “Yes!” While getting the quilts together, I spotted a small flannel one I had made that had no theme and that was not particularly well done. I put that in the pile and took them to her, all the while apologizing for the small one. She said she had a wonderful recipient in mind, a 5-year-old whose mom had walked out on him and left him with his grandparents. I explained that the size would be perfect but that I should have made a bigger, fancier quilt. She still wanted it. Three months later my friend called to tell me that the little tyke had walked to school conferences with his grandma from the run-down motel where they were living and he brought with him his quilt! So I would say, make quilts and give them to people who need them – they do make a difference.
I sometimes think about the little children, like this one, who are in so much need and so appreciative of anything any of us is able to do for them. Keep on quilting, somebody out there will love your quilts!
THE OTHER SIDE
As a quilter I often participated in charity quilt projects with my local guild. We would supply quilts to victims of disasters, children in need of comfort, shelter residents, hospice patients or soldiers coming home after serving their country. We’d gather and spend a day piecing tops, machine quilting or stitching on bindings. At guild meetings, quilters could pick up parts of a quilt to take home to work on and return the following month where another quilter would retrieve it to accomplish the next step. Other volunteers would deliver quilts to wherever they were needed. A coordinator would organize the entire operation so that we were sending out dozens of quilts every year. We empowered ourselves against the problems of the world by putting our quilting skills to use.
Then came a time when I found myself on the other side. I became the receiver. I was plunged into a deep hole of sadness and heartbreak when doctors discovered the baby I was carrying had Trisomy 18, an incurable chromosomal disorder. I hoped and prayed for a miracle but we lost Jacob. I felt myself sink into a deep dark place with no way out. At the hospital, a nurse quietly brought me a baby quilt and hat, both made by volunteers. I felt the strength of complete strangers around me, reaching out their hands to lift me from despair. In the midst of tragedy, the goodness of other human hearts helped to save me and brought me back to the surface. The nurse stayed with me as I held that quilt and cried. I felt her compassion and the kindness of strangers and knew that I didn’t have to be alone with my grief, that I would be able to pick myself up again and go on.
ART FOR THE ANIMALS
JEAN TURNER WEISS
They were all there – cuddly Chihuahuas in tutus, Pit Bulls in spiked collars, a pack of Golden Retrievers in training, an iguana perched on its owner’s shoulders and even a family of rats clinging to its rescuer. The huge Spay for L.A. mobile clinic was prominently parked a glance away from the thousands attending the Blessing of the Animals on Olvera Street. How ironic that an ancient fertility rite of farm animals had evolved into a parade of pampered pets getting splashed with holy water.
When the Riverside County shelter announced its Art for the Animals fundraising competition, I decided to make a quilt for the special care of homeless pets. The artwork will be auctioned off either live or online. Although the entries were not required to be “animal-related,” I intentionally chose prints that reflected the fauna animal control officers encounter – dogs, cats, opossums, skunks and raccoons.
Naysayers questioned my ambitious plans for a lap-size quilt. My quilt shop friends believed that I would generate more money from a raffle for quilters who would value high quality fabric and hand quilting. My husband thought it would take too long. I perceived the entry differently. What better way to showcase the art of quilting to a new audience in a competition dominated by painting, photography and sculpture! The size and sleeve conveyed its intention as a wall hanging that would be the focal point of a room. The Blessing of the Animals inspired me to make a fun quilt that pet lovers would enjoy.
Would a quilt of cheap fabric and basic machine quilting have served the same purpose? Possibly, but not for me. I want to feel a sense of pride when the viewers admire my quilt and the final bidder carries it home.
WELL WORTH THE COST
I don’t do much volunteer work. I’m the last mother to sign up to chaperone a school field trip. The local pantry doesn’t have me on speed dial for emergency help. But the one thing I do for others on a regular basis is make quilts.
I’ve made baby quilts for preemies, comfort quilts for kids and their moms at a shelter for abused women and children, lap quilts for seniors to brighten up a lonely day and bed quilts for orphans. For several years I’ve helped make queen-sized quilts to raffle off where I work, raising money for Thanksgiving baskets. When I tackled the Susan G. Komen 3-Day walk for breast cancer research, I first had to raise $2,200. Naturally, I made and raffled a quilt.
Over the two decades I’ve been quilting, I’ve spent about as many hours making charity quilts as I have working on projects for friends, family and paying customers. That means I’ve also spent a ton of money on charity quilts.
You could argue that $100 spent for fabric, thread and batting for a small quilt destined to keep an orphaned kindergartener warm at night would be better spent buying her new school clothes. Or maybe that funds used on materials for a Quilt of Valor, to thank a soldier for serving our country, could buy groceries instead. That’s true, but a handmade quilt is a gift of love and appreciation from giver to receiver, even if I never meet the owner.
As I’m working on a project for a stranger, I’m thinking good thoughts for that person, hoping for their happiness and healing, thanking heaven for my own good fortune and praying for better times for us all. I benefit as much as the future quilt owner.
HAPPY TO GIVE
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Yes, I could find space to quilt when I lived in a small New York City apartment. Space was cleared for cutting, sewing and arranging blocks on the floor. I stored finished quilts under the bed, behind the sofa, behind the chest of drawers, scrunched into the topmost spaces in closets and hanging on the walls.
Friends of my daughter, who live in Cape Cod, asked to stay in my apartment while I was away on vacation. “Yes,” I said, “on the condition that you please take a stack of quilts to my daughter’s house.” She would store them in her attic and I had empty spaces to fill again.
A child-size charity quilt is a membership requirement of the Empire Quilters. But most of my quilts were larger. My space began to fill again. Then the disaster called Katrina occurred. Our guild told us where we could send quilts. I sent two full-sized quilts. I remembered the quilts in Cape Cod and called my daughter. I gave her the address and said I would pay for her to send any of the ones in her attic.
About a week later my daughter told me she had discovered that many Katrina victims had been taken to the Air Force base on Cape Cod. Churches were asking people to contribute anything possible to them. “So I didn’t have to mail them, I just took them.” She said.
“Good, which ones?” I asked
“All of them.” She said.
Stunned for a moment – all of my quilts? Then I thought, of course! We didn’t need them and others did. I was glad I raised a daughter who was more generous than I might have been.
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