Each month Allison Evans profiles sewists and organizations in our Sew Good series, featuring people who make the world a better place– stitch by stitch.

Allison is an art historian, home with her sweet toddler (#drbabygreta) in the days and quilting by night. Allison is on Instagram (@phdstitchery), and she’s always on the lookout for groups who might be a good fit for the series. If you know of any groups in your area (in your local or online community) email Allison: phdstitchery @ gmail.com.

Allison’s first profile featured Rachael Dorr and Quilting a Memory. This month she runs through tips for how sewing guilds can become more involved in charity sewing, with a focus on the Portland Modern Quilt Guild. (Later this month she’ll fill you in on how individuals can become more involved, even if you’re not a sewing group member.)

So your guild wants to become more involved in charity sewing. Great! Where do you start? As part of the leadership team for the Columbus Modern Quilters, and as someone for whom community involvement has long been important, I’ve been asking myself this question a lot lately. This installment of the Sew Good series looks at ways guilds can get involved with their communities and give back. (Not part of a guild? Don’t worry! My next article will look at ways for individual sewists to get involved.) The Portland Modern Quilt Guild is well known for their charity sewing so I decided to start with them.

PMQG Sew Day at Modern Domestic

Cath Hall, two year chair of the guild’s charity sewing, writes, “We have three to four charities a year that we supply quilts to. This year the charities have been Project Linus, Camp Erin, a local camp for kids who have lost a loved one, and Impact NW, specifically with their at risk Seniors division. We also supplied a quilt to Raphael House, a women’s shelter, that was auctioned off last month to raise money for their program.”

This sounds like a nice amount of giving, right? As I found out, Cath has humbly described what is actually a huge coordinated guild effort to create and donate almost 75 quilts so far this year. (A current total for 2015: The PMQG has donated 45 quilts of different sizes to Project Linus, many of which are made by members in their own time at home, 14 bed-sized quilts to Camp Erin, 14 quilts to Impact NW– though this number will continue to rise as Cath is still receiving member donations for this group– and one queen sized quilt to Raphael House.) They’ve certainly given me a lot to strive for with my own guild. When you’re getting started with charity groups, Cath suggests not making promises you can’t keep (we’ll make you 200 queen-sized quilts this year!) Instead, start small and hope to far surpass your modest expectations.

Quilt Donated by PMQG

Deciding on a Non-Profit + Organizing Your Calendar
The Board of the PMQG typically decides which charities the guild will focus on for the coming year, and then they usually try to invite representatives from the chosen groups to come and speak to the guild. This helps members better understand who they’re making quilts for and the types of quilts that might be the most useful. It also helps members feel connected to the people they’re donating their time, labor,and love to in the form of quilts. The guild’s charity calendar is usually broken into trimesters, and each of the chosen charities for that year is the focus for four months. They typically try to make sure at least one of the chosen groups is not specifically child-related (such as this year’s Impact NW). Some groups, like Camp Erin, have become more regular recipients of the quilts, while others vary year to year.

Sorting Scraps at a PMQG Sew Day at Modern Domestic

Charity Sew Days
Interested guild members then meet at monthly Charity Sew Days, where members make blocks that are then made into tops and taken home to be quilted by various long armers in the guild or, for smaller tops, quilted on domestic machines by guild members. This year, anywhere between four and twenty-eight members showed up at the different Sew Days. Cath estimates those people, in combination with the quilters working at home on their own to sew blocks or completed tops or quilts, total around seventy contributors. Space and machines are provided for the Sew Days by Modern Domestic in Portland. Ten to twelve quilts tops are made each year through the Charity Sew Days alone. To help make sure more tops are turned into completed tops quickly, the PMQG uses funds raised through raffles, etc., to supply batting and backings to the people doing the quilting.

Along with the space and use of sewing machines donated by Modern Domestic, the PMQG relies heavily on member donations to make their charity quilts. Orphan blocks, unwanted quilt tops, extra backing/batting, thread, fabric and notions are all collected throughout the year to be used for charity quilts.

Another Beautiful Quilt, Donated by PMQG

Along with supplies and time and space, a guild also needs a motivated leader or leaders to find groups– either on a local or national level, or both– that might benefit from quilt donations. Leaders need to rally members to enthusiastically use personal free time for charity sewing (though I hear this is aided by free cookies at the PMQG’s charity days), and to keep to a schedule of production so things actually get done. Squeezing in extra sewing is tough sometimes, but it’s helpful to try to find ways that members at all levels (both time- and skill-wise) can be involved. My local guild has discussed the idea of changing our block raffles a bit so that participating members make two of the same block for each raffle, one for the winner to take home, and one to be use in a charity quilt.

More on Getting Started
If you’re unsure of how your guild’s charity sewing can make an impact, or are unsure of how to choose a group or groups to focus on, find groups that have a strong community presence. You can search for groups that support frequently overlooked or underserved individuals in your community. National organizations such as Project Linus are also great ways to get started and because the larger groups often cover such broad geographic areas, chances are your guild can help meet a region’s needs. Additionally, these groups will often take smaller quilts, which are both easier and faster to make than bed-sized quilts; this means more members can be involved. If members are concerned about completing bed-sized quilts on their own because of time or skill constraints, sew-ins like the PMQG’s Sew Days are a great way to tackle larger tops.

And Again!… Quilt Donated by PMQG

If you’d like to get started making quilts to donate, ask questions, contact other guilds to see what they’re doing and how they got started, sit down as a group and discuss who you’re interested in helping. Then you just need to get to work sewing!

Our Sew Good series is sponsored by Riley Blake Designs, a manufacturer of high quality cotton, organic cotton, flannel, knits, laminate cotton, minky and sparkle cotton fabrics. Their fabrics are primary used in the quilting, clothing and home decor industries. They have teamed up with talented artists to bring you beautiful and unique designs, that will inspire you and your love of fabric.

Riley Blake Designs seeks to inspire and connect creative minds with innovative and high-quality products.

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