Allison Evans inspires us by sharing examples of sewists sharing their passions with others through charity sewing projects. We look forward to reading these up-close accounts each month! When things feel overwhelming, or bad news fills the day, it’s so nice to think of all the love out there. We hope you enjoy the series too. You can find Allison on Instagram at @phdstitchery.
You can find all of the Sew Good posts here.
This month’s Sew Good article looks at a current charity sewing effort within the quilting community, and traces the path of one person’s inklings of wanting to be involved from idea to finished project. I hope that this look at how one quilter was able to take on a project despite being a fairly new quilter will inspire others to tackle a project they’ve been thinking about but were unsure of because our world needs more love.
Pulse. Orlando. We know what those words mean together. Following the horrific shooting in June of 2016, quilters at large pulled together to do what they do when it feels like you can’t do anything—make quilts and hope that they might bring some comfort. The Orlando Modern Quilt Guild rapidly issued a call for quilt blocks in bright rainbow colors using a simple heart pattern that could be made by both advanced and beginner quilters (see their post here).
Their goal was to give quilts to the victims’ families, other people present at the club that night, and first responders. And the response was huge. Lorna Woods, a self-describe neophyte quilter from Ohio, kept reading blog posts about quilters making blocks to send to the guild, and started to wonder if it might be tough for them to deal with the logistics of assembling all those blocks into finished quilts. While on a roadtrip, Woods’s aha! moment struck: collect blocks on her own and finish them into a quilt. She knew her contribution would be small on the grand scale of the guild’s call for help, she says, “Although I may only impact one or two families, it is powerful to them to see the outpouring of support. Reassuring in a way…there are good and caring people in this sewing community who put our hearts into our sewing.”
For anyone who wants to do “something” but knows they need the help of others, Woods’s next step is one to learn from: tap into your resources. She was wary of completing an entire quilt on her own, so she turned to OHcraft, a community of sewing and crafty-minded people primarily from the Ohio/Kentucky/Indiana area. The group has an active facebook community and Woods hoped that her request for blocks that she could then assemble into tops might draw a few responses. She got 24 almost immediately. 24 might not seem like a lot, but for Woods, it was 24 people saying, we like your idea and we want to help. It was 24 people saying, we are so angry and sad and hurting, we want to do something.
She received offers to quilt the finished tops, others wanted to help with binding, someone offered to buy labels with the group’s name, another non-sewing friend offered to purchase batting so she could still contribute in some way. Some people contributed one or two blocks, others five or six, some a whole rainbow of heart blocks. She was hoping for donated blocks, but the offers of help pleasantly surprised Woods. “I’m a person that will easily say, ‘no, that’s okay, I’ll do it. I’ll take care of it,” she says. “In this project, I’ve had to say yes, and that’s a good thing.”
Projects like this one, taken on as a response to something we can’t understand, even though they feel like they aren’t “enough,” remind us that there is a sewing community out there, made up of good and caring people. Whether it be online, at a guild, a coffee shop, or in your living room, if you’re reading this in cyberspace and thinking, I’m just out here on my own sewing, find your community! Some of the responses Woods got, motivated her to see the project through to completion. One OHcraft member, Kara Sanders, commented, “I haven’t felt like sewing in months, but when Lorna put out the call for blocks for Orlando, I knew my fast would soon be broken.”
Working on this type of project at home allowed Woods to involve her daughters. As colorful blocks arrived in the mail, they loved arranging them into rainbow layouts. Her 10 year old, she says, “is at the age where she sees the news (she says ‘it’s all bad news’) and understands what is happening in the world. I try to shield her from what I can, maybe to a fault.” Her daughters will grow up with the idea that we are able to contribute in some way, no matter how small, even in truly horrible circumstances.
As a fairly new quilter, Woods wasn’t quite sure what she had gotten herself into by taking on the task of sewing multiple quilts from blocks to binding. Having only ever basted one large quilt before, she jokes that before dropping off one of the completed tops with Dana Kuhnline, who volunteered to do some of the quilting, she confessed her neophyte status, asked if she should baste it first, and was relieved when Kuhnline was happy to do it. Kuhnline’s advice, though, stuck with Woods: “That’s how you learn, by getting in over your head.”
What also stuck with Woods was the volunteers’ willingness to give. Even though these were quilts being donated to people none of them had ever met, it didn’t seem to matter. People used their “good stuff” (as Woods says, “quilters will understand what I mean.”)
Even some of the iconic and sought after IKEA Britten Nummer fabric was donated for backing. And the small touches also stood out to Woods. People weren’t just sending pretty heart blocks that were quick and easy to sew.
So much of the work was intentional—Ellen McKee, one of the quilters, longarmed hearts and a “love is love” message across a quilt; a tiny rainbow appeared in the binding from Heidi Rice; Joanna Martinez sent rainbow blocks in addition to the single color ones Woods had asked for.
What started in Woods’s mind as making “charity” quilts in response to an event that horrified her, turned into what she says are perhaps better described as “comfort” quilts. Such a small gesture that might bring some comfort and remind even just one or two families that they are not forgotten. Thanks to the Orlando MQG, the effort has grown far beyond one or two families, and hundreds of quilts have been completed with love.
Anyone interested in contributing blocks can find Lorna on Instagram (@bylorna) or on her blog.