Charity Quilts: Bringing Light to Darkness

For lots of us, Show and Tell is the best part of our quilt guild meetings. I adore seeing what people are working on and hearing the sometimes funny, often touching stories behind their creations. But one portion of Show and Tell that never fails to amaze me is when the “service quilts” are held high: the freely given hours of incredible workmanship always knocks my socks off.

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Detail of a quilt made by Moda staff members for newborns whose parents were lost on 9/11.

Whether you call them charity quilts, service quilts, or by some other name, it’s obvious that quilters love to share their stitching skills. When I interview people I hear time and again that there’s a different feeling to this industry than in many others: the generosity of quilters is well-established and includes help given to local, regional, national, and international causes.

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Old Capitol Quilt Guild members with quilts stitched for a local Habitat for Humanity house.

On a local level, many guilds and individuals make quilts for children’s hospitals, domestic violence shelters, and other organizations or help raise funds by supplying quilts for raffles. Several members of my guild recently made quilts for members of a family moving into a new Habitat for Humanity home. They personalized them by giving the daughters quilts in their favorite colors and stitching the son’s quilts with soccer motifs.

On a regional level, quilters frequently step in during times of natural disaster—they’ve come together to create quilts for victims of floods, earthquakes, fires, and tornadoes. Quilters bring solace internationally, as well—the Quilts for Japan movement, for example, sent quilts to victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Some of the best known organizations that distribute quilts to those in need include Project Linus, Quilts of Valor, and Quilts for Kids. Charitable sewing is not just about quilts, either: American Patchwork and Quilting’s 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge has delivered more than 650,000 pillowcases to children and families in need, and Days for Girls provides washable, reusable feminine hygiene products to women and girls worldwide.

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Label on a quilt made by Moda staff for “9/11 babies.”

In addition to Moda’s Howard Marcus fabrics benefitting a variety of causes (here, here, and here, for example), United Notions/Moda staff members have sewn charity quilts, including after 9/11. Touched by an article in People magazine about the women who had or were having babies and had lost husbands or partners in the attacks, staff members stitched quilts for all those babies.

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One of the quilts made by Moda staff members for babies whose parents were lost on 9/11.

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As quilters, we well know that feeling of covering someone near and dear with a quilt that represents our care and love. But why do quilters do the same for people they don’t even know? To be honest, there’s some selfishness involved—we get to have fun, sewing with friends, playing with fabric, and maybe even making a dent in our stash. But the real payback is the letting recipients know they’re not alone, that someone cares enough to share her time and talents, and to bring a ray of light in a time of darkness.

Do you quilt or sew for charity? Please share your story in the comment section—we’d love to hear from you.

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22 comments on “Charity Quilts: Bringing Light to Darkness

  1. Pat Francis says:

    I make quilt tops for Quilts for Compassion. These quilts are donated to victims of tornado and recently the South Carolina floods. I make the tops and send them to a woman in NC who does the longarm quilting and then they are passed on to a group of women who do the bindings. I also have made several Quilts of Valor for family and friends who are in the military.

  2. Lori Broadway says:

    I am a member of a group of about 10 ladies from a small, local country church in southern Alabama. We make lap quilts for the sick, the elderly, or homebound people in our area (or outside if we have information about it!). This ministry was started about 5 years ago and to date we have made approximately 70 lap quilts.

  3. Mary Andra says:

    Fabulous posting. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Lorraine Bujnowski says:

    I belong to a quilt guild In southeastern PA. We have a very active community service committee in our guild. Members of the guild make about 15 quilts a year for a bereavement camp for children which is part of Project Linus. We have also made quilts for a local hospice, veterans quilts and have sent quilts to hurricane and tornado victims. Other projects include placemats for Meals on Wheels, preemie quilts for a local hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit and pillowcases for the pediatric unit at the hospital.

  5. I have made quilts for local fund raisings … a husband and father who had ALS was honored with a golf tournament, and I made two raffle lap quilts with a golf theme … a child was diagnosed with Juvenile diabetes, and his family and friends ran a fund raising race/dinner each year, and I donated a tartan lap quilt each year. I belong to a regional quilt guild and helped to make quilts for the families in a sheltered home each year, and recently I responded to a call for quilts for families who lost everything in the Idaho wildfires this summer. I have also started an unofficial quilt of valor group involving seven local quilters to provide quilts to our town’s military families. Though I don’t have a count, I would estimate I’ve made and given or donated more than fifty quilts over the past forty years, including family and friends’ gifts. I began quilting in 1973 with my daughter’s first quilt.

  6. Mama Pris Phillips says:

    I am the coordinator for providing quilts used in our local NICU, called Wee Ones Quilts. I have several wonderful quilters joining me as well as a couple women who work at the local quilt shop. Our goal is to provide around 20 large quilts (60×60″) for the new NICU wing of Kootenai Medical Center, in CdA, Idaho by late Feb 2016. These large quilts will stay in the NICU and be used to cover the big isolettes the sickest (and smallest) babies will use. Additionally, we plan to provide smaller baby quilts ongoing, to be gifted for the families to take home. Many of these babies are born into impoverished or emotionally difficult circumstances, and our quilt may be the nicest (or only) gift they receive. For that reason, we are making quilts from the best quality fabric, in bright modern contemporary fabrics! We want these babies to receive our very best! I am passionate about this project. I’ve delivered 3 of the large quilts already and 3 “take home” quilts as well. I just wanted to make quilts for sick babies… didn’t know I’d end up coordinating the effort! But it’s just come together beautifully!

    I also made a large red & white quilt that was gifted to a stranger in Moore, Oklahoma. This lady is a minister’s wife who lost both her home and their church in the tornado a few years ago. I learned about her through a mutual acquaintance. It took me over a year to finish the quilt. By the time she received her gift her home had been rebuilt and the church as well. It was very fun to surprise a stranger!!

  7. VICKI WAYNE says:

    In 2014, I had an inspired idea to make a quilt and raffle it with proceeds benefiting local Tampa Bay domestic violence shelters and The Mary Kay Foundation.

    My mom & I started worked on the quilting project — the first charity quilt project for both of us.

    It was special to us because we got to spend time together and the proceeds would be going to a cause dear to our hearts.

    Our goal is to raise $10,000.

    To learn more about the “LOVE MORE PROJECT” and see the finished quilt, visit our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LoveMoreProject/.

  8. Gisela Suski says:

    I do charity quilts for my local church and it is such a joy for me. Since I have been doing this mission I have involved Seniors to help and they have been so dedicated that I can’t miss a day. I have met so many wonderful people and donations of batting and fabric keep me busy.

  9. Mary says:

    I’m involved in making quilts for Siblings Together a charity who help siblings separated by the care system have contact with each other, helping them to develop strong family bonds and above all achieve an independent and positive place in society supported by their sibling relationships. This year we made approx 150 quilts so that children attending summer camps can take one home along with new memories made from spending time with their siblings. Moda have very kindly sponsored this effort in the past with FQ bundles and for this we are so grateful. We know that the quilts have a great effect on the children who are amazed that someone would make one for them.

  10. Marianne says:

    I just made 6 quilts to donate to the Quilts for Kids organization and am halfway through my 7th. It’s satisfying because the quilts finish up quickly and I finally get to use my novelty fabrics.

  11. Karen says:

    I make lots of prayer quilts for friends, family, and strangers who are going through serious illnesses. The quilts have ties on them so people can tie a knot and say a prayer for receiver of the quilt. I also make bags for Beads of Courage. The bags are to keep their beads in. It is an amazing program for serious ill children. Check it out beadsofcourage.org.

  12. 3leggedquilter says:

    I remember way back when 9/11 happened. a whole bunch of us on Alex Anderson’s board got together and made quilts for the families, the firemen, the Pentagon, Mayor Rudy Guiliani, and the White House. That was the beginning.

    Since then quilts have been made for the victims of fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and other disasters across the US.
    many of us are still donating quilts to comfort others who need a warm hug in their time of trouble or grief.

    I can’t count how many quilts i’ve made and sent out over the years but i have sent out many, and my stash of finished quilts is more of a remembrance list than a stash these days.

    it feels good to know that little by little we are warming and comforting the US one quilt at a time.

    pam (“the red egghead”)

  13. Jan O says:

    I have a personal lifetime goal of 100 quilts for kids. I’m up to 26 so far, so I guess I’ll be making quilts ’til I’m well into my 80’s. This year’s donations can be seen here: http://thecolorfulfabriholic.blogspot.com/2015/11/quilts-for-kids.html

  14. Chris Johnson says:

    Our church makes quilts for kids in a nearby school. Many of the students are immigrants with many challenges learning to live in a wildly different country from the one they where their parents or they were born. The school rewards 24 Top Dogs in each quarter for achieving goals, both personal and academic. They each get to choose a handmade quilt personalized with a label we designed. We are well-rewarded by pictures of smiling kids holding their quilts. We have a lot of fun finding kid-friendly fabrics and experimenting with new designs. Making quilts is too wonderful to store them in a closet!

  15. Laura Valdez says:

    The guild I belong to just recently finished making 180 pillowcases to give to the children displaced by the tornado that hit our small town June 22, 2015. Pieces From The Heart Quilt Guild is also making Quilts for Kids. Our next charity project will be stockings for a local organization, Operation St. Nick. They help families in our county in times of need get through the holidays. Last year we donated 160 stockings. We are a small guild, but mighty.

  16. Jeanne says:

    I am the recipient of a quilt made by a guild as a charity quilt. I had a preemie baby that had a lot of problems when she was born. The quilt was dropped off at the NICU. We didn’t know the people who made the quilt, but we were very touched by the gesture. My baby is turning 11 and is now healthy & strong. She still has her tiny quilt and we love it so much!

    Thank you to all of you who make the quilts & donate them. They are cherished!

    • Linzee McCray says:

      It’s been so inspiring to read the comments from these amazing quilters who are stitching for others, but it’s especially wonderful to hear from someone who received and thoroughly appreciates a charity quilt. Thank you so much for sharing your story! And so wonderful to hear about your healthy 11-year-old!

  17. Our local quilt group makes quilts for the baby welcome wagon, this means that every baby between here and mile 56 that is born to a resident in this area gets a quilt as part of the infant learning program that is available to them. We also have quilts in reserve for major emergency situations such as house fires etc that are given to those in need during tough situations. We also will take requests for someone in need when it is brought to the group to do something to help people in need.

    This year we also did a lot to support the local fire departments with raising money to help with money for training and equipment that is needed for the volunteers.

  18. LindaMac says:

    Our quilt guild makes quilts for local veterans and their families. This is an on-going project. The quilts are beautiful and each is different – no two alike.

  19. Janet Kraus says:

    I am the charity co-chair of the Night Owls, a chapter of the Arizona Quilters Guild. Our primary charity is the City of Phoenix Family Advocacy Center, which supports victims of crime such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, elder abuse, homicide, etc. The quilts are there to comfort the victims when they come in to speak to the police and social workers about what they just experienced. They continue to receive that comfort as they prepare for trial and transition to a new life. Sometimes the quilts go to domestic violence shelters or other social services.
    Last year our particular chapter with about 85-90 members donated over 325 quilts to this organization. We made a special effort to make sure there were quilts on hand for victims of human trafficking that might have been in Phoenix for the Super Bowl.

  20. Liz Dickson says:

    Liz I belong to a group called “Love Thy Baby” in the Dallas, Tx area. We make quilts as well as bibs, burp cloths, diaper shirts, receiving blankets, hats and booties for babies born in poverty or with illnesses at the county hospital, Parkland. We meet once a week on Thurs. to sew in a church gym and once a month on Saturdays to make the packets to take to Parkland the following Monday. We have a great time and donate hundreds of quilts as well as other items a year.

  21. monkeyneedle says:

    I love to make charity quilts. I have made quilts for children in hospitals, children in foster care, and women batteling breast cancer. I’ve also made pillowcases for local children’s hospital, dresses for girls in Haiti orphanage, and crocheted hats for children in China orphanage. I wish I could do more, but I do love giving when I can.

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