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.
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.
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.
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.
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.