Thursday, April 25, 2013

Calling all quilters! QuiltWest for First Responders' Families

A few days ago, our nation felt the impact of two devastating events.  For the families at the heart of the devastation, the whole of their lives changed dramatically in a matter of seconds.  Particularly touching to me was the tremendous loss in West, Texas, with 10 first responders among the fallen.

I wanted to help, but what do you do for someone who's lost so much?

In my family, quilts represent warmth, sure, and love, that's a given.  But they also mean other, more subtle things.  When I asked my mother's mother about the legacy of quilts she'd left littered across our family through her life, she told me that she started cobbling together scrap quilts early in her marriage to keep her eight children from freezing to death.  Later in life, she made big beautiful quilts from vibrant fabrics because she said she never wanted anyone she loved to be cold or poor again.

Her quilts -- like the lines on her face -- carried the tender but proud soul of survivorship...and that's what I want to give to the people of West who lost their real, live heroes that day.

Ten first responders.  Ten families.  Ten quilts.  The first quilt top (below), in memory of Emergency Medical Technician Kevin Sanders, is already complete.  (I grew up the daughter of a paramedic, and couldn't wait to put something together in blue and white to represent the emergency medical services' Star of Life.)

I knew immediately that I couldn't do this alone.  Surely, I thought, out there in the sewing and quilting universe, enough quilters are willing to put in a few hours to accomplish nine more quilts for the families of firefighters lost that day.  I reached out to people I know in my church, the local sewing community, friends all across the map and even some of my contacts through the blogging community on the internet.  We've been blessed so richly with people interested in helping, but we need more!

Here's what you need to know if you'd like to help:  

- First, let me know!  Please comment below and send me an email to  We need piecers, machine quilters, binders, companies willing to discount or donate the fabric and supplies.

 - Fabric:  Sweetwater's Mama Said Sew jelly roll (pictured at the top) available from shops that carry Moda precuts is _perfect_ for this project with its reds, blacks, grays and whites.

Sheri at the fabulous Sewing Center Around the Block in Fort Walton, Florida, has graciously offered to give a 15% discount to anyone purchasing this jelly roll if they mention Olivia and that they're helping with QuiltWest.

- Backing and Binding FabricEach quilt will use approximately 3 1/4 yds of backing fabric, and 1/2 yd for binding.  I'm trying to work a donation of backing fabric -- more on that later.  But until then, if possible, please purchase and provide these along with your quilt top.  Backing should be at least 5 inches larger on all sides than the quilt top.  That makes it large enough to mount on a long arm frame and leave room to quilt all the way to the edges.

Donna and Vicki at the wonderful Lynn's Sewing Center in Fort Walton, Florida have graciously offered to help bind the completed quilts!

This isn't hard and fast, but if possible, please use 100% cotton thread for piecing and quilting.  (This is the ideal, but don't let it deter you if you're stranded in the desert and have to use a blended thread.)

- Quilt "Block":  Few techniques out there combine simple, quick and gorgeous like the Jelly Roll Race.  It's not a block.  It's simple, stylized strip piecing.  If you're not already familiar, for now, take a look at this tutorial.  Anybody who can sew a straight line can put together a quilt top in a day, easily.  (Mine went together in about two hours, even with interruptions.)

- Machine Quilting I'm willing to donate my time to long arm quilt several quilts.  Sheri has lovingly offered to quilt one as well.  Please, please...this is a more specialized skill.  We need machine quilters!

- HelpersThere are lots of moving parts.  If you'd be willing to be a point of contact for supplies, machine quilting, binding or shipping quilts, please let me know.

- Timeline:  Quilt tops and backing should be completed by May 20th.  As machine quilters come forward, I can let you know where to ship your quilt for quilting.  Even better if you can talk a local longarm quilter into donating time for your one quilt!  (It never hurts to ask...  You might be amazed by how willing and eager people are to help.)

- Borders, Embellishments and Labels:  If you'd like to put borders on your quilt top or do anything more complicated, be my guest.  The choices presented here should make the project easy and quick, but by all means, infuse your own joie de vivre!

- Expenses:  If you don't sew and want to help, drop me a line anyway.  In addition to the jelly roll,
each quilt will need batting, backing fabric and binding fabric.  From start to finish, each quilt costs approximately $100 in supplies.  Many of the people willing to sew don't have the money to purchase all the supplies, so if you're willing to "fund a quilt," please let me know.

So let's start small and see where this leads...

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If you're feeling extra energetic, go wild!  I couldn't find anyone else doing this when I first decided to, but since then, I've come across Judy from Patchwork Times, who is also accepting quilts for West, Texas.  You can check out her post here. :)