A boxful of 2 1/2" strips is cut and pressed and ready to stitch!
Usually we gather at the local Senior Center that kindly lets us use a room for our bi-weekly sew-in. Today though we are headed for the skilled nursing unit of a local retirement community. My mother lived in that community for 10 years, the last year of which was unfortunately in the nursing unit. She taught me to sew and encouraged my career as a quilt maker. The gals my group knew her well from working with her in my shop and she often joined us -- she was a tireless worked! So we started to visit the skilled nursing unit with our sewing machines and a pile of fabric every other month to give the residents a chance to "sew" again.
After several attempts to find a quilt pattern that was easy to work on with their help, we finally settled on Bonnie Hunter's Scrappy Bargello. And what a roaring success it has been! We arrive with sewing machines and a pile of 2 1/2" by 18" strips and set up a pressing station. When the residents join us, they sit across the tables from us and choose pairs of strips for us to sew together. The great thing about this pattern is that the results are always a cheerful surprise -- all this unwanted fabric we are given becomes part of wonderful quilts.
This is one of the tops that came out of a previous session. It was a bit skinny with just 3 panels and we didn't have a 4th panel at the time, so we set it together with bands of a large scale multi-color print and I think it looks great! (It's twin size, more or less).
Working with the women has added a new dimension to our "charity" project. Not only are we creating quilts to warm someone physically and emotionally, but we are also providing a group of women at the end of their lives with an opportunity to connect with their memories.
Jean managed a sewing factory for many years and she loves the feel of fabric in her hands. She coos over every strip she picks up and recalls the sewing she has done over the years.
June was a well-known local artist and I babysat for her as a teenager and today she recognizes no one. But as she selects strips from the piles, she talks with herself about "contrast" and color combinations just as any artist would.
Ruth's focus was to get as much done as possible and the speed with which she picked out pairs of strips for us to stitch was so fast, it took two of us to keep up with her.
Sue usually sits close to me while I man the ironing station. Once I've pressed the seams, she organizes them into groups that we'll sew into the finished strips sets.
There is lots conversation back and forth about what we will do with the strips -- "make quilts" -- and where the quilts will go -- "we donate them".
We all leave exhausted but feeling good about spending the afternoon sharing our enjoyment of piecing with these women who have had to give up so much.
When we return in a couple months, we take the quilts back to show them what they helped us accomplish. This ministry of ours has been blessed by this opportunity. If you have interested in trying something like this in your community, I would be happy to share what we have found works best. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Time to pack the car!! But when I get home, I'll be heading over the to the WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced -- it's so much fun to see what other quilters are doing especially when I'm feeling a bit snow/cold bound!!