“We stitch together quilts of meaning to keep us warm and safe, with whatever patches of beauty and utility we have on hand.” Anne Lamont, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair
If you’re a quilter, chances are, you’ve made and gifted a quilt to someone you love. Maybe it was the desire to make a quilt for a friend or family member that started you quilting in the first place. Maybe your love of quilting began when a quilt was gifted to you.
Because of how personal an expression of love it is, there is a power in the gifted handmade quilt. Quilts keep us warm in the cold, provide comfort to the weary, and can be like a hug as we wrap it around ourselves.
In the winter of 2014, Susan Lighthouse and a couple of her friends were looking for a holiday service project they could perform for someone in need. What they found was The Baby Tuck Shop--a service St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada provides to families living on a low-income and receiving obstetrics care at the hospital. The Baby Tuck Shop offers more than 200 families every year the basic necessities that accompany the arrival of a newborn.
That first Christmas Susan and her friends donated just two baby quilts to the shop. Amanda Hignell, the social worker who runs the Baby Tuck Shop, mentioned to Susan and her friend how much families prefer getting homemade items for their newborns and that the families who received the quilts were very excited about them.
Encouraged, Susan and her friends expanded their quiltmaking donations. In 2019 they donated 50 baby quilts to The Baby Tuck Shop.
Susan says about her experience donating quilts, “I know there are plenty of groups like ours making quilts for a variety of good purposes. I write this to encourage others to explore possibilities in their communities. Our quilting squad fell into this project but it has served so many ends for us and others--beginning with giving a small but mighty leg up to many newborns. Along the way, we have cemented friendships and reflected on the many ways we can promote a more equitable world. The message is a simple one--our little enterprise is easily replicable in any community and useful in all.”
The pandemic has cloistered us in our homes and limited our ability to connect with others. It’s easy in times like this to feel isolated and alone, hopeless, and even desperate. It’s also in times like this, where we can find meaning in looking for ways to reach out and help others. Though it seems difficult during quarantine and social distancing, a quilt can give love from a distance.
There are numerous service opportunities available to quilters who are willing to devote some time to sewing for someone else. Some of these opportunities are long-distance ones, some of them can be found locally, and others may be directed to family members or friends in need of little extra love. We encourage those looking for a lift during these difficult times to find a way to reach out to others with your sewing skills. Not only will you be helping someone else, but we suspect that your service will bolster your own spirits.
You can learn more about Susan Lightstone and her experience making quilts for financially-strapped families by reading her article, ‘The Gift of Quilts ’ in Curated Quilts, Issue No 8: ‘Well Said’. Digital and hard copies and are now available.
Susan Lightstone is a lawyer by training, a writer by calling, a sister by chance, a mother by choice, and a quilter by birth. Susan began quilting with her grandmother who sat her under the quilt frame and gave her the task of passing up the needles that were dropped.
By Brittany Bowen Burton