As the Modern Quilt Guild and hundreds of years of quilting history remind us, quilt guilds have a philanthropic streak. Quiltmaking is naturally a generous undertaking, right? We make these blankets ultimately to comfort and warm our friends, our communities, our families, and ourselves.
I am on the Outreach Committee of my local quilt guild. Our committee’s mission is to spread the appreciation of quilting throughout the metro Denver area, both in process and in product. We have donated (and are in the process of donating) several quilts to charities. It’s been a great experience, both as a “guild builder” and as an opportunity to do good in the world.
If you or your guild are interested in making quilts for charities, there are a few general guidelines that are good to follow or at least keep in mind. Here are some best practices for philanthropic stitching:
Know your audience.
Having a good understanding, if possible, of who will be receiving your quilts is key to making quilts they will love. One of our recipients is our county victim services unit; the quilts go out on ambulances and fire trucks to comfort and wrap around people who have been affected by tragic events. Knowing this, we decided to make two small throw-size quilts with our blocks rather than one large one. And another organization needed a twin-size quilt for a small child, so we made one from children’s fabric. If the organization is calling for quilts, they will likely specify what they need. It’s always a good idea to listen.
Don’t spread yourself too thin.
There is so much pain and need in the world that it’s tempting to want to make quilts for everyone. But try to limit your philanthropic endeavors to what you know you can deliver; it’s easy to sign up and then not be able to finish a project in time due to other constraints. A few well-intentioned, mindfully given projects per year will keep you and/or your guild from becoming overwhelmed. Remember: it’s supposed to be fun. Quilting and sewing are joyful endeavors, and we as creators and guild-members should be spreading that sentiment through our work. Don’t give so much that you can’t do it with a happy heart.
Give your best…
This might rustle a few feathers (as I do from time to time), but charity recipients are no less entitled to a quilt that will last. Giving generously should be just that: being generous with the quality of your work and your materials. Too often in “charitable” giving, there is the tendency to think that people should be happy with our
cast offs of sub-par quality crap. It’s the same blindness that puts stained and torn clothing in the donation bin at Goodwill. That’s not generosity; it’s throwing your junk at other people. So if you feel tempted to rush the quilting or binding of your project because “it’s just for charity,” think again. And if the leftover fabric you have feels cheap or ugly to you, you probably shouldn’t use it in a quilt for another human person. It negates the purpose. Just sayin’.
…but use charity as space for experimentation.
You likely don’t know exactly who your recipient will be, but chances are they will appreciate having a well-made quilt of any design. Why not use the charity process as an opportunity to experiment with new styles? Our two small throw quilts arose out of a “quilt outside your comfort zone” challenge, where we each pieced a block using a new, challenging technique. It was motivation for us to do our best, and it was a great opportunity to try something new.
What suggestions do you have for quilting for charity? What has been your favorite donation (either given or received) so far?