Saturday, November 27, 2010

How it all started.....

Hi, all!
Several of you have asked about how our quilt ministry began, and after checking with the parties involved to be sure they didn’t mind me posting about it on my blog, I’m ready to tell.  Today is our one-year anniversary, so it seems appropriate!  It’s a good story, but a little long, so grab a cup of coffee and settle in.......
When I was leading a Beth Moore study group at church in the spring of 2009, a couple of the young women in the group were talking before class about how much they wished they had learned how to sew, so that they could sew for their daughters.  Overhearing their conversation, I asked if they would come to a Saturday sewing group if we set one up through church, and they said they would.  So in August, we started a once-a-month sewing group to learn basic sewing.  Another group started on Wednesday nights, also teaching basics.  Between the two classes, we had about 20 people learning how to sew, led by about four of us who were experienced, mostly in making clothing.  We taught them how to make purses, simple children’s dresses, and other easy projects.

Last November, Kelley, the wife of our youth minister, was told she had an abnormal PAP smear, and they wanted to check it again.  On the Monday before Thanksgiving, Kelley was told that she had cervical cancer and needed to have a total hysterectomy.  The results from her tests came back on Wednesday, confirming a rare and agressive form of cancer, and her surgery was scheduled for the Monday following Thanksgiving weekend.  One of the other pastors’ wives and I spoke on Wednesday, wanting to do something for Kelley, but not knowing exactly what to do.  Being involved with the youth, Kelley didn’t spend a lot of time with the other women at church, so we didn’t know her very well.  We both agreed that we ought to do something, and that we would think about it and talk later.
Cut to Thanksgiving morning, 5 a.m.  The house is quiet - dogs and husband still asleep.  I’ve put my turkey in the oven and I settle down at my sewing table to cut out the pieces for a quilt I want to make for my granddaughter for Christmas.  (This would be the first quilt I’d made in about 25 years, and only about the fifth ever!)  
Now it gets a little strange, and is certainly indicative of the sense of humor God endowed me with......   As I’m sitting there working, I hear, “Make Kelley a quilt.”  (I say “hear” but no, I’m not hearing voices, it’s just the easiest way to describe it!  I thought it was just a wild idea that popped in my head...)  And I snorted, thinking yeah, right, there’s no time to make Kelley a quilt!  A few minutes later, I hear again, “Make Kelley a quilt.”  OK, this is getting weird now - obviously this is a little more than just a wild idea that I’m coming up with - but I think again that there’s no way I can get one done before she goes in the hospital in five days.  
You would think that would be the end of it, wouldn’t you?  But no!  The next thing I hear is “Get your friends to help you!”  (And now you see why I told you about starting our sewing classes.   If we hadn’t started those classes, there wouldn’t have been anyone to call on!)  OK, that’s maybe possible - but it’s still a wild idea.  And it’s Thanksgiving weekend - who’s going to give up any of their holiday time on the biggest shopping weekend of the year to come and sew?  And you know what I heard then?  “If you feed them, they will come!”  (I told you God gave me a weird sense of humor!)  
From the movie "Field of Dreams"

About that time my husband came in looking for coffee, and I asked him what he’d think if I took over the house on Saturday, filling it with women and making a quilt, something we’d never done before.  He said, “I think that’s a great idea!”  Proof positive that this was not just some wild idea I came up with - this was God’s idea!  (Bill really likes his nice quiet Saturdays!)  So my next step was to get on Facebook and e-mail, and check to see who would be interested in helping in a project for Kelley - - - and within a couple of hours I had over a dozen people who were willing to help, without even knowing what we were going to do!  We arrange to meet at my house on Saturday morning to make a quilt.

Friday morning rolls around, and I brave the Black Friday crowds to go to the store to buy fabric for the quilt.  Because of the time constraint I decide to use the same pattern I was looking at for my granddaughter’s quilt, a mystery quilt by M’Liss Hawley that has nine different blocks all made from fat quarters.  I figured this would be easy for a group of women to work on - each could work on one specific block design.  But I had no idea what colors Kelley liked, and I couldn’t get any guidance anywhere.  So I went in blind, and chose an earth tone pack containing 6 fat quarters to which I added more fat quarters, background fabric and borders.  I also picked up solid Kona cream for the backing, which I had a special plan for.  Went home and cut out all the pieces we would need for the quilt.  Got to work making food for the next morning - we are Baptist, and literally, if you feed us, we will show up for almost anything!

Saturday morning dawns, and fifteen women show up at my house to help out!  Two ladies didn’t sew at all, but one is an artist and the other is an editor with beautiful handwriting. They got to work on the back of the quilt, writing Bible verses and song lyrics and drawing beautiful flower bouquets, all designed to encourage Kelley when she read them, and to feel like she was wrapping herself in God’s promises and love every time she used the quilt.  

The rest of us started putting together the quilt top.  Fortune favors the brave - and the uninformed!  I had no idea then how difficult it should be to assemble a quilt sewed by so many different people, none of whom were experienced quilters!  But this was an excellent pattern to use, because it was very forgiving.
The top was finished by mid-afternoon, and the quilt was completed and given to the girl who would be delivering it on Sunday morning.  I named this quilt “Field of Dreams” to reflect the references from the Kevin Costner movie - it just seemed appropriate!

I’m pleased to say that Kelley had an excellent result from her surgery, which ended up not being as radical as they originally thought it would need to be, and they caught her cancer so early that there was no need for chemo or radiation!  

About a month after her surgery, Kelley asked me how I knew that her design notebook was covered with the exact colors in the quilt we made - all her favorites!  I told her it must have been a God thing - because I certainly didn’t know what colors she liked when I picked them out! 

Kelley is involved in the ministry now - she’s not a sewer, but she makes beautiful stamped cards and makes all the note cards that we send with our quilts as her contribution to the ministry.

After Christmas 2009, the ladies started asking me when we would be making another quilt.  Boy, was I surprised!  But I had begun making quilts for Quilts For Kids, so I ordered some kits for us to work on during our January meeting, and cut some more out of my fabric stash.  We made nine quilts that day!  

One of those quilts went to a little girl we found out about through the church prayer list.  

A couple of weeks later, one of the pastors asked for a quilt for a woman in our church with brain cancer, so we made a quilt for her. 

From those humble beginnings, our ministry has expanded.  We still have quilting bees occasionally, but the need is usually greater than we can meet just with quilting bees, so  many of our quilts are made by individuals on their own.  We now have seven women who have made at least one quilt for the ministry from start to finish, and more every day who are learning to make quilts!  In addition to making quilts for people battling health issues, we are now making quilts for newborns in our church and in families that we are ministering to.  As of today, we have made and distributed 56 quilts since a year ago, more than half of those since August of this year!
And our ministry would have been so much more difficult without the help of so many wonderful quilt bloggers - many of you have stepped forward and donated fabric, finished quilts and UFOs by the boxful!  

Because we are a new and as-yet unfunded ministry (at least for right now!) we had been working with fabric from our fabric stashes and what we could afford to buy.   The many many yards of fabric and the UFOs that were donated have made it possible for our ministry to grow and expand beyond anything I could have ever dreamed of just a year ago.  And the completed quilts that were donated gave us some breathing space to get ahead of the need right at holiday time, when everyone’s time is stretched thin anyway!  To each of you who have donated to our ministry, please know that you are an important and much-appreciated partner in the ministry.
We call our ministry “Piece*Love*Quilt” - three little verbs that form our mission statement - we piece, we love, we quilt.  And while doing so we have expanded our little world to include so many people.  Women who said, “I can’t quilt!” are now saying, “Do you need me to make another quilt?”  I have seen God at work in ways I would never have imagined before we started this ministry.  I can’t wait to see what happens in the next year as we continue to grow!
This morning's sewing group!!
It's been a long post, as promised, and I appreciate everyone who stuck with me all the way to the end!  Thanks!  See you tomorrow!!



  1. That is a fabulous story Sarah!!! I am jealous that I am not there to join ya'll!!

  2. Oh that is such an inspirational and amazing tale, Sarah. And to have done so much in such a short period of time. I totally admire you for what you and the quilt ministry do...

  3. What an great story. Just goes to show how amazing God is and how he works in ways that we never would have imagined!

  4. That is a wonderful story, and I echo Emily's remarks. Gillian

  5. This is such a wonderful and inspiring story Sarah! It's so great to be able to see the beautiful things people can do for each other when they work together. I look forward to hearing about all the magic y'all put together in the coming years! :D

  6. What an amazing story - I am such a believer in leading with your heart & God. You & the ladies had taken one thing & turned it into a life changing thing for many people. I am happy that I have been able to help with your cause.
    Thanks for sharing the story.

  7. Such a lovely story. Quilting can touch the lives of the giver and the givee. What you started could expand to other churches in your area and become even more of an inspiration. It could become sort of a ......franchise....if you will excuse the expression. Bravo!

  8. Happy Birthday to your group! A beautiful story; a beautiful group.

  9. I "hear" that voice sometimes too! It's amazing what you can accomplish when the idea comes from God. You can feel Him there helping every step of the way. What an awesome ministry & beautiful story. I'm glad you were given the "go ahead" to share it with us.

  10. That is a beautiful story. All you ladies are heroes.

  11. This is an amazing story! I so wish that I could be involved in something like this. But now I know my fabric will!

  12. Your story is fascinating. This must truly be a labor of love for all involved. I'm sure other readers will be inspired to create quilt ministries in their own hometowns. God Bless! Toni

  13. What a beautiful beautiful story. Even though you had told me how your sewing ministry had began back when we first started communicating, I enjoyed reading it again! Such a wonderful group of ladies you have and what a wonderful hubby to put up with so many women in one place...*chuckles* :D

  14. What a wonderful story! God can sure pick 'em when he needs a leader, and that's why he chose you. It's amazing that your group has been able to bless so many people with quilts in one short year. Keep up the good work!

  15. What a lovely and inspiring story! Thanks so much for sharing it.

  16. What an encouragement this story was to me! Isn't it just amazing when we finally listen to God?? I have my first prayer quilt in the works..with two more on the waiting list. I have a feeling I will much to quilt for!!

    From one Baptist to another....:0)

  17. I know how your new ministry blessed me and I am sure it has blessed 50 something other people just the same! I am honored that God used me and my circumstances to start such a wonderful ministry! Love you bunches!! I wrap up under my quilt all the time. As I type this, Michael is bundled up under it on the couch! :)

  18. Thanks for sharing your story. There are so many times that we ignore the voices. How wonderful that you didn't!

  19. That is such a wonderful story! Beautiful & Inspiring! I'm so glad you shared with us :-)

    ~ Meagan

  20. Thanks for sharing and for all you are doing. I am a reader of bikequiltswim and came to your blog. Wonderful!

  21. hi! i love this concept! and your posting was funny, if you feed them, they will come! ;)
    recently our daughter spent a few nights in a women's shelter in a city far away from us. i asked her later what it was like, and she said, "pretty bleak, mom." they operate on a shoe string budget. so i have been making quilts to send them to cheer the place up. many times it is pretty traumatic for the women and their children to stay there, so i always go for bright, cheerful colors. plenty of children's themes, and pretty florals for the women. i have even used 2 pillow shams from garage sales, sew them together and add borders. looks pretty good! i also enclosed some Bibles, in Spanish and English, for them. if they are not allowed to have them there, they can always donate them.
    thanks for the chance to read about other places that donate quilts. it is so fulfilling. right now i am working with a few homeschool moms for quilting. i offer free lessons, and ask them to donate one quilt per quilt project. (make 2 quilts or potholders, etc, donate one.) they like that idea a lot!
    bye and God bless your endeavors with your loving and prayerful quilts. :)

  22. Sarah, I can't believe I've been reading your blog for so long and just today read this post about how your quilt ministry got started. For so many reasons, it brought tears to my eyes. The first time I "heard" God speak to me like that, I had just arrived home from Sloan Kettering after confirming my own cervical pre-cancer diagnosis. I didn't sew back then but the first thing I craved was the blanket my grandmother had knit for me when I was a child.

    It's amazing how far your ministry has come since you wrote this post. All of you are angels!

  23. What an inspirational story. Love the "hearing" part. Sometimes while I'm assembling fabrics from my stash, I "hear" from God, too. He usually is telling me not to be so selfish... some fabrics are for a planned quilt I've wanted to make for decades. Well, I do include some of it for the charity quilt. Maybe that is why I've been allowed to live this long. I still have fabric to share.
    Thanks for sharing your story. I hope it inspired other quilt ministries to start up.

  24. This entire blog-story has stirred by heart to keep after my local church friends to become 'generous' toward others by sewing comforters & quilts. I do sew with a group of Mennonite ladies - 25 min. drive to another small town -- but my own local church should be doing this as well. I won't give up. Thanks for sharing this wonderful tale --- God bless your continued ministry.


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