Sunday, May 6, 2018

Hands 2 Help - Charity Quilt Days in the Middle East

Hi, all!

Wow, how time is flying!  It's May already, and we're nearing the end of this year's Hands2Help Challenge.  But today I've got something special for you - a guest blogger with a unique perspective on quilting!  Joy blogs at Days Filled With Joy and this is her first guest blogger post here - but it won't be her last!   And she's going to be part of this year's 12 Days of Christmas in July blog hop, too, which I'm really excited about.  So without further ado, here's Joy!


Thank you Sarah, for giving me the opportunity to share a little bit about my experiences as a quilter in the Middle East! This is the first time I have participated in H2H, and I'm really excited to be joining in this year!

I have lived in Saudi Arabia on and off since 2002.... and that is where I learned how to quilt :) It doesn't seem like a place you would find quilters, does it?! But there is actually quite a large community of quilters in Saudi, and in other Middle Eastern countries.

The quilting community in the Middle East is very multicultural as there are many expat women who live there because of their husbands' jobs. So in the guild I belonged to we had over a dozen different nationalities. It was wonderful to be with so many other quilters who have different skills and quilting traditions to share!

During my time in Saudi, our community of quilters made a lot of quilts to give away to local charities.... and also some further afield. While  we sometimes worked on quilts on our own and then donated them, we often worked together. I think we all enjoyed those days the most - unlike other quilting days, these were focused on getting as many quilts finished as we could, and they were lots of fun as well as being productive!

In my post today I'd like to share some ideas on how to work on charity quilts as a group, based on some of our quilting bees here in the Middle East...

Pick your Pattern

The first step is of course to pick your pattern. Some popular patterns that we have used are the jelly roll race and its variations...

There is of course the original one...

and it also works with a honey bun...

And here's a variation using scrappy 2 1/2" strips, with an extra touch...

Hmmm... it's amazing what you can find in the middle of the desert :)

Other quick designs are panels...

The previous guest posts here on the blog had some great ideas... so basically pick one (or two) and make that the focus of the day. 

Be Prepared... or Not...

Some of our charity quilting days were hosted by a wonderfully organized lady, who would have everything cut out and ready for us to sew:

On other days we all just brought fabric to share...

And then cut it all up as we needed it...

Either way works really, but if you are getting a bunch of volunteers for the day to sew till they drop, I think it is better with a bit of prep before hand.

If you have everything cut out then everyone can do a bunch of chain sewing...

... and before you know it you have some finished tops....

Choose a Spacious Venue

While you can hold these sewing days at someone's home, it is often handy to use a different venue - like a church hall, or community center... this way there is lots of space and less work for the person hosting the event. We usually hold ours at the local quilt shop, Bernina shop, or what used to be our guild quilting room.

Our guild room was a wonderful room on one of the compounds (in Saudi many expats live in housing communities called compounds). We would hold our monthly meetings in this room, store our stuff, hang up design walls, and be able to leave our machines there if we wanted to sew for a weekend (or a week!) without having to pack it all up at the end of the day!

Now not everyone has a "club room " like this, or access to one - but there are usually places in your communities that will let you use a room, perhaps with a small fee, for a quilting bee....

Essentials are tables and chairs of course, and also drinks and snacks... for me it's a big jug of ice tea:

It's handy if everyone brings their own sewing machines, but if they can't, there are plenty of other little jobs they can do - like trimming, pressing, etc.

Another handy thing to have on a quilting day like this is a design wall:

If you don't have access to an room with an existing design wall, it is easy enough to bring some batting along and drape it over a door or cupboard to make a temporary one.

Next step - Quilting the Quilts

While we can easily sew up a quilt top in a day, it's a lot more work to quilt and bind it on the same day!! So we usually leave those steps for another day....

In our quilting community we have a few quilters with long or mid arm machines, so after the tops are done, they usually go to one of those quilters...

One of the biggest things in any group is that there are often just a few people who do the most work :) Being able to divide tasks up according to ability and availability is a great solution. So maybe those who do the quilting will do less of the piecing.... and vice versa.

A quick tip for long arm quilters is if the quilts are small, load two or more at the same time and quilt them...

Time for the Binding

After the tops are all quilted we usually get together again for a binding day... it is handy to have the binding made already, so everyone can just stitch it on!

We usually stitch the binding on by machine...

I like to use decorative stitches.. 

If you've never stitched binding on your quilts by machine before, there is a tutorial on my blog that you can check out.

With lots of machines humming away, you'll soon end up with a big pile of finished quilts!

Over the years the quilters in Riyadh have made quilts for children at local orphanages and hospitals, sent some Japan after a terrible earthquake, and last year over 50 went to Syrian refugees here in the Middle East.

If you want to know more about quilting in the Middle East then you can check out my blog or email me with any questions! If  you live in the Middle East and are looking for fellow quilters, feel free to contact me and I will help point you in the right direction!

Well, I hope you got some inspiration from these hints and tips - there is still time to get some friends together and have a fun day to make quilts for H2H! 


Thank you so much, Joy - now I want to get all my friends over for a sewing day!  And Joy's right - there's still enough time to join in! The final link-up party starts on May 20th, but you can link up until noon on Friday, May 25th, almost three weeks from now.  So gather up your friends and make a quilt or two - it's for a good cause!

AND today is our final check-in date before the final party, so link up below and share your progress if you'd like!  Be sure to take a peek at a few of the links and cheer each other on, too... it's good for the soul!




  1. What a wonderful post! It just proves again-we can accomplish a lot together! No wonder women have been coming to quilting bees for centuries!

  2. It's May??? Where did the time go? I thought I had lots of time. get quilting.

  3. A very inspiring and informational post. It seems that quilting is popular worldwide. That is wonderful.

  4. I need to get it in gear! I have two finished tops and the batting and backing but need to get the sandwich together and get to quilting! I've enjoyed the process so much!

  5. Joy had some great ideas for group quilting! I have one top I'm sending off to Canada, and another small quilt that's almost finished. Just a couple of decisions and then under the walking foot it goes!


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