Quilting as Community Service

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From time to time I like to take on a quilting project for a cause. There are many opportunities to do so, with a number of organizations that sponsor specific efforts: Project Linus, Quilts of Valor, Snuggles Project, and more, as well as worthy local organizations who welcome quilts to raffle or auction off.

The most recent project I took on was in collaboration with the Norwich University Center for Civic Engagement. This college, located here in my home town, has a long tradition of service. This is not only due to it being the first private military college in the US (as well as the birthplace of ROTC) but also because of its long history of leadership development that includes all students, even those who are enrolled in the civilian option.

This past February a posting on our community electronic bulletin board, Front Porch Forum, caught my eye. Norwich was seeking a quilter who could help with putting together blocks they would gather at the upcoming American Red Cross blood drive. The idea was to have donors write and/or draw on a block using the prompt “what donating means to me.” These squares would then be put into a quilt that would be used to promote future blood drives. Something about this request drew me in. I contacted the project coordinator by email, as instructed, and gave a link to my blog so she could see  samples of my work. She called almost immediately, and we had the first conversation about the direction and logistics of the project.

About three weeks later the completed blocks were delivered to me, along with some red fabric and felt letters “N” and “U”. Now it was my turn to take the 66 blocks, drawn in fabric pen on white cotton, and make some kind of pleasing, appropriate design. My first task was to even up all the squares, which required appliqueing to another white cotton piece. All the blocks needed to be exactly the same size. I then began to play with design. I wanted to use the red in some way that was more than just traditional sashing. The number of blocks made it tricky to come out with a size that made sense. A quilt that was six squares by eleven squares just seemed off. Out came the graph paper. After some shuffling on the paper I came up with a modified cross in the middle, one that would allow for placement of the letters. The design was stitched together, the letters added, the quilt sandwiched and stitched in the ditch (except the red which was outline quilted), the binding added, a label put on the back and – voilà!

When I delivered the quilt to the project coordinator she seemed thrilled. I was happy that I had met, and her words “exceeded” their expectations. In thanks they gave me a blanket! It is a cozy fleece, the school colors, with an embroidered logo. It works well as an addition to the kitchen love-seat, and I like the idea that I got a blanket in exchange for a quilt. But in reality I got much more, that deeper connection to the community where I live and that feeling that I can be part of something bigger than myself, even as I sit at my sewing machine.

Norwich Blood Drive

Norwich Blood Drive



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