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Tuesday was my first day back to work after about 10 days off. It’s so hard to go back after taking a long break! I did a lot of resting and recharging though, and one thing in particular that made me feel really good was a little volunteer work with some charity quilts.
The park we’re staying at is huge, and has its own welcome center. We went in to find out about activities right after we arrived. I met Betty, who talked about the craft center and how on Tuesdays and Thursdays volunteers meet to create quilts for charity.
While there may be some donations, my guess is that the majority of the supplies for these quilts are paid for by the volunteer quilters. Quilting materials don’t come cheap, either; Betty told me fabric with child-themed prints on it keeps getting more and more expensive.
The ladies use coupons and sales whenever they can for their purchases. Another disadvantage is the location of the RV resort. We’re surrounded by a whole bunch of nothing with the closest town with businesses about 15 miles away. I think most of the ladies travel to Palm Springs to buy their supplies, or get them online if they can find good prices.
A lot of them don’t live at the resort full-time, either. They are “snowbirds;” people who have residences up north and move south during the colder months. It’s nice that they have adopted their temporary community with such love and generosity.
I’m not a quilter myself, but I have some basic sewing skills and was willing to learn whatever they wanted to teach me, so I showed up Tuesday morning ready to help. I learned a lot, had some great fun and hopefully helped with their workload.
If you’re not familiar with quilting, I’ll walk you through some of the basic steps.
Cutting and stitching
While I’ve seen pre-cut squares of fabric for quilting, I would imagine those are more expensive. Most of the material I saw at the craft room was yardage–large pieces that they cut themselves. First, though, you have to iron the fabric, because it is never without wrinkles when you buy it.
After the cutting of several different pieces of fabric, a pattern is laid out. Some people do squares, others strips, and yet others more complicated shapes. Then all those little pieces have to be stitched together. Usually after that a border is stitched around the edges.
Usually at this point, the whole piece needs to be ironed again to flatten the seams and get out any new wrinkles.
Adding the batting
What comes next probably varies in method, but the quilters at Fountain of Youth roll out large pieces of batting (the “filling” inside the blanket) and cut it to match the size of the blanket. For the back of the blanket, in the interest of time and resources they use a single piece of fabric that goes well with the front. The front, back and batting are all pinned together with the outsides facing in.
The craft room has several sewing machines, and the ladies stitch together the front, back and batting at the edges. Now except for a small area so the blanket can be turned, all the edges are seamed. The pins are taken out and the blanket is carefully pulled right-side out.
Next, someone closes the remaining open with invisible stitches by hand.
One way to “quilt” a quilt is to add more stitches. This also holds the quilt together. Another way is to do what’s called tying. You pick out a complementary color of yarn and run it through the full thickness of the quilt and tie it in knots. You do this evenly spaced across the entire quilt.
The final product
Each quilt also comes with a hand-made teddy bear made of yarn. I forget whether they knit or crochet. Needless to say, this is many hours of work and made with care and love.
Just imagine being a small child, sick and scared, staying in a hospital. Wouldn’t you feel better if you had your very own blanket and teddy bear? The kids get to take them home, and are known to still have them if they return to the hospital.
The work done by these gracious women was featured in a local newspaper. You can see a snippet of it through the Imperial Valley Press website. But that simply isn’t enough exposure.
I got to read the article in its entirety when Betty let me borrow a copy of the newspaper. The article talks about how one child asked if the blanket was his to keep. They told him yes and he said “Good, then I won’t have to sleep on my coat anymore.” That just broke my heart.
We need more people like the quilters at the Fountain of Youth.