“ We might be copyright , ” says May Gudmundson, laughing . A pin with the words I (heart) Quilts rests above her heart. “There’s another Quilters Without Borders in the States. We just wanted to have a group name.”
“ And there are no boundaries for where we’ll give quilts,” adds Lee Pugh, in what sounds like a British accent. “Except the Yukon.”
“ Yes,” agrees Gudmundson, “We’ll make quilts for any place in the Yukon.”
The two women have graciously agreed to talk with me about the volunteer quilting group they are members of: Quilters Without Borders. We sit in Whitehorse’s only quilting store, Bear’s Paw Quilts, where the group has met every Thursday for nine years.
“ Thursday January 26, 2006,” Pugh reads from the first page of the group’s logbook. “Temperature thirty below.” She flips to the next entry. “The next week it was plus three!”
“ It came about from a flood at the shop,” says Gudmundson. Ruth Headley, the shop owner, found herself with a lot of flood-damaged fabric, unfit to sell, but still useful. She decided it should go to charity, and gathered a group of women to turn the fabric into quilts to give to people in need. Nine years later the group is still at it, and with some of the same members.
“ There’s around ten of us,” says Gudmundson , who has been volunteering with the group since its inception. “It’s revolving and evolving.”
“ I first appeared in January 2008,” Pugh says, finding her own entry into the logbook.
“ Nobody’s boss,” says Pugh, of the group’s dynamic. “Most of us are seniors, retired. We each have different skills. May’s special gift is — ”
“— organizing the cupboards,” interrupts Gudmundson, laughing. Which I learn is true, but which arises from her other special gift, design and layout.
“ The quilts are all made by everybody,” says Pugh . “Some people just come and do bindings, hand stitching.”
“ For some people it’s friendship and camaraderie,” adds Gudmundson. “We never miss lunch.”
“ It’s usually Timmies,” says Pugh .
The quilts often go to families who have lost their homes to fires. Each year they’re also gifted to student parents graduating from the teen parents centre.
Whitehorse General Hospital’s chemo centre uses the quilts as well. When entering their chemo program each patient chooses a quilt they like. The quilt waits for them at the hospital, their blanket through their treatment. At the end they get to take the quilt home with them.
“ It’s a high spot at a low time,” says Gundmundson .
“ Warmth , like someone’s looking out for you,” adds Sharon Pfeiffer, another quilter who has joined our conversation.
As the making of a quilt involves some material costs, the group relies heavily on donations to operate. Most often this arrives in the form of fabric, occasionally cash. Sometimes the group will sell quilts to raise money for materials that don’t get donated — like batting (the stuff that makes the quilts fluffy) and backing.
Or, as Gudmundson says, “lots of times we get five beautiful fabrics but need a sixth one.”
While they know where their quilts are going, the women don’t often get to interact with the recipients. Gratitude is often relayed through the organizations the quilters work with rather than recipients themselves.
“ We’re not here to be thanked,” says Pugh .
“ It makes you feel good to know someone else is benefitting,” agrees Gudmundson .
As I’m leaving the women insist I need to come back for one of their Thursday meetings. At least for lunch from Timmies.
“ There’s a lot of wisdom in that room,” says Pfeiffer, who seems to be younger than the other two. “You learn so much just from watching.”