Quilters Without Borders has been going strong for 14 years, based in Bear’s Paw Quilts on Second Avenue. I had the pleasure of chatting with four members of Quilters Without Borders one Thursday afternoon to get some insight into the organization and the women who make it happen. Joining me were May Gudmundson, Lee Pugh, Sharon Westberg and Edith Healy.
“It came about from a flood at the shop,” said Gudmundson. “Ruth Headley, the shop owner, found herself with a lot of flood-damaged fabric, unfit to sell, but still useful. Judy Gibbons and Headley decided it should go to charity and they came up with the idea of Quilters Without Borders. The name is inspired by Doctors Without Borders and Engineers Without Borders. They gathered a group of women together to turn the fabric into quilts to give to people in need.”
Fourteen years later the group is still at it, and with some of the same members. It was clear from talking to the ladies and how they showed me their work that they love quilting. When I asked if they had a sewing machine at home, as well as at Bear’s Paw, they all laughed and corrected me: Did you say how many? The manner in which it is determined who gets the quilts varies depending upon the circumstances. In some cases, the group contacts someone directly, such as when there has been a house fire or other disaster, or through someone who knows someone, and in other cases, organizations have contacted the ‘Quilters’.
“Many of the quilts go to patients in the chemotherapy room – up to forty quilts in a year – or to people in extended care.” Pugh said.
“The way it works in the chemo room is patients get a quilt for themselves when they first come in for treatment and then they get to take it home with them when they are finished with treatment. We also send quilts to the Teen Parent Centre every year for the graduating class,” Westberg added, “and we also sent twelve down to Canuck Place Children’s Hospice in Vancouver for children and young adults.”
“One of the wings of that facility is named for Bryce Davidson, who was a local boy who passed away from cancer. So, it was really appropriate that the quilts went there. In accordance with the wishes of another young man who had received a quilt from Quilters Without Borders, we donated the Canuck Place quilts in his memory.” Gudmundson said.
“All organizations are quilt worthy,” Pugh explained. “But if Joe Blow off the street just came in and said my granny needs a quilt, we would say, no, you can buy one for your granny, unless there is a special circumstance.”
“The quilts are more for people going through difficult times. That is our main criteria” Westberg clarified. In addition to the warm feeling of giving to those in need, there are other benefits to the members.
“We look forward to Thursdays because we do a lot of chatting in addition to the quilting. We have the advantage of seeing and trying new patterns. One of the other things I like about this group is we are not perfectionists. We do our best work, but we don’t try to be fancy” Westberg said.
“We don’t do competition-grade. We try to use fairly simple patterns, which are quick to put together, especially if there is a sudden demand for them.” Pugh offered and Gudmundson added, “We are all very supportive of each other.”
“And we always stop for lunch. We never forget lunch!” Healey laughed.
“We usually use larger blocks because we don’t know where the quilts are going and assuming some of them will be in the laundry quite often, we want them to be durable. We use 100% cotton, quilt quality with simple patterns.” Pugh noted.
Quilters Without Borders gives the opportunity for the quilters to enjoy the camaraderie of working on the quilts together, regular social connections and knowing that they are helping people. As Gudmundson said: “It makes me feel good that I have a purpose and the skills to create something beautiful. It’s like giving a hug to somebody.”
Quilters Without Borders appreciates donations, either in the form of quality cotton fabrics or cash to be used to purchase material for the quilts which are given away. Also, Quilters Without Borders occasionally sells quilts to be able to pay for the materials for the quilts which they give away. Quilters Without Borders also appreciates Headley making the space available at Bear’s Paw Quilts for them to meet, store their materials and create.