Five months ago, my dad and stepmom's home burned to the ground.
A little secret I've been sitting on since shortly after the fire is that I created a new Facebook group called Sew It Forward. It started when I asked some quilter friends for an easy quilt pattern so I could make a quick quilt for for my dad and stepmom. After sharing the reason for the quilt, I had many quilters offer to help and our little group was born.
I decided on a rail fence pattern in red, white, and green using the directions from Quilter's Cache. My dad plays Santa and while a new Santa suit was quickly donated, I wanted him to have a warm Christmasy quilt to keep him warm during outdoor events in Minnesota.
Within a few days, our mailbox started filling up.
Some quilters even sent cards and Christmas decorations.
I was overwhelmed by the generosity of my new quilter friends. I received blocks from nearly every state in the US and province in Canada, as well as blocks from the Netherlands, UK, Australia, and New Zealand!Soon I had so many blocks that I decided to make a second quilt for my bonus mom, Carole.
Jan from Massachusetts offer to make a special block for Dad's quilt, with a golfing Santa. (Dad runs a driving range in the spring and summer).
One of my favorite blocks came from our son's pre-K teacher, Miss Anne, who is a new quilter. She recruiter her mom to help her make a block for Dad's quilt.
I ended up having enough blocks to make two queen size Christmas quilts! It was while I was working on these quilts that I had the inspiration to make a display wall over my craft room closet.
Once the quilts were pieced and the backs prepped, I sent them all to Liz in Texas, who graciously offered to quilt them for me on her longarm. (As you can see, there's actually a third quilt, a blue and gray one for my bonus brother, who was living with Dad and Carole at the time of the fire. More on that quilt at a later time).
Liz went to work as the benefit day approached. Unfortunately, shortly before the big day, Liz suffered a stroke and was hospitalized. It was a little stressful for all of us as we left on our trip with the fate of the quilts unknown.
Liz's quilting friends in Texas stepped up and were able to finish quilting and binding the quilts. The quilts arrived in Minnesota the morning of the benefit. Whew! All I had to do was attached the labels.
In my hurried state, I forgot to take a picture of dad's label on his quilt.
Once the labels were on, we drove to my childhood home to see the damage myself. Even though I knew what to expect, it still hit hard when I drove up to the farm and saw that the house really was gone.
It's been a very long, very cold winter in Minnesota so Dad and Carole are just now able to look through the rubble to see if anything can be salvaged.
Unfortunately, anything that was reduced to ash was still destroyed. I was so sad to see fragments of Carole's Delft collection.
But, my family is optimistic. Their theme through all of this has been beauty from ashes.
It was fun to see my 71-year-old dad play with our 5-year-old son.
I hadn't seen my dad for over a year. I wish we were meeting for a happier occasion.
After reminiscing with Dad a bit, we headed to the civic center to help set up. The queen size quilts were hoisted onto these super tall frames.
I love the tulip quilting Liz used on Carole's quilt.
The benefit was a huge thank you to the community, including the valiant fire fighters who battled the blaze in the bitter -50 windchill. The department was there with their truck and many children were happy to explore it.
We are so grateful to all the folks who attended and helped with the benefit. It's hard to live so far from family. I am very thankful that my dad and bonus mom are being shown such love and support.
Dad and Carole are planning to rebuild on the footprint of their old house, as they run two businesses from the property. The century farmhouse will be replaced with a home more suitable for a man in his seventies so it will take a little time to finalize the floorplan and start building. Santa is hoping for a new house for Christmas.
If you'd like to help, to stay up-to-date with their progress, join the Facebook page Help Elmer and Carole Abbas Get Back on Their Feet or visit the Abbas Home website.
The Sew It Forward group is continuing to provide quilts to families who have lost their homes to fire, if you'd like to join this incredible group of quilters, please visit the Sew It Forward Facebook page.