Thursday, October 11, 2018

Quilt #24 :: Sew It Forward Jake

Many moons ago, I shared about two special quilts made for my dad and stepmom after their home was destroyed by fire

These quilts came about as I was feeling helpless living 1,000 miles away. I had been quilting for a year, so I decided to make them a quilt. I posted about it on Facebook and, because quilters are generous souls, I had several of my new quilting friends ask if they could help. 

I created a group called Sew It Forward. I knew that I wanted to make the quilt in Christmas colors because my dad is one of Santa's doppelgangers and could use something to keep warm during the Minnesota winters.

Santa Dad with one week old D.
Quilters from around the world offered to send blocks so that I could make a quilt more quickly. We decided on an easy rail fence block in Christmas colors. Within days, my mailbox started filling up with squishy mail.

It soon became clear that I would have enough blocks for not one, but two quilts. One each for my dad and stepmom, Carole. 

As bad luck would have it, my stepbrother Jake was going through a rough time in January 2014, so he was staying at the farmhouse with dad and Carole. When I shared this information on the Sew It Forward page, it was quickly decided that we would make another quilt in blues and grays for Jake. 

It didn't take long before I had to ask quilters to stop sending me blocks. I had enough for three queen size quilts! I worked quickly to put them all together. A longarmer offered to quilt them for me, so I wanted to get them down to her as soon as possible before the fundraiser event in Minnesota in May.

I sent a HUGE box down to the longarmer and waited. At the same time, my Gramma Ann passed away. We were trying to figure out how to be in Arizona for Gramma's memorial and Minnesota for the fundraiser in the same week. Did I mention that we lived in Ohio? And the quilts were in Texas? Craziness. (We eventually sorted it all out in what we affectionately called our Death and Destruction tour).

I wasn't hearing anything from the longarmer. Just silence. I couldn't call, text, message, or otherwise reach her. My heart sank as I thought about someone misleading me and stealing the quilts created from the generosity of all those quilters. Finally, her daughter posted that she had had a stroke. I quickly wished her well and asked her to send the quilts back so I could finish them myself. She was, as I was after my brain injury, stubborn, and wanted to still try to finish them. She finished Dad's, had done some light quilting on Carole's, and had started Jake's after the stroke and had made some mistakes that needed to be ripped out. It took some convincing, but she finally agreed to send the quilts back. Because of all the time it took to convince her, and because we had to drive to Arizona before driving back up to Minnesota, we had her ship them to my sister's house. And of course, the package got lost. 

We were able to track the package down at midnight before the fundraiser. I was able to finish Carole's quilt on my little machine. It wasn't as nice as I had hoped, but it would have to do. Jake's quilt, on the other hand, was a different story.

She had started to rip out the stitches, but didn't finish in my rush to have the quilts back.

Ripping out stitches after quilting is hard, detailed work. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been after a stroke, particularly with the time pressure she faced.

There were holes all over the backing. My heart sank as I realized that I would have to remove and replace the backing and batting. Neither was cheap and the time required was daunting. In any other case, I would have just scrapped the whole thing. Jake didn't know I was making this for me. But, it wasn't just make work. The blocks came from around the world and it didn't feel right not to finish it.

I spent many, many, many hours during the fall of 2014 ripping out the quilting of Jakes queen size quilt. On the plus side, I had many hours of TV viewing with Niels. We started with War and Remembrance.

I ripped out stitches on road trips.

I got overwhelmed. I thought I'd never finish. But D was watching. It was a great opportunity to show him how to do the hard things. And he encouraged me in his own way.

So I kept on, and finally, I was done.

I took a breather to celebrate the new year, then got to work on finishing it. (Gah! Look at my sweet baby!)

And so, 18 months after the fire destroyed my childhood home, Jake finally received his quilt. 

I realize quilters are a special breed, and those who do not quilt do not understand the time and energy and money that go into creating quilt. And that's okay. I don't make quilts for just anybody, and to anyone for whom I make a quilt, I am saying, in my own way, "I love you and want you to have something tangible that shows you that even though we might not talk or see each other often, I am thinking of you."  I love to give my quilts away and I believe that once a quilt is given, it is up to the receiver to decide what to do with it. It may be stuffed in a closet, given away, made to be the dog's bed, whatever. I just hope that the receiver feels the love with which it was made. 

With Jacob's quilt, it wasn't just my love that made it, but that of 16 quilts from ten states and three countries. So my heart burst with joy when Jake posted this. There is not much better than knowing a quilt you made is appreciated

As I write this, it's October of 2018 and I have to share what has happened with the little Facebook group I started. 

After the first three quilts, members of the group asked if they could make more quilts, for other families affected by fire. I knew I didn't have the brain power to coordinate that, so I decided that anyone who wanted to head up a quilt could use the group to collect quilts. In this way, we did ten more projects. And then things slowed down.

Until about a year ago, when one of the quilters, Tina Burlington, messaged me and asked if she could have my permission to be an admin for the group. I grateful said yes. She messaged again and asked if she could start coordinating projects. Again I said yes. Sew It Forward is now up to 500 quilters and Tina has made quilts for approximately a bazillion people. Seriously, I am in awe of her. 

Sew It Forward is now her baby, but is kind enough to keep me on as an admin. If you are a quilter, I hope you join the group and find some time to make a few blocks for the current project. It makes my heart so happy to know that my little idea lives on, that quilts are being made, and that those affected by fire are being shown love and support after loss.

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  1. What an inspiring story. I started a group to make quilts for an orphanage here in Greece. Until now we made 10 quilts and want to make another 10. The orphanage has 20 girls. We would love for each of them to have their own quilt, which they can take with them when they leave. Something made with love, that stays with them.

    1. That's wonderful! what a great goal. I know they'll love their quilts.

  2. I thank you for your vision and the privilege to lead others to give!

  3. What a nice story! I work with the Quilting Bee Sparta. We make quilts for an orphanage in Greece.

  4. Wow, that's what I call a labor of love!

  5. Thanks for sharing the history of Sew It Forward. What a wonderful quilting community!! Here's hoping that your family is doing fine.

    1. There are. They converted the barn into a home. Thank you.

  6. Thanks for the story of dew it forward, I'm not on facebook and can't get more info. Can you help? I would like to make blocks for them. I love to quilt, it is therapy for me and have run out of family to make quilts for. Thanks Darlene

    1. Hi Darlene! I'm not in charge of the group anymore. You want to connect with Tina Burlington. I sent her a message to contact you via your email. I talk with her though FB so I don't have an email to share with you. Even if you aren't on FB, you should be able to see the Sew It Forward page and possibly connect with her:

  7. Wow what a story! It just so happens that today was the first time I read about Sew It Forward on someone else’s blog, so it’s neat that I was able to read how it came to be here. I feel the way you do about giving quilts. I know that not all quilters agree, but once a quilt is in someone else’s hands, my gift has conveyed its message (and filled my soul as well) and the quilt is theirs to do with as they wish.

    1. What timing! That's so cool? Which blog were you reading? And yes, I can't let my enjoyment of quilting be determined by the recipient's response. I know some of my quilts are displayed. I'm sure others are stashed away. But I love when I see a peek of one of my quilts in a candid picture or a quilt that shows signs of wear and use.

  8. Wow - your dad sure is Santa's cosmic twin! And the road trip photo cracked me up literally, with the quilt stuffed over in his lap and wheel space, too.

    1. He sure is! So many people said it to him that he decided to start playing it up. And yes, my husband is a great sport.


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