Friday, November 16, 2007

Comfort Quilts For Charitable Causes


For a week now, I have been sorting, organizing and sewing together colorful strings of fabric from one of my many scrap bags. I wanted to create a quilt that would still honor the Veteran's Day weekend, yet could be given to a Veteran in a hospice setting.

I focused my awareness on the energies of these past two weeks. The power of a new moon, the energies of pride and honor for the holiday, and the synchronicity of Veteran's Day being on 11:11, creates an open doorway to change and possibilities.

Thus, the energies would be good and strong and could be used with positive intent, for creating a healing quilt. I did an alternative form of hospice work for many years, using my therapeutic touch, Reiki and other healing gifts for people facing catastrophic illness. While extremely challenging in many senses, it was extraordinarily rewarding, in others.

The idea of creating 'comfort quilts' seemed like the perfect way to blend that aspect of myself with my love of sewing and quilting. It is a very different opportunity for being a loving part of someone's final experiences in this lifetime and yet still surrounding them with healing love from my heart and by my hands. Only now, I did not have to be present at either their home, or their hospital bed...my quilt would carry that love, instead.

All quilts give comfort, so in that sense all are 'comfort quilts'. But the term is usually used to refer to quilts which are given to hospitals, hospice or those with terminal illnesses as a means of keeping them warm, showing care and caring, and creating a symbolic bridge between their present lifetime and the next, as well as then being passed on from the dying person to their loved ones.

Customarily, the quilt is given from the heart and hands of the quilter to the heart and into the hands of the recipient and finally, after their passing, into the heart and hands of the family who receives it as part of their last legacy of loving memories. Instead of being totally somber and tragic, it actually can alter the energies in a loving and healing way to something quite beautiful and meaning filled.

Similar to prayer quilts, which are given as comfort for those who are ill or undergoing chemotherapy or other forms of care, a comfort quilt can be hand tied or quilted. When we quilt, whether by machine or by hand, we are symbolically bonding three things together. When we tie, the act of tying and the knots we form, can be also be bonded and we can still use both love and prayer to go through all of the layers of what we can see and what lies in between that we cannot. Tying the layers together takes on a whole new meaning.

Quilts, whether small (lap sized) or comfort (bed sized) have been used throughout time as a part of "passing on". They, themselves comfort during the passing, and they are then passed onto the family members as a comfort for them.

Comfort quilts needn't be complex or involve a lot of work from the quilter. The demand for them is so great, that it important to make them with love, but also be able to put them together quickly. So string quilting is a perfect way to create comfort quilts.

Quilts have always been made with their aesthetic value as a consideration, even when makers were creating objects for practical use. Any and all quilts are a form of artistic/creative expression. What perhaps distinguishes the art of the home-based quilt maker from that of the studio-based quilt artist are context and intent.

The works of quilt makers such as the quilters of Gee's Bend, Alabama have shown us that what distinguishes a so-called 'art quilt' from an everyday 'bed quilt' may reside less in the minds of the makers, than in the eyes and the hearts of the beholder.

The purpose of an 'art quilt' has been to evoke emotion in the viewer. In that deepest sense, there can be no greater emotion that those faced by a family gathered around the sick bed of a loved one. And there can be no greater gift that one made by our hands, through the gifts of our own hearts, and passed on with love for those passing on, in all ways...from one lifetime to another.

shown above:
My string pieced quilt, 67" x 59", made with strings from my scrapbag.
I used patriotic heartstrings (in honor of Veteran's Day)
and meander quilting.

Free Patriotic Quilting Patterns
String Quilting
Free Quilt Patterns

4 comments:

  1. Heart strings. You not only make them, but tug at them as well. Your heartfelt words about these quilts are touching.

    I'm in the process of making quilts for two friends who are each going through chemotherapy. They are made of silk (washable) and are as light as air to give warmth and comfort without heaviness.

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  2. Your comfort quilt looks wonderful, congratulations on a great finish. I'm sure it will bring much comfort to someone who needs it.

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  3. What a beautiful way to describe the sharing of a quilt... I've made a number of prayer quilts for friends with seriously ill spouses and/or parents... your eloquent description brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat.

    You are VERY special!

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  4. Anonymous9:15 AM

    i think what you are doing is so awesome and truely touches my heart. My father died a few years ago of cancer and nothing like this was around to give this kind of warmth and comfort to either my father or my mother. Being thousands of miles away i was unable to be there for Her, but greatful that the rest of my siblings were. but i see your quilts, i see the verses in them and i see how the words bring years of comfort to these patients and to the loved ones, and i just wish my mother had one that she could wrap up in on all these lonely days and nights when she misses my father so much. god bless you all for all that you give to others.
    pam at isabeausdreams@yahoo.com

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Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.