Every year I coordinate a project for my church which involves making quilts for our graduating high school seniors.
I started my quilting journey in 2008 when the Pastor handed me a ziplock bag full of 8.5″ squares, gave me some basic instructions and sent me on my way. (I was NOT a quilter, and had only “bound” quilted panels with the help of You Tube and Google).
One thing led to another and at the end of that Spring, I had made 5 quilt tops, and learned to layer and tie the quilts too. Then Pastor John retired and I was asked to coordinate for the coming year.
Thankfully, with the guidance of an experienced quilter, Kristin S., I learned all about cutting and chain piecing and much much more. My first official quilt shop class didn’t come until 4 years later.
Over the years we have made a lot of those “senior quilts” with a team of willing volunteers. One year we had as many as 15 students graduating. The next year, I took a year “off” from coordinating and Kristin stepped up to manage everything that year. (Burnt out? Probably). Sometimes you need a new perspective, and new energy and new leadership.
This year, is quite different, with just ONE senior. When I gathered together with my quilt making volunteers in February, we had a great time selecting fabric from “accumulated stash”. One church member had donated her entire sewing room of fabric and we had a lot to choose from. A feature fabric was chosen, and the quilters chose companion fabrics, picked out two blocks that they wanted to make. This was the first year we didn’t do a basic 8.5″ block for our quilt. One graduate, and lots of sewers, and big ideas. A little work on EQ8 and we had a pattern. (I was tickled to get to use those skills I learned in my January class).
In the process of working with the fabrics, I discovered that one of the colors was bleeding all over my ironing table as I was steaming the fabric. I stopped what I was doing, took the strips into the kitchen and soaked them in Retayne and rinsed them clear.
I was thankful I had a small bottle of Retayne that came in January with an order, and was amazed how it worked. The picture above is just after I put the strips in a glass bowl of warm water. The picture below is after the recommended soaking time and after I rinsed with clear water. I threw a color catcher in the bowl for “good luck”.
Thankfully they were only strips, not pieced into the blocks with the white fabric adjacent. Did you know that your salad spinner is a great place to wash and “spin” pre-cuts and small pieces like fat quarters. This experience has made me a big believer in pre-washing. I put the larger piece of yardage in the washer and did a similar process with the Retayne too.
We got together two more times to cut and sew as a group. And, as anyone who has ever worked on a group project, sometimes there are other problems. Working with the “same 1/4” can cause construction challenges, so I made sure to mark with tape and a seam guide everyone’s machine. Several people worked on making half square triangles and others cut various fabric units. Our feature fabric got cut the wrong size for the pattern and in desperation to replace it, I went in a frantic search online. I finally found it for sale on ETSY and bought all they had, just in case. A little recutting and reconstructing, and all was well again. The “miss-cut” will get used somewhere else along the line and working together, we adapted and overcame the challenge.
Then in mid March, the concern about COVID-19 stopped us from meeting and sewing together. Our last group sewing day was a very productive day. Luckily most of the blocks were either finished or near completion. I finished up the last few blocks and one willing quilter took the blocks, and a photo of the layout, and put the top together. Thanks to Judy M.G. for that big job! She did that in between making masks for the local nursing home and her family, while waiting on the outcome of her own COVID-19 test results. (Negative thank goodness!)
When I got the assembled top back from Judy M.G., I added the borders, the embroidery blocks and photo of the church. Using our best “social distancing (across the width of three banquet tables), two of us got together in the empty church fellowship hall to layer and tie the quilt.
Usually we have 4 or 5 people doing this, and can tie a quilt in an hour, but in order to “be safe” we had to limit how many and stay on “opposite” sides of the banquet table. It took the two of us nearly 3 hours. But, we got it done!
I brought it back home, and did some machine quilting on the borders to anchor them, trimmed the quilt and got the binding on.
The quilt is ready, 2 weeks ahead of my “scheduled deadline”. (Yes, that is Susie’s Magic Binding that I always do, completely by machine!)
There are 3 verses on the quilt this year. Again, we only had one quilt to make, and thought this would make it extra special. This students parents picked the verses back in January. Many thanks to Designs by JuJu embroidery company for their wonderful ministry , making these digitized verses available for free.
And now, we have to wait again. Ordinarily it would have been out in church on Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday and the remaining Sunday’s in April for the members of the congregation to sign and write messages of love and inspiration. Just as soon as we are able to gather again for services, we will have the quilt out to have the members sign. I hope they fill those big wide white borders with wonderful messages.
Our time line has turned upside down, but we are going to make certain our one graduate knows how special she is and that she is loved by her church family.
Presentation normally would have happened in mid May, but that timeline is a bit fractured too. Our Pastor will work with the family and determine an appropriate time to present the quilt.
The service where this is done is always very moving. Parents wrap the quilt around the shoulders of the student, just like they did when they were young. Prayers are said asking God to guide the young graduate in the coming years, and to help them know that the church family is always with them as they go off to college and start new lives. The quilt has a photo on it of the church, and the parents picked a verse that they felt was important to be remembered. It is our hope that the student will always feel wrapped in the loving arms of Christ, and when they may need a boost of faith, they can wrap up in the quilt which is covered in prayer and messages of inspiration. Many prayers get sent heavenward during the creation of the quilt, and I always want the graduate to know that their church wraps them in God’s love as they go onward in life.
Once our graduate has a chance to see the quilt I will post more photo’s so you can really see it. The quilters who have gathered together every year to work on this ministry vary from year to year and new quilters have joined in this year. All together there was Judy M.G.; Judy S., Kristin S., MaryLu W., Karolyn H., and Lydia P. and myself working on this project. It was fun to do something very different than any quilt we had done in previous years.
Do you do a special project or have a tradition at your church for graduates to honor them as they move ahead in life?