The meeting room at Trillium United Church in Preston is bustling this morning with busy hands and the cheery murmur of conversations. The Quilting Angels are at it again, discussing and sometimes solving the world’s problems while they stitch love into brightly coloured quilts. From frogs to purses, each puffy creation has a unique theme and is sewn to send a comforting cuddle from caring hearts.
“We know that what we do is done is for others,” says Marilyn Armstrong, founder of Quilting Angels. “The feeling is amazing.”
Marilyn formed the Quilting Angels as a millennium project in 2000. Wanting to give back to her community, she thought of sending cozy comfort to the sick, lonely, and those in need. The small group of five started in her home, but as friends told friends the Angels expanded their wings and moved to larger spaces. Today, with approximately 20 members, some Angels travel from as far away as Conestoga and Elmira to stitch and bind their creations.
Their slogan, “Circling the World One Quilt at a Time” is truly fitting. The gifts are now shipped around the world including Africa and Peru. Closer to home, the quilts make their way to the Hospital for Sick Children, Ronald McDonald House, McMaster Hospital and Haven House to name a few. Each quilt goes home with the child as a cozy reminder that there are people who care.
I visit with each table of women and learn that some started with the Quilting Angels as a hobby to simply get out of the house and meet new friends, or to satisfy their passion for quilting. Each found more than something to just pass the time. Sending hugs and good wishes to children and families they may never meet brings a heartwarming joy to their tasks.
“This is my warm, fuzzy group,” says Nancy who travels in from Elmira. She hasn’t missed a date with the Angels since she started quilting for them when the idea was first sewn into her thoughts. “There are many willing hands.”
Stories of those who have received these gifts flow like the coffee brewing in the kitchen. They are tiny miracles. I am told that the quilts are delivered personally to many of the destinations nearby. Rarely do they meet those who will receive their quilts, but there are those magical times when they are granted the gift of seeing a child blanketed under one of their comforters.
A boy struggling with cancer had a passion for John Deere tractors. That particular delivery day, the Angels happened to have a quilt with those very machines pictured on the front – as if it was made especially for him.
One mother explained her son’s fascination with aquariums. Unable to walk or talk, the young boy was bed-ridden. The Angels had sewn a quilt picturing multi-coloured fish swimming in a sea of blue. His mother crawled into bed beside her son and began whispering to him about the different images. His eyes were bright as she pointed out each fish.
“She talked and talked then covered him with the quilt.” Marilyn recalls.
“It’s funny how things come together.” Nancy agrees as she joins another few stitches on her pattern. “We’ve made close relationships through this and support one another.”
The theme of connecting, whether it is within a quilt or within hearts, is the root of the group. Helen has been stitching with the Angels and on her own for many years. She may be remembered from a Golden Years column written last year. She describes quilting as a life lesson.
“It’s like fitting a puzzle together,” she says. “We talk about how hard it is, and then things come together. There’s always the hum of voices, laughter and our experiences.”
One group of ladies, binding the edges on each quilt, has me (excuse the pun) in stitches. What do you talk about? I ask. The Olympics, crosswords, kids, grandchildren and Justin Bieber. Right now they are sharing recipes. “Food and sewing go together no matter what,” the group harmonizes.
A quilt map shows the places where their hugs are felt here and around the world. Over 50 quilts are hand stitched from January to the end of March when a Blessing of the Quilts ceremony is performed in the church.
This year, over 100 people attended the ceremony. It was the best turnout to date. As each quilt is touched by the hands that sewed them, a blessing is knitted within. Now it’s time to find those who will receive the quilted hugs.
“It goes out with a lot of love,” says Joanne, a quilter for 34 years.
Amid chatter and laughter, the quilters stitch together, shoulder to shoulder, cuddling with their quilted creations on the new steps of the church during our photo shoot.
“Everybody cares for everybody,” says Marilyn, smiling at the tapestry of friendships.
Tags: Africa, cancer, children, friends, Golden Years, home, John Deere, Justin Bieber, Marilyn Armstrong, new, Quilting Angels, something, young