Like most of us, the members of St Peter’s, Cremorne watched in horror at the devastation caused by repeated flooding in northern NSW earlier this year.
The desire to help those who had lost everything gave one of the congregation members, Noreen Bernie, an idea: instead of giving the leftover fabric from the parish’s quilting group to a charity as usual, why not cut it up into squares and “make it into quilts for people wanting to get their lives back together”?
Thus began Quilts for Crisis – a group of 10 busy sewers, quilters and first-time learners, who have already made two dozen quilts and delivered them to a local MP in Lismore to give to those who need them most.
“We wanted to make what we’re doing as simple as possible so people who aren’t necessarily quilters could feel free to get involved,” Mrs Bernie says.
“People have been interested in trying it. Some people started sewing who have never done it before, others like to work on their [home] machine... and bring it back. It’s not a regimented thing, and we work with the people who are helping us.
“When we started, we had more people sewing quilts than we had quilting them, so we had a bit of a bottleneck... But some of the people who do the quilting have been training up others who’ve never quilted before, so we’re flowing along now!”
The design for each quilt is reached by consensus – the fabric is cut into 8½-inch (21½ centimetre) squares, which are laid on top of a sheet on the floor and moved around until the group agrees on a design.
The squares are then numbered (and photographed) in their pattern, and members either get sewing while the group is together or take a packet of squares home to work on.
The St Peter’s congregation has encouraged the venture by donating cotton, extra fabric and funds to pay for the wadding that fills each quilt.
Cremorne’s rector, the Rev Tim St Quintin, is delighted by the initiative. “It’s been a great encouragement to me that people in the congregation saw a need and an opportunity to use the skills they have to help people,” he says.
“They’re consciously looking to demonstrate God’s love to people in need through the particular gifts he’s given to all those involved.
“They especially wanted to give something handmade. They could have just given money to buy off-the-shelf products but for people who’ve lost everything, to have something handmade specifically for them is very special.”
Mrs Bernie agrees. “A quilt is a tactile thing you can hang on to,” she says. “It’s not just something that can warm you, it can give you comfort.
“The Lismore floods motivated a lot of people to help because it was just so heartbreaking… but there are other groups who need support – women escaping domestic violence is another area of concern – so we plan to make many more quilts.”