GONZALES, LA (WAFB) - St. James Lutheran Church offers its social space for a volunteer group with big aspirations.
"The Giving Quilt" has a gathering of volunteers there making quilts. The Giving Quilt has many, many projects that these ladies and men do.
On this day, they sewed borders on squares for chemotherapy quilts for a group called "Holy Trinity Triple Negative Breast Center."
"We've done a sew day for Quilts of Valor. We've done on for the NICU at Woman's Hospital. It's wherever we see a need," said Roberta Wilson, a founding member of The Giving Quilt.
Now here comes the staggering figure. For 2015, the Giving Quilt made and donated 700 quilts to 35 charities! This is no small commitment. It's huge!
The Giving Quilt began in 2006 with about 30 quilts in a show, and has grown by leaps and bounds. The group holds a show and auction every two years as a fundraiser.
Volunteers chattered as their sewing machines hum at St. James Church. They come from other churches and all over the community. It's obvious from their conversations that they enjoy this socially. They come for the camaraderie. They answer "The Call."
"Our volunteers come out every time we send out The Call. We always get the right amount of volunteers for each project. We have snacks. We laugh. We have fun."
Every few years, the Giving Quilt stages a giant quilt show at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center. They have a panel of judges and not only display quilts they will donate, they also display some of their own personal projects for a juried part of the show.
I was honored to be a judge on the last quilt show in 2015. A giant aircraft hanger-sized room was filled with racks and racks of the quilts.
The Giving Quilt is drawing more and more of the true artists who quilt in South Louisiana. Some of the quilts had such detailed passementerie stitching, I imagined hours on hours it probably took to make the rich details.
The group also had tables where kids could stuff and sew about 4 stitches and take home a little stuffed toy. They try to make their quilt show a family occasion.
Back to the "Batcave" where our superheroes were still sewing away and pinning fabric squares on 7-foot cork boards propped against the walls. There were a few husbands of women at the sewing machines who helped pin the squares on the highest rows when someone cannot reach there. Men are encouraged to hang around.
"They have a lot of talents they don't know about," laughed Robert Wilson.
They pin designs together, sometimes lift or carry heavy things, but sometimes they even pick up an iron and press a few fabric squares! The women work in teams and seem to have a few assembling lines organized, each line for each quilt being constructed. Everyone seems to know what to do, even though it looked like chaos to me!
Two women have sewing machines that are dramatically smaller. They are not made of plastic with metal parts like everyone else's. Turns out these are hard-core quilters, and what they're using, they've shaken down the internet and found Singer Sewing machines from the 1930s that are in mint condition. The machines sew ONLY ONE KIND OF STITCH. That's how old they are! But for quilting, they are perfect.
Both women smiled as I cooed over how pretty the metal chassis is on these sewing machines. They obviously lovingly polish and oil their sewing machine like some men polish a beautiful car.
As efficient as the work session is, quilts take time. There's no shortening things, but that's the whole point. A person who receives a Giving Quilt, understands that hands made these stitches and hands made each pattern unique. It is a very special gift, wrapping the person in love.
Just FYI, there will be a Giving Quilt Show held next year on February 4 and 5, 2017 at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center.
I recommend taking in the wonder of their achievement. Admission is free, and there are activities for the kids.