Ask Jo: Charity Quilts

I often get questions from blog readers via email, Facebook or from comments here on the blog.  Often there are questions that other readers might like the answer to as well so I answer them here on the blog.  Today is one of those days.

Today’s question comes from Marie:  “You are always speaking of making donation quilts, however the only time we see them on site, is when you are putting together someone else’s flimsy, do you ever make a donation quilt yourself???? I mean with all the fabric people send you, a lot goes into your Bonnie Hunter quilts and they definitely are not donation quilts. Just wondering is all.”

As I read the question, it sounds a little bit two fold to me and that actually two questions are happening….
Question one:  Do I sew charity quilt tops from start to finish?
Question two:  How do I use the fabric that is sent to me?

I’ll start with question number one:  Do I sew charity quilt tops from start to finish?

The answer…not as many as I would like because I end up so busy finishing the quilt tops that are sent to me by blog readers.

Below you will see a quilt that we TRULY made from start to finish.  We saw a really cute fabric line with dogs on it that Moda was featuring.  We knew anything made with the fabric would make a wonderful donation to our local Human Society’s benefit.  I sat down at the computer and started playing….I designed this quilt.  Kelli and I pieced it.  I wrote the tutorial for the free pattern, quilted and bound it.  (find the free pattern here)

Each year I do a quilt for the local Fire Department Pancake Breakfast and Raffle.  I typically don’t publicize that on the blog and tell what quilt it was.  What usually happens is that I have a few quilts I am willing to part with that I’ve made over the year and then I have Hubby pick which one he’d like best to give.  Sometimes I find some fireman fabric and make a novelty quilt with the fabric.  It’s whatever I find time for….

Kelli and I also designed, sewed, wrote a free pattern, quilted and bound these quilts.  Find the free patterns here.

One of these went on to a local benefit that helped get a medical dog for a local child.Edit

Kelli and I also designed, sewed, wrote a free pattern, quilted and bound this quilt.  Find the free patterns here.

This quilt is out our local school’s colors.  This quilt went on to be auctioned off at the school fundraiser.

Kelli and I also designed, sewed, wrote a free pattern, quilted and bound this quilt.  Find the free patterns here.

This quilt was made and donated to a person at the nursing home that our daughter Kalissa cared for and loved.  She herself was a quilter.  I am so honored to have made it for her.

You can find free patterns on our website that we also designed, sewed, wrote a free pattern, quilted and bound…Our Butter Churn Dash, Dresden Plate Candle Mat, Robot Quilt, and Pin Up Star Table Runner.

Kelli and I have also sewn and sent doll quilt tops to the Mississippi Valley Quilters.

We’ve done quite a few….

Now onto question two:
How do I use the fabric that is sent to me?

That one will take a bit to answer too.  First off let me explain..people send me fabric for all sorts of reasons.  Some people want to downsize or clean up their own sewing space.  People have things in their sewing room that at one time they were excited about and for whatever reason, they aren’t excited about anymore.  Now when they go in their sewing room, the unwanted stuff drags them down.  They seek a fresh start.  Sending fabric onto me helps them “get back in the groove” without feeling guilty.

Some fabric gets sent to me by daughters who are going through their mother’s things and their mother has passed on.

Some things get sent to me because some people don’t want little clipping left over from old projects.  Ila does this for me all the time.  She knows I am working on Pineapple Crazy blocks and need little triangles for them.  She would likely throw them out but instead just sends them onto me….I LOVE IT!

Some people do not do scraps.  If a piece of fabric is smaller than a fat quarter they just have no use for it.  I like scraps and do lots with them.

When readers send me fabric I sort through it all.  Long ago I used to try to keep my fabric and the charity fabric all sorted out.  It was a nightmare.  I didn’t have enough space.  It started being a burden on me.  Then I came up with a system.

I don’t keep every piece of fabric but I find a home for every piece of fabric.  Anything smaller than 8″ wide I claim.  I cut it all up and throw it in my scrap bins.

Some fabric that would be good for children’s quilts I keep for backings depending on the prints.  Some goes into a box for project Linus quilters.

My 98 year old Aunt Agnes quilts for Lutheran World Relief.  If I get in fabric that is “dated” or loud in a not so good way, I pass that on to her or another group of ladies that makes quilts for Lutheran World Relief.

I have a blog reader that told me that she would make charity quilt tops but doesn’t have the means to buy the fabric.  I send her fabric…she sends back quilt tops.  It’s a win-win for both of us.

My sister Judy has a church quilting group that makes quilts for their missionaries.  I have provided her with donated fabric for her group’s charity mission.

Not long ago a blog reader sent flannel fabric.  That went on to my daughter Kayla.  She is planning to crochet around the edge of the fabric to make nice receiving blankets and then they will be donated.

Fabric goes LOTS of places.  I am under no delusion that I can use it all myself so I am more or less a clearing house to get fabric into the hands of people who can use it for a charity cause.

Almost all charity quilts are bound with charity quilt fabric but occasionally I just don’t find anything but there’s a fabric that I bought that would work better..I use it…and vice versa.  Sometimes charity quilt tops come in that are 30″ x 30″.  I just know they would be used longer if they were bigger so I add borders to them using charity fabrics.

Just this week I got in an amazing charity quilt top.  It is WONDERFUL.  It didn’t come with a backing.  If there is nothing upstairs that will make a perfect backing for it, I will buy the perfect backing for it….the quilt is that nice.  That will come out of the charity quilt fund and if there’s no money in the fund (which I know there isn’t), I’ll buy it myself….The quilt is huge so it will be an 8 yard purchase…but I know auctioned off the quilt will make lots more money than that so the investment is sound.

I feel like that allows me to use a piece of fabric from the charity bin now and then….I also feel if we provide a free pattern for something that we design, we can use charity fabric for it too.  I have my own little “justification” system that runs both ways.

Something that I have been thinking a lot about:
A year or two ago I read something on Bonnie Hunter’s blog.  She had a reader that was working in a food pantry in Appalachia.  She brought and bundle up scrap fabric and some of the ladies took some as they visited the food pantry.  A couple of the ladies cried over getting such a wonderful gift.  I would like to find that lady who volunteered at the pantry and start putting together kits for her to distribute.  I think that would be amazing.  It’d happily put together kits.  If anyone has any lead on helping me put this together….please share.

So I guess in the end Marie I can say this…Yes we do sew quilts from start to finish.  We often provide a free pattern for our readers so they can make one too…we also fully acknowledge that we do not ourselves use every piece of fabric that is sent to us.  Each piece does touch our hands.  Each piece is appreciated.  Each piece either stays here for a worthy place in a quilt or is passed on to a group, person or organization that can make complete use of it.  I am a more or less a clearing house.  I hope that clears it all up….

One more thing…we do have a giveaway planned later this week of the left over fabrics from my Jingle Bell Square quilt.  I just couldn’t find a charity that would make the best use of them so I am passing them onto a reader.

29 thoughts on “Ask Jo: Charity Quilts”

  1. I’m sorry that you felt you had to justify receiving gifts of fabric to someone who obviously hasn’t read your blog thoroughly. I have followed your blog for a few years now, and I was aware of your generosity of your time, your funds (purchasing batting and backing), and your own quilts that you have donated or gifted. In fact, just about every one of the quilts you show in the post, you have previously stated that you had donated them. Please don’t let the skepticism of one person stop you from accepting love and fabric from your faithful followers!

  2. You don’t have to justify yourself to those of us who always read your blog. We know that not all fabric that is sent to you is for charity and that you do more than enough with what is. It’s sad that all some people have to do with their time is go around criticizing others, especially when they obviously don’t really know anything about what they are talking about. If anyone had any doubts they would not send you the goodie packages that they send. Don’t even wonder what the your loyal readers think. Keep up the good work!

  3. Wow! From following your blog for years I knew you made all these quilts. But to have them shown all together in one blog! Wow! Just wow!

  4. I agree with Terri. Just because quilters send you fabric doesn’t mean that fabric has to go in to charity quilts. Use it as you see fit. You are such a thoughtful, giving person, Jo, I hope you enjoy every bit of it! :)

  5. Anyone who knows you are has been reading your blog should never have had to question what you do with any fabrics. Those fabrics sent to you for you to use however your chose. I have spent much time of this day sorting through 12 tubs of fabrics …supposedly organizing them. I am one who will say it’s wonderful to have someone like you and your daughters to pass fabrics on to knowing you will find a use or a home for them. Never feel like you’re must justify your fabric decisions. I am grateful you and your blog are part of my life.

  6. I love the way you have handled this question. I agree that you don’t need to justify any charity fabric that you use, since you spend many hours each year both enlarging and quilting these donations. The way you’ve explained it gives us all a better understanding of how MUCH time and effort you spend on them. You’re an inspiration!

  7. I hope you are able to keep some of the fabric that is sent to you. You do so much for others. What goes around comes around.

  8. thanks for sharing another part of your life with us. It was inspiring and might give others ideas on how to share unwanted fabric.

  9. Elaine Walker

    I sincerely hope that the reader who questioned you did not mean to come across as so mean spirited. The main thing is that if you are gifted fabric, no matter what it is, then it is yours to use as you see fit. You don’t need to justify how you use it. I agree with the others that this person must not have followed you for long or she would not have to ask the questions she did. Your generosity is amazing. You have such a warm and caring nature that it comes through for all to see. I love following your blog and feel like you are a true friend.

  10. The fact that you didn’t see it as mean spirited (like most of us did!) is another testament to your generous spirit. I love reading your blog and I am always amazed at your boundless energy. I really did enjoy the post today because I couldn’t imagine what your sewing room must look like with all the fabric donations you get – LOL. Now I feel more comfortable knowing you are not going to be smothered by a falling over stack of fabric. You have come up with some really ingenious and generous avenues through which to funnel your windfalls. Keep up all your good work and thanks for continuing to publish such an enjoyable and warm blog.

  11. Your generosity has always amazed me. Your explanation has blown me away, what a beautiful service you provide to others. Thank you for everything you do !!

  12. Colleen C. Yarnell

    I too would love info about that person who bundled fabric. Im finding selling off older fabrics just doesnt do it for me. Id love to make up kits and get them into the right hands. Im in NC so I wonder if it was some where here. Also I get fabric given to me all the time and I hate the idea of just giving stuff I wouldnt use to Goodwill. I dont think it goes to those who would use it. A friend gives me her long arm scraps and I often sew a lot of it into charity quilts for senior services or blocks for charity bees.

  13. You did an excellent job answering the reader’s questions! I hope she didn’t intend for her post to sound so critical, but four question marks after a question is extreme, in my opinion. If I give someone a gift, whether it’s fabric, a quilt, or something else, it’s theirs to do with as they see fit. If I don’t like how it’s used, then I just don’t gift again. Please continue with your good works and enjoying yourself in the process!

  14. Your response was perfect. I read your blog every day and love love love what you do. I like how you explained that you are a clearing house for fabric. As long as it gets used somehow that is what matters. I admire you for all that you do for your family, the child care kids, for worthy causes in need of a quilt and for us quilters.

    My SIL is getting married and I asked her to choose a quilt for me to make and she chose 2 of yours from the free patterns. I will make one and not tell her which one so it is kind of a surprise. You taking the time to design and test patterns and then offer them for free more than balances the donations that come your way.

    Keep up the great work and the great attitude!

  15. It’s wonderful that you are able to find so many uses, and share with so many people the extras that are sent you – as well as help finish so many quilts for others! Would love to know where we could share more scraps as well – if you find the information let us know!

  16. I wonder how many charity quilts Marie has made! I think most quilter’s have a giver’s heart if not with fabric with the quilts they make. We enjoy the process of quilting so we share with others so we can make more. I like the thought of someone being warm because of what I made. Anytime I send you fabric it to be used ,personally, for charity or distributed as you see fit. I can’t make everyone a quilt but I can help by providing fabric, be it scraps or fabric that I just don’t have a need for anymore. Your willingness to distribute that is so much better than it sitting on a shelf and not being used. Thank you for all you do. The nerve of anyone to question your decisions on what is GIVEN TO YOU.

  17. I love to sew and quilt, but I rarely make big quilts. So, I live vicariously through your blog. I do make lots of lap quilts and throws, table runners, and the occasional Christmas tree skirt. My inspiration comes from you and other quilters whose blogs I follow. I think that when you make a quilt from start to finish and then donate it to be auctioned for charity, you have indeed made a charity quilt. I love your approach to life. I love that you and your hubby seem to be on the same page when it comes to work and family. Please keep on doing what you do. I’ll keep on following.

  18. I’m sure people who gift you fabric feel it’s yours to do with as you please! They’re probably just happy to be rid of something they no longer love.

  19. I sure hope Marie sees your response to her questions! You and Kelli are so generous with your time and talents that only someone who isn’t a regular reader would make a comment like that.. You are very talented and generous ladies and we appreciate all you do for us as quilter. Thank you for being there every morning with my coffee and in the evening as I finish cleaning up the kitchen! .I love having you to start and end my day!

  20. Hi, Jo, my question sure provoked a lot of people and I surely didn’t intend it to do so, I love the way you answered my questions, thanks very much. I have read your blog for many many years and have read of some of these quilts that you mention. I in no way meant my comment as a criticism of you, I was just asking a question is all. I won’t do that again, for sure! In answer to Donna’s remark, I am 81 yrs. old and have made more quilts for donation over the years that I can’t begin to tell you how many. Just finished six more last week to go to one of the senior’s full care homes near my town. Thanks again, Jo for the wonderful posting today.

    1. Marie…I know you are a loyal reader. I was happy to answer the question. I honestly believe that readers would like to know the answer. Don’t ever worry about asking a question…questions are good and thought provoking too. I am happy it came as it prompted me to try to do more good with some of the fabric that is sent.

  21. Jo, I always assumed myself and other readers sent you fabric for your personal use or donation if that’s what you wanted to do with it. Knowing that I have way more fabric than I can ever use I like to send some to bloggers who have provided me with hours of information and entertainment (for lack of a better word) who I know will use it. I hope you don’t feel like you must use it for charity quilts even though that is a good use.

  22. Elizabeth McDonald

    Ohh, Jo! I love your blog and so appreciate what you and Kellie do. I think it is fabulous that some of your readers like to gift you with fabric that they know they will not use. I get a big kick out of a “reveal” when you show what was in the package – exciting! It is sweet of you to take time out of your recovery to reply to reader questions. Please take good care of yourself, and get better!

  23. It is just now 5 a.m. and you already have 24 comments. I think that I agree with everything that was said! A question or statement in print can be read and taken, is so many ways. I sometimes wonder if I post something if the reader gets my humor or understands what I am trying to say. Facial expression and body language are lost. I think it is a testament to who you are that you answered a question so fully and felt that the person who asked was just curious. Another reason why so many people follow your blog.Thank you for all that you do.

  24. This is the post about the food pantry and scrap bags for ladies who have little:

    I don’t know the name or address of the pantry, but I love the idea of the story. Giving women (or men) who have little the means to create something beautiful is a gift beyond food and the basic necessities of life. If I can find out more, I’ll let you know.

    And you don’t have to justify your fabric gifts to anyone. People who feel burdened with fabric they know they aren’t going to use are also given a gift of freedom when you accept what they have to offer. Whether it goes into a charity quilt or not.

    While I’m not able to make as many charity quilts as I used to (Believe me, I’m going to get back to it upon retirement!) my hope is that we are still contributing to the efforts of others by the free patterns we take the time to make and write, inspiring others to do the sewing and giving part. What we do still counts in helping others if we provide the pattern and the inspiration.

    In piece and scrappiness —


  25. Clara Chandler

    Hello, Jo! Your explanation of all your quilting activities made me in awe of the time you spend in the day, in addition to your daycare! I’m trying my best to use my scraps and I’m participating in the “community” quilts project of my guild. These quilts are given to local charities for auctions and new home owners by Habitat for Humanity. I love to sew and quilt as I read that you do, also.

  26. Help wth design for photo quilt combination of 5×7 anf 8×10 pictures
    Client would like queen size top?

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