"just one slab"

Quilts For Fort McMurray

Quilt donations

With a heavy heart I write this post. I also write it from the comfort of my own home, surrounded by family, my quilts, our things, our lives. Sadly, for thousands that will no longer be the case.

If you are here in Canada you've no doubt heard of the wildfire ravaging the city, towns, and area around Fort McMurray, in the northern part of my Province, Alberta. If you are international you may have heard about it too. A city of over 80,000 people evacuated. Large swaths of the city burned to the ground - homes, businesses, hotels, even infrastructure. It is so damn scary.

As people do when faced with a community tragedy we come together. People drive the highway to give away water, food, and gas to evacuees stranded. Oil companies open their oilsands camps to let evacuees stay for free. Homes are open to people living on cots with nothing but their name to carry. And quilters, quilters do what we do best.

There are numerous individuals and group gathering quilts to be shipped north when the right time comes, whether that is in rebuilding or now for people in shelters. Demand will be high, especially for the people who will have nothing, absolute nothing to go home to. I wanted to share information on where you can donate quilts, time, and money. Here is Calgary we know this far too well, but we also know the joy and love that is translated in some cotton sewn together with heart.

These places in the Calgary area are collecting quilts for eventual donation:

My Sewing Room (Finished Quilts) 

Wonderfil Threads (Finished Quilts and donating time on their longarms to finish quilts.)

Erie Quilt Art (Finished Quilts) 

One of the best resources is to join the Facebook page Quilts for Fort McMurray. Under the Events page they have listings of people across the country and internationally volunteering to collect quilts and ship as a group. 

It is still the early days of the fire and it will be a while before details of distribution can be sorted. So please be patient with organizers. In the meantime, gather your friends, makes some slabs, or finish a quilt that needs a new home.

The last handful of the Just One Slab quilts have been waiting for donation and I will drop them off now as soon as I can sew labels on them. That outpouring of love from 3 years ago will still be appreciated. 

Please note that I am not relaunching Just One Slab at this time. The response was awesome and amazing and overwhelming. Finished quilts are what people need now.

It is stories like this one that make your heart break. If you've never lived through anything like this, it doesn't take a big imagination to picture the terror and heartache. But it only takes a little bit of our love to spread some comfort and joy back into people's lives.

And remember, you can always donate to the Red Cross too. Text REDCROSS to 30333 to make a donation.

Just One Slab 1 Year Later

The last of the Just One Slab quilts are making piles in my little studio. That is 15 finished quilts right there. Handfuls are in various states of completion - waiting for binding, quilting, or still assembly. This is not to dismiss the probably 50 or so that were assembled by volunteers through

Traditional Pastimes

, a local store, then paired with a backing and sent out to long armers. Those quilts, as finished, have been donated to flood victims.

So, if you sent a slab, or twenty, know that they are all either in a finished quilt or already giving a big  hug to those who need it. Anything in this last group will get photographed by me and posted here. Not all the quilts assembled and quilted by other volunteers got a snapshot, so you may not see your block. But, again, I assure you that they've all been used and made into quilts for donation.

This past weekend marked the 1 year anniversary of the flood. In the week leading up to it we had rain, rain, and more rain. Here in Calgary it didn't amount to much, thankfully. Many communities in Southern Alberta, however, did have overland flooding, sewage issues, and washouts. No one needs that. And when nerves were already raw too.

One of the local stores,

My Sewing Room

, has been working all year on gathering, finishing, and giving out quilts for flood victims. The focus of their giving has been on the community of High River. So, on Saturday, they had a volunteer appreciation day for the quilters who worked on donations. I went out to meet more quilters (and sign books). But one of the things I loved about the day was the scrolling images of recipients on the store's 3 TVs. The huge grins on the kids' faces, the shy smile of some men, the look of relief on others. Anne, the store owner, told me of all the tears shed by volunteers, staff, and recipients.

As quilters we know the value of a homemade quilt. And it isn't just the time. Think about the excitement you feel as you create, the giddiness of looking at the finally finished project, the anticipation of the recipient's reaction. Knowing all that, think about a moment, if you've been lucky to have it, where someone gave you a quilt. Because you know what that feels like you know how much love you immediately feel.

For the recipients of the Just One Slab quilts, and all other thousands donated after the flood, this is the feeling they get. I remember from the donation day back in September and from stories I still hear about people feeling they don't deserve the quilt, or that it should go to someone who needs it more than they do. Well, I say that everyone deserves to feel loved, and that's what these quilts do.

With the help of more volunteers - many of my friends in the Calgary Modern Quilt Guild are helping out - the last of the Just One Slab quilts will be done shortly. The plan is to donate them to seniors still displaced from their homes in High River. I will share pictures of all the quilts I've got before then, as well as donation details.

Thank you so much to absolutely everyone who donated fabric, time, slabs, and extra hands to get these quilts to the people who deserve to feel that love.

High River Handicrafts Guild

Last week I had the tremendous honour to teach in High River. You may not know or remember that High River was one of the communities devastated in last year's flood. It is a small town south of Calgary. The Highwood River runs through it and during the flood that was a bit of an understatement. The Highwood River barrelled over, under and through it.

A few months back I got a call from a quilter from the High River Handicrafts Guild. Would I be interested in teaching Slabs to the Guild? How they found me is the best part.

One of their members received a donated quilt after the flood. She loved it so much she started researching it. And it contained slabs! But the story goes further back than that. The quilt was made by someone else that I taught slabs too in one of the other local area guilds. She turned her slabs into a quilt, then donated it. Shirley, in High River, received the quilt. Shirley told me that the quilt has become her 'blankie'. Providing all the comfort that the word implies and then some. 

On top of that, I know the original quilt maker outside of quilting because her grandkids and my kids are friends, we live in the same neighbourhood and they go to school together!

It was crazy!

Not nearly as crazy as the flood and the fact that the community is still dealing with the aftermath. The centre where the class took place is a block from the river. The houses and apartments surrounding it are either still empty or you see the evidence of recovery in the form of new windows. Crews were moving earth and rocks outside to fortify the shoreline as we head towards spring run off. All morning phones were going off with alerts as they were doing emergency services testing in the community. 

Then were the quilters telling me about living in hotels for 6 months or more, the stress on disabled family. How they were just getting carpet installed that day. How they couldn't go home. What the wall of water was like. And about the generosity of other guilds in donated fabric and machines to replace all that was lost. How they themselves decided to give back as a first project once they could sew again.

The entire morning was humbling. There were tears and a lot of laughter. And so much sewing. 

Thank you to the High River Handicrafts Guild for having me.

And I can tell you this for sure, I am super motivated to get the last of the Just One Slab quilts done. There are about a dozen in various states of completion at my house. The rest have or are being finished and donated. All will be in by the flood anniversary.

Long Arm Lesson

A few weeks ago the chance came up to have a long arm lesson at the recently opened Sparrows Studioz here in Calgary. Matt Sparrow, also known as the Man Quilter, is the APQS rep for this part of the world. He has a big studio in Edmonton from which he sells, quilts, leases space, and rents long arm machines. And now he has a smaller version here in Calgary. Joanne Flamand, who is running the place down here is making sure all the local guilds get their chance to play and learn.

So one night a handful of us from the Calgary Modern Quilt Guild went up to the Wonderfil Threaducation Centre for a night of learning and play. So. Much. Fun.

To be honest, I wasn't sure if I would ever long arm my own quilts. I really enjoy the quilting part and when the tops pile up or a deadline looms I have an excellent long arm friend, not to mention a handful of others. But I did think it would at least be interesting. And now I would totally do my own quilts.

The long arms at Sparrows Studioz here are not computer guided. That means the quilter is still doing the work - whether it is entirely free motion or pantographs. There are certainly tools that make it easier, like guides, but it is still always up to the quilter to move the machine over the quilt.

And let me tell you, it is not as easy as you think it is! The machines move really well, which means it is easy to get it going in the wrong direction quickly. It requires standing and shifting your weight all while finding a rhythm to your movements. And it means that a lot of control is required, especially for the free motion or custom work.

Here are my observations and lessons.

1. When a long armer asks for 4'' extra backing fabric on the top and bottom they really need it. They aren't out to get you to waste fabric, they use that to load the backing and keep it in place when quilting. Don't scrimp and there will never be puckers.

2. Custom long arming is worth every penny, and probably more than what you are paying. It takes a lot of skill and time to do that work so don't ever feel like you are paying too much for it.

3. Pantographs are totally okay to use.

4. This is not the kind of sewing that you would do in bare feet. You need good shoes to support yourself.

5. Almost anything is possible on a long arm, but that doesn't mean everything is easy.

During our lesson we played with pantographs, a bit of free motion, some guides, as well as loading and unloading quilts. In theory, we could go and rent the machines now to quilt our own quilts. (I'm not sure I will get to that, although I would really like to.)

And it was total coincidence that a Just One Slab quilt got loaded up on the machine for us that night! But I may get more up there. I am trying to get the last of the quilts finished and in for distribution prior to the one year anniversary of the Flood and that is coming up in a little over a month.