Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Debra - Itty Bitty Blankets

Charity work isn't new to most of us. We all give a little here. A little there.

So, when a group to which I newly belong began to speak of their charity project, I nodded and applauded the good work and told myself they had plenty of people working on the project. They make quilts for one of the local children's hospitals. Many of the children come from far away, especially for the new heart program. Their families don't have much money. Often the treatment is free. But hospitals can be cold, sterile places and putting a quilt into the hands of an uncertain and scared child at just the right time can make such a difference. Quilts allow the parents to wrap the child up and hug them tight. (I feel like a book can do that too.)

Most of the quilts made and given are "quick quilts." Just squares sewn together, usually out of some mixture of kid's fabrics and quilted on the machine. Nothing fancy. The last time the Chairman took a batch of quilts up, some nurses grabbed the small ones and took off for the nursery. I thought, well, I can certainly make a quilt that's only 24" x 24" if they need them that badly. You see, when some of the babies die, all their family might have is that quilt. It's not just about comforting the child.

You don't have to hit me on the head. I began to understand that this was Important Work. I made one one of these small quilts. A very humbling experience. Then I made a second and now I'm working on the third (see above) called "Cowboy Dots" and much cuter in person. I'm going to take some grief from the Program Chair. Or at least get the award for "Most unnecessary hand work on quilts which will know vomit."

It's not my fault. Seriously. The first charity quilt I gave them was hand-quilted because I was "testing" out my hurt finger. (Remember the I-almost-cut-off-part-of-my-finger finger?) So, after machine piecing the top, I selfishly used the little quilt to get back in quilting-shape. The Chairman smiled and patted me on the hand as if I was half-witted. "No one hand quilts these, dear. They're charity quilts."

Thank you. I was soooo confused.

Then on the second itty bitty quilt, Evil Kitty (black cat) grabbed the finished quilt top off the studio table and ran like the hounds of hell were after her. By the time I caught her, I HAD to applique two hearts on the quilt to cover up the big honking tooth HOLE. I applique by hand. And if you hand applique...you might as well hand quilt. Oh, and put the binding on by hand too! See? It's not my fault. They still laughed at me.

By the time I got to #3, I surrendered and accepted that for whatever reason, I'm supposed to make these quilts my way and not the quick way. Even if I'm destined to win(?) the "Most Unnecessary Workmanship" award.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who is in the running for a "Most Unnecessary" Award. Where is your over-the-top Achilles Heel? Is there an area in your life which takes that little bit of extra time and you're not willing to do less? Or don't want to do less? Come on. 'Fess up. You're in good company.


Anonymous said...

I think you are just wonderful for doing this. I worked NICU years ago and you are so right about these parents maybe having nothing, especially if the baby dies.

I have a baby quilt that my paternal grandmother made (all by hand). The funny thing is, of 13 grandchildren, I am the only one with a hand-made baby quilt from her AND the only one without children! My plan is to have this quilt frames and pass down to my sister's kids.

Definitely NOT at your level of "extra time", but when we have biscuits, I made them from scratch rather than using canned. We like them and it's worth the extra time it takes.

PJ said...

I think what you're doing is wonderful and, to be honest, I'm offended by the chairman's comment - No one hand quilts these, dear. They're charity quilts." - as if these families don't deserve hand sewn quilts. Two of the women I volunteer with at our local hospital are wonderful knitters and make baby caps, blankets, sweaters, etc. for the nursery. They don't just "whip them out". They take the extra time and effort to make them special by knitting in different designs and adding special touches. The woman who makes the caps uses four needles so that there won't be a seam to scratch the baby's delicate head. We have a lot of poor people in our rural areas and, for many of them, those hand-knitted items will be the only nice baby keepsake they will ever have. I man the main info desk one afternoon a week and often see these new moms proudly leaving the hospital with their babies wrapped in or wearing their new hand-knitted finery.

Keep doing it the right way for you!

Betina Krahn said...

Ackkk! Blogger ate my comment!

Deb, what a wonderful post! I adore your spirit and love your beautiful hand work.

It seems to me that with the extra hand stitching, you are sewing more love and concern-- maybe even a silent prayer-- into the quilts you give to sick babies. It seems that for you that it may be a spiritual experience as much as a gift for others. Wow.

I do that with a few food dishes I prepare. Have to be right-- just right. The other thing I do it in is listening. I spend a lot of time listening to others. Not quite the same thing, but it's maybe in the same neighborhood.

GunDiva said...

I love this blog! I can't quilt, well, maybe I could whip one up on a machine, but I can't really QUILT. My great-grandmother won awards for her quilts and I can still see in my mind the quilting frame set up in the living room when she was working on one. I love those memories, and the feel of the different fabrics she used and the fine hand-stitching it took. Keep doing it your way; the families who receive them will treasure the extra effort you put into every one you do.

My volunteerism started in my early twenties when I was a Medicaid mom and my children had to go to a "Medicaid clinic" - not the health clinic - run by a local pediatrician. I couldn't afford to pay him, but when the opportunity came up for me to volunteer as a medical intake person for another charity he founded, I jumped on it and continued to work with the mobile health van throughout college. When the health van became to "big" and we had to establish a clinic, I focused my volunteer efforts on the 9HealthFair and have been volunteering there since. But it hasn't stopped at volunteering just one day at the health fair, it's become all-encompassing; the 9HF rules my life from mid-February until the end of April every year and I wouldn't have it any other way. My children have been volunteers for the health fair for the last few years, and the rockcrawlin' chef volunteered to work it just three weeks after we started dating (guess I should have known he was a keeper).

Keep up your good work with your quilts - your blog made me want to take on a project like that, too.

Playground Monitor said...

When the fun fur knitted scarves became the rage a few years ago, I bought knitting needles and re-learned the basic knit and purl stitches. Then I read about Project Linus, which is similar to your quilt charity. I made several simple knitted afghans and then got out of the knitting habit. I should get back in because I would knit while I watched TV and with American Idol starting back up, that would be a lot of knitting time.

Both my babies spent their first week of life in the NICU and I saw firsthand how little some of the other parents had. That's probably a big part of WHY their babies were in the NICU. But a blanket or afghan would mean so much.

I used to work with a crisis phone line here and later did the Sunday School/Bible School stuff. I refused to be a homeroom mom, but I'd go on a field trip in a heartbeat.

I'm not sure I've ever been up for a "Most Unnecessary" award. Now most of my efforts go into writing and the two positions I have in my local RWA group and the two I have at the national level.

Love the cowboy dots quilt and you just keep doing them by hand and filling them with love because those kids need all the love they can get.


Debra Dixon said...

Cindy-- Okay, now you've made it even more impossible to just slap something together because you're validating the need. (g) I win!

I remember "from scratch" biscuits. ::sigh:: Those are wonderful. Just not the same as canned biscuits. You really can't have decent biscuits and sausage gravy without homemade biscuits.

Debra Dixon said...

PJ-- Again, you guys are just reinforcing my bad habits. (g)

Of course now you've given me a really good excuse to knit. I make socks so I could do non-seamed hats. Hmmm...

I've never volunteered in a hospital, but I suspect that doing so is also very Important Work. Good on you!

I should also mention the Chairman of the program is a charming woman and was probably afraid I didn't know I could do less handwork if I wanted to do less. (g) But I'm a writer and I shamelessly used her comment for dramatic effect.

And now I feel bad and all warm-and-fuzzy from your leaping to support me.

I love this blog.

Keri Ford said...

That's so sweet of you to do Debra! I know those families treasure these quilts.

I'd rather make homemade bread than put in the machine. I love kneeding dough. it's relaxing for me.

I've always wanted to quilt by hand, but I can't crochet anymore because it just KILLS my wrists after all of 5 minutes with that repetitive motion. I can't imagine how long I'd last doing it with a needle and thread.

Debra Dixon said...

Betina-- OMG! I didn't think of the extra time resulting in more good thoughts going into the final product or that I'm in some way spiritually uplifted during the making. But I'm very very happy working on the little quilts. Thinking of those who get the quilts. (I don't take them down there so working on them is my only connection to the recipients.)

Re: Listening
Oh, you have no idea how important that is to some people. The time that you give up to "hear" what they have to say will only improve the world in about a zillion ways. Plus, I know you. When you listen it's with your whole spirit.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Oh,Deb, I love the cowboy dots quilt, and what you're doing is so beautiful it makes me teary. Partly I think because quilting is such an important craft in Clyde's family. Quilts play an important role at all stages of life, and we lost the master quilter in the family last fall--his older sister. At that time the two younger sisters presented all of their older brothers and sisters with star quilts machine embroidered with the names and birth dates of their parents and all 13 sibs. It was quite amazing. They hired someone with the machine to do the embroidery, and they had been working on this for ages.

The very idea of a quilt is meaningful. Pieces of life sewn together by women's hands. Your gifts are heart- soul- mind- and body-warming. Thank you for the this feeling of wonder this morning, Deb.

As for you, Evil Kitty, you're a stitch!

Debra Dixon said...

GunDiva-- Oh, man! You and PJ really get in there and mix it up with your volunteer efforts! Good on you.

What an excellent litmus test for your sweetie too!

My son had to do X number of volunteer hours a year during high school, which was great. I wish we could have done some projects together, so I'm very envious that you've gotten to work with and see your kids follow along.

Debra Dixon said...

Marilyn-- You know I've heard of Project Linus. It's been a while but I remember hearing about that. Good way to make American Idol way more than a guilty pleasure. (BTW, I just LOVE Danny Gokey.)

I hate field trips and any mom who put herself on the line for those deserves some kind of award!

Debra Dixon said...

Keri-- I can't bake. I'm either too heavy handed or my body temp is too high. I saw something somewhere that pretty much said your hands have to be cool or it screws everything up. But I love love love homemade bread.

I'm very jealous of you bakers. Well, I can bake, it's just not good.

Helen Brenna said...

Important stuff, Deb. Good for you!

You should be getting enjoyment out of even things you do for charity, so you should keep doing it your way!

There isn't much I don't cut corners on these days. One thing I refuse to give up is walking our neighbors dog every day after school. They hire him to do it and he could easily do it by himself, but it give us fifteen minutes alone to talk every day after school.

I keep telling my neighbor I should be paying her!

Debra Dixon said...

Kathy-- Aw, I'm so sorry you lost your master quilter. [hugs] But I am just in awe that the younger sisters were able to give such meaningful quilts at that time. Those quilts are much loved. I've seen some machine embroidery work and it can be quite stunning!!

13 siblings?? I imagine that brood was created the old-fashioned way versus in-vitro?

And, yes, Evil Kitty is *quite* a "stitch." LOL!

Debra Dixon said...

Helen-- What a great way to spend time with the folks you love. Definitely don't give that up!! You'll never regret that time.

And you'll come to cherish it even more during the "Great Loneliness" time.

That's the time after your son decides that being attached to mom isn't cool and the time before they're old enough to know that mom is the best thing since sliced bread.

The Great Loneliness lasted about 6 years. (g) And when it was over, I admit to having some fond thoughts of that time. LOL! My boy is a "chatter" now and has appointed himself curator of my ipod and movie collection. Oh, yeah. And phone.

Keri Ford said...

Cold hands? I've never heard that, but maybe that's why I have good luck with bread! My hands and feet stay so cold. Nothing makes me giggle more than sticking my cold bare foot on dh's naked leg during the night!


Cindy Gerard said...

The quilts are so special Deb. And I'm, unfortunately, with Helen. I cut corners everywhere just to keep on top of my deadline. I look forward to the day when I have a little free time. I used to dabble in pottery. Love the feel of the clay in my hands, the glazing process - everything about it. Someday I'll get back to it.

Debra Dixon said...

Keri! Your poor hubby. You are sooo bad. And funny. (g) I think Alton Brown did a show on baking and mentioned cold hands.

Debra Dixon said...

Cindy-- You can throw a pot?! How cool. I've never done anything with clay but it looks like it would be so satisfying. After you get past the frustrating part where the sides of the pot collapse before you finish it. LOL!

Cindy Gerard said...

I actually got pretty good at it. I made several vases and serving pieces. All of it is cupboard friendly (means it's uniform and stacks well) and I use the bowls and glasses every day. I miss it so much and have high hopes I'll get back into it soon. Like you and your quilts, it gives me the most amazing feeling of accomplishment.

Michele Hauf said...

That quilt is so precious! I can imagine the warm memories it carries with it long after its user has left this world.

My grandma was a quilter. To own a 'grandma blanket' is a big thing. I still have one, though the back, a pretty red silk, has worn and is very tattered. I need it fixed so I can use my grandma blanket, but then I don't want to wear the thing out beyond repair either, so I just keep it stashed.

I'm not sure what I'm over-the-top about. I think recycling has become my thing. I even take plastic stuff home from restaurants if they don't have recycle bins to recycle at home. It's just stupid to throw that stuff away and let it sit in a landfill.

Debra Dixon said...

Cindy-- Okay, if it's uniform, I'm thinking that you're pretty darned good!

Debra Dixon said...


You take home plastic from restaurants to recycle.

::clap:: ::clap:: Yep. You are dedicated. No two ways about it.

And good for you.

Our green thing for the year is less power consumption. Lights off unless we're in the room. Consolidating errands. Electronics unplugged, etc.

Heather B. said...

I love the quilt idea. My granddaugher was born on Feb 6, 6 weeks early and weighed 5.9lbs. She had to stay in the hospital for a week but is doing well. We are one of the lucky ones that she didn't have a lot of trouble. I would've loved if they had done something like that here for the babies in the NICU.

We have a brand new NICU here at it's really nice. Which was a comfort to my daughter who stayed with the baby for several nights.

My ex-mother-in-law made my daughter a quilt for her baby bed and we still have it. she used it all through kindergarten and now my granddaughter will use it.


Michele Hauf said...

Well, I wasn't trying to win any awards. I'd take everyone's plastic cup home with me if they didn't think I was a nut for eyeing their plastic ware while they eat. We all have to do something.

Anonymous said...

Our minister's daughter was in St. Jude's with a brain tumor. The people in your part of the world are so loving and giving, it's almost unbelievable.
Thank you for being so giving. You brought tears to my eyes. And I'm glad to hear your finger is better! I was worried.
Susan @ Tulsa

Debra Dixon said...

Heather-- Isn't it amazing that you can have a baby 6 weeks early and be one of the lucky ones? 6 weeks early! How scary. I'm sooo glad it turned out well.

And in handing down the quilt your ex-mother-in-law made, you've also neatly tied into Lois's blog on tradtions. (g) It'll be interesting to see how many generations the quilt will survive. Quilts we love and use don't survive forever but I'd rather things be loved and used rather than put up in closets!

Debra Dixon said...

Michele-- Yeah, this is the sort of award you win because you aren't trying and you still just HAVE to go that extra mile.

You're a good bunny. A green bunny and we should all be paying attention. I'm trying to get better. I figure baby steps, build a habit and then go on to the next step. Eventually I'll get to a good carbon footprint.

Debra Dixon said...

Hey, Susan!

St. Jude is just a fabulous place. We're a big medical center in Memphis but St. Jude's is one of the operations that really stands tall.

They truly are good people.