The Cotton Patch Quilters know nothing can replace the cherished sentimental belongings lost in homes destroyed by this summer's California fires, but together, they hope to give those survivors something new, with love and thought stitched right in.
In lieu of its normal September meeting, the quilting guild is hosting a Sew-In for California fire survivors on Sept. 20 at Thimble Towne from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. There, they will spend the day making quilts to give survivors.
"This was brought together very organically," said Krystina Steed, first vice president of the guild. "We were at a board meeting and discussing the fires and someone mentioned that someone lost their home. We thought 'Why don't we throw together a sew-in?'"
This won't be the first sew-in for the guild but, unlike the others, this one was planned with much shorter notice than usual, just a few weeks, because it was "a quick need," Steed said. Guild members agreed to step up and help.
"If you just lost everything you have — not just possessions but sentimental things you can't replace — knowing someone cares does wonders," said member Nikki Pride.
The sew-in is open to everyone, whether they are a member of the guild or not, and regardless of quilting skill level. Members will even find jobs for the non-quilters to help with, should any show up.
"We really encourage beginners to come," Steed said. "This is the perfect opportunity for them to practice."
Quilters are welcome to make whatever they'd like, but the guild is suggesting a Disappearing 9-Patch pattern using 5-inch squares, because it is quick and easy. Participants will be making couch- and queen-sized quilts. When finished, quilts will be handed over to quilting guilds in the affected areas for them to give to those in need in their communities.
Those who are committed to a full day of quilting will be happy to know they can preorder lunch on the guild's website until Sept. 18. They can also bring snacks to share.
Steed didn't know how many people to expect at the sew-in but knows the members of her guild are always keen to use their skills to give to the community.
"Something I often find with quilters is they are more than willing to donate their time and energy when asked," Steed said.
The sew-in fits in well with the guild's other philanthropic efforts: pillowcases for the Jamison Children's Center, beds for local animal shelters and isolettes, incubator covers for area neonatal intensive care units.
"If there's a need and we can help, we'll donate our time and our means to be able to help," said Laurie Britt, second vice president of the guild.
Quilts are "a comfort to a lot of people," said Sandra Ferguson, a guild member who made a quilt for her son-in-law when he was fighting cancer.
While the quilters will be donating their time and skill, local businesses are donating supplies for the sew-in. As any quilter knows, fabric isn't cheap, so the guild appreciates the donations it has received for the sew-in from Cherry Berry Quilts and Beverly's Fabric & Crafts. Thimble Towne is offering its space and staying open late for the sew-in, so any quilters who work during the day can come by in the evening.
Anyone who wants to help but can't go (or can't sew!) can donate money or supplies to the guild.
The event will also be a chance for local quilters who are not part of the guild to get to know its members and consider joining. The guild meets the third Thursday of every month, with an afternoon meeting and an evening meeting to accommodate everyone's work schedules. The 200-plus members range in age from 20s to 90s.
"We're getting more and more 30-year-olds; it seems to be trendy among the hipsters," Steed said. "A lot of the older ones will take newbies under their wing. It's kind of a neat generational thing."
The sew-in, Steed said, will be "a great time to get together as a community for the community, and we'll have a lot of fun."