Almost 20 years and 2000 quilts later, the founder of the group “Mothers for others” describes to us what is undeniably a passion.
Their name is quite unusual and so is the cause that they cherish. These ladies make quilts for the Montreal Children’s Hospital Department of Pediatric Care—close to 100 per year, and this for the past 20 years.
It all started in 2003, when one of them, Laurie McKeown-Thomassin, donated some of her quilts to a fundraiser at her sons’ school. Other mothers, intrigued by that, thought that it could be a very interesting activity. All these young mothers were in their late 30s or early 40s. Laurie asked them only one favour. If she would teach them, they would have to each donate at least one quilt a year to a worthy cause. By joining forces they would be able to make more for the chosen cause. The Moms opted for a baby quilt which they would make and give to the Children’s Hospital.
They met at their sons’ school, Loyola High School, every week during the school year until, well … the pandemic. Since then they meet on Zoom, not as regularly, but they still fulfill their promise every year. The challenge could have stopped there, but it would be too simple or too boring, so Laurie added a layer to it. She gives the quilters a theme or a well-known expression which they have to represent in a quilt. During the pandemic, one of them, a retired teacher, made 20 quilts in a year.
The group varies from 16 to 18 women but there is also a spin-off group of 4–5 quilters who cannot easily go to Montreal West for the weekly meetings but still want to contribute.
What is quilting exactly? It is a process where you sew together two layers of fabric (good quality fabric, usually cotton) and padding (batting). Usually, the top layer is cut into small squares (or other shapes that will make little squares). These squares are sewn together either by machine or by hand. The top layer, the padding, and the bottom layer are then sewn together. It may seem easy but it is quite the process. It takes around 25–30 hours to complete a baby quilt.
Good fabric is quite expensive, but the group receives donations from both Pointe-Claire and Dorval Old Timers hockey organization. They also sometimes receive fabric donations but these are still rare. They order fabric from many places including the United States. During the pandemic, with the leftover fabric, they made headbands, with wooden buttons made from broom or shovel handles, for nurses. They were made so you could attach the surgical masks to them. The group sewed and gave about 800 headbands for free, which were sent as far as Newfoundland and Edmundton. They also made face masks. The profit made ( $600 ) from the sale of the face masks went to the Cystic Fibrosis Society.
These quilters also work on adult-size quilts. A series of them were made for Joyce Echaquan’s children after they lost their mother. For the time being, they are sewing quilts for the St-Raphael Palliative Care Home. A team of 3–4 seamstresses work on an adult-size bed quilt.
Laurie says that it is a very therapeutic and soothing activity. When working on a project, you don’t watch TV, you listen to it, she adds.
Long-lasting friendships also developed from this hobby. A core group of 12 people has remained the same since the beginning. Some come for a while and when they see that they cannot fulfill the one baby quilt a year requirement, they leave and come back when they can. The group is open to newcomers and people who want to learn to quilt. Laurie added that it could be fun to have schools promoting the activity through lunchtime or after-school programs.
After two years of seeing each other online, Laurie hopes that the ladies will finally meet this upcoming summer to do some conversational catching up. It is also an important part of being in a group like this. They started as mothers, but now, many are grandmothers. Their children have grown up and some have married. Twenty years is a major portion of one’s life and having this special interest makes forever-lasting bonds and friendships.
Happy quilting ladies! Keep up the good work!