Saturday, March 26, 2016

Week 12: Quilting for Charity

I wanted to take today to talk a little bit about charity quilting. There are many, many opportunities to give a quilt to someone in need, and today I want to focus on the organization that is near and dear to my own heart.

West Coast Mennonite Relief Sale (WCMRS) weekend is just around the corner, next Friday and Saturday. While there is a LOT of fabulous food for sale, along with used books, plants, antiques, collectibles, fair trade items, a 10K race and 2 mile fun run, the main money is raised through the auctioning of handmade items (over 500 quilts, afghans and comforters).

This sale is held every year (there are several similar sales held through the United States and Canada) to help fund Mennonite Central Committee, whose mission is to spread relief, development and peace in the name of Christ. It is an incredibly well-respected charitable organization. In fact, nearly 90 percent of all money donated goes to the work of MCC.

Where is this work carried out? In the words of a former West Coast director, "All those places you wouldn't want to go for vacation? Those are the places where MCC is present."

MCC has an ongoing presence in many, many countries, and is always one of the first responders whenever there is a disaster happening anywhere in the world. A partial list of the places where MCC has a current presence includes Burundi, Chad, Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Croatia, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Ukraine, Bolivia, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine & Israel, Syria...the list goes on.

In fact, as I checked the website,  one of the first articles included the following information:

"Since the Syrian war began five years ago in March, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has spent about $34.6 million to relieve the suffering of Syrians, Iraqis and people in neighboring countries who have been impacted by violence."
That help includes:
140,014 hygiene kits.
126,207 people receiving emergency food assistance
 30,345 relief kits.
 28,716 school kits.
Mark's cousin, Ione, and I partner every other year to make a large quilt for the auction. The total cost of making the quilt comes out of my own pocket--fabric, batting, quilting, etc. I make the quilt top and the backing, and then Ione works her magic with the machine quilting. Over the past 13 years, these quilts have raised a significant amount of money, all of which has gone to the work of MCC.

It is always an ongoing topic of conversation as to what style/color of quilt will bring the biggest amount from bidders at the auction. The answer to that remains a simple one: it only takes two people who each want any specific quilt and bid against each other until one finally gives up. Over the years, again and again, we have found that there is no way  to predict which quilts will bring the highest bid. We have seen exquisitely hand quilted beauties go for a price that doesn't even cover the cost of the fabric. We have seen small wall hangings that inexplicably go for a really high price--maybe someone is sentimental because a close family member or friend worked on it--you really never can predict.

The first quilt collaboration was this Shoofly quilt (84x96).  Ione had made at least one of these before, I fell in love with it, asked if she would consider quilting it if I made one for donation. She did a beautiful job, and the variegated thread really popped against the black. This quilt sold for the highest amount that year (2003): $3,400!
In 2004, we collaborated on Stars Over Ohio (86x113). Each star had the same focus fabric, and all the blocks were some kind of variation on the Ohio Star. It sold for $3,100; I believe it was the second highest that year.
California Kaleidoscope (108x108) came next, in 2007.  It was made from a single fabric with a repeating symmetrical pattern, designed by Paula Nadelstern. Each of the blocks was made from the same fabric--I just placed a plastic template on a different part of the fabric and cut eight identical wedges. It took a lot of fabric--but so worth it! It sold for $2,100.
 2010, California Flower Garden, had 3,460 pieces! (size 110x112). It sold for $3,700.

Color Box was completely paper pieced and auctioned in 2012 and sold for a personal best, $5,900!
In 2014 I made a quilt that I mostly called Swooning with Oakshotts, but changed to Amish Stars for the auction program. The fabric was the incredible Oakshott. I can't say enough about Michael Oakshott, who gave me a very generous discount on the fabric after I told him a little about MCC and its work around the world. He took my word for the plans for this quilt totally on faith, even though I told him it would be two years before it would be auctioned off! It sold for $3,500.
Here are a two images from the auction from 2014, early in the morning before the Fresno Pacific University special events center filled up with people.

I never get tired of making quilts and I'm glad there is an outlet for me that fills my need for creativity as well as helping those less fortunate. 

This is the quilt that will be up for auction next weekend, Moccasin (108 x 108", pattern by AnneMarie Chany of GenXQuilters, along with lots of fabric choice help from Kristi Owens of 71 Stitches (@71stitches).

A closer shot of the center:

I hope it brings thousands of dollars, because this is one of my favorite pictures--another face of MCC at work. 
These women live in South Sudan, a country ravaged by unrest, and who are trying to rebuild their lives after decades of civil war. MCC is partnering with the Episcopal Church of Sudan Mother's Union Women's Empowerment Project to help women learn sewing, life skills and small business management. THIS is one of many places where funds from next week's quilt auction will go. We will sit in a comfortable building, raising our bidding numbers, and it is easy to forget about the hardships endured by people in our local communities and worldwide.

I hope you will stop by my blog (Live a Colorful Life) after next weekend and you can find out how much the quilt sold for.

Thanks for letting me share bits of my life with you this week. It has been a wonderful experience. 

Post by Cindy Week #12: Cindy comes from a heritage of quilting, going back several generations. She has been quilting for twenty-plus years. Besides making quilts for family and friends, Cindy regularly donate quilts to help raise money for disaster relief at an annual auction in my hometown of Fresno, California. Find Cindy on


  1. Thank you for a wonderful article. The quilts you make for auction are beautiful and the photo of you in front of the Oakshott quilt was great for the perspective of the size of your quilts. I can only admire your willingness to continue to make such large quilts. It's been a great week of articles.

  2. What a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing this wonderful story and your beautiful quilts! It is a great thing to be able to give while doing something we love, isnt it? You and Ione make a great team!

    1. Thanks so much, Ginette. It is definitely a win-win.

  3. Thank you, Cindy for your creativity with fabric and words. It makes it all sweeter to know each stitches is given " In the name of Christ" to help those suffering in the world. A beautiful history and story. Thanks for sharing yourself and your talents!

  4. Good luck at the auction, Cindy. You are so amazing to do this. I love it that you do this. I wish I could go to the auction with you sometime (and I'd totally bid on one of your quilts!). I have a hard time giving up such intense projects for charity. I am amazed at your generosity. I have a Mennonite friend. She makes quilts and has the Mennonite women hand quilt them for her. They will not accept pay and will only quilt the quilts if they are donated to the Mennonite auction. So, she has them quilt it, donates her quilt to the auction, and goes to the action to buy her quilt back. She considers that the price of the quilting. LOL. Hugs!

  5. I love the way you write about this. Your passion for creating, for giving, and for caring for others is so engaging, it makes us all want to do something for others, as you are doing. I hope this year's quilt will break records in fundraising. Thank you to MCC, for going to difficult places and caring for forgotten people.

  6. I loved reading about the quilts you have made for auction Cindy. They are all beautiful, and I'm so glad they each raised large amounts of money for the charity. You and Ione are both so generous to do this. I know you love quilting, but you've spent many many hours on these quilts, and purchased all the fabrics. You're two lovely people. I hope this year's quilt raises lots of money too.

  7. Your charity work and the money you have been able to raise is quite impressive Cindy. Hope it went well this year too.