Many hands make light work! The words of this time-tested adage went through my mind on several occasions this past weekend, during the 3-day Quilt Expo event in Madison, WI. Among the hustle and activities of 15,000 enthusiastic quilters, women sat down to cut and stitch full-sized quilts to be given away to people in need. There wasn’t a lot of fanfare, more like quiet dedication.

Some of you might have read the 10-day Quilt to Give lessons. This easy quilt, a hybrid of a pattern I presented during the 2-part Sewing With Nancy Series on Column Quilts, was the featured project. Ten sewing machines were set up, sponsored by Baby Lock, plus a Crown Jewel long-arm quilting machine and frame.

I worked in advance with Theresa and Rachel, the two project coordinators. Several quilts were already in progress so that attendees could cut, or sit and sew at their convenience.

Theresa and Rachel guided the volunteers through the process. They manned the stations for eight hours each day. They’re quilting saints!

You might like to consider this type of quilting bee for a charity event in your area.

Here are the quilting stations and a view of the set-up:

  • Fabric donation area

  • Cutting station

  • Several pressing areas

  • Sewing stations

  • A second cutting area to trim the quilt top

  • A quilting area with Baby Lock representatives doing the free-motion stitching

Some of the completed quilts

To my amazement, 10 quilts were completed during this 3-day event. The simple quilt design with lots and lots of straight seams was one of the reasons that so many quilts were completed. Plus, having columns and not quilt blocks eliminated the process of matching corners. Of course, the main reason quilts were completed is due to the volunteer quilters!

More donations!

In the Quilt Expo brochure, we asked for full-sized quilt donations. Never did I expect over 30 donated quilts. Thank you to all who donated!

Suggestions if you’d like to organize a charity quilting bee:

Hint #1—Use a stripe for the patchy strip

Donations of fabric are a crucial part of this volunteer quilting bee. This fabric was one of the first donated—eight yards in all. At first it seemed too bright and bold for a Quilt to Give project, but then I followed my own instructions and used it as the inspirational fabric to choose the column colors from the salsa color range.

The finished quilt is vibrant and was extremely quick to sew. Instead of piecing together the patchy center of each column, we used the stripe as the center strip. What a fun color combination!

Hint #2: Request solid fabrics.

We had more prints than solids for donations. As you can see, solid columns are what’s needed.

Hint #3: Sort fabrics in a bin, and include a guidesheet.

If you’d like to organize a Quilt to Give event, we’ll be glad to send you the Quilt to Give guidesheet. This sheet details how many quilt strips to cut and what colors to use. It’s a great visual and allows many different people to work on the same project. Email us at [email protected] to request the Quilt to Give guidesheet.

A special thanks to Theresa and Rachel, the Quilt to Give Coordinators, and to Baby Lock for donating the use of their machines. Then of course, my heart-felt thanks to all of you who participated in this 2011-style Quilting Bee.

Where will the quilts be donated?

Baby Lock dealers in areas that have been devastated by flooding, tornadoes, and fires will be contacted. The quilts will be sent to them for distribution to families who have suffered great loss.

The Quilt to Give instructions are listed on my blog site. These steps were all made possible from the initial instructions found in Column Quilts.

Remember, the gift is in the giving!

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