The Quilt Scout
by Mary Fons
ON GIVING IT AWAY
I’m not keeping good records, but I figure I’ve made around 50 quilts in my life thus far. I began quilting eight years ago, I’m usually busier than a one-armed paper hanger, and I make bed-sized quilts, so I feel okay about my number. The result of this quiltmaking productivity is that I possess many quilts. Or, I would possess many quilts if I wasn’t downright ruthless about giving them away.
Quilts—I’m talking lap- or bed-sized here—are made to wrap around, or cover, a body. This is their intended purpose. But when the quilt-to-bed ratio in your home starts hovering around 10:1, we get creative.
Are the quilts stacked on this bed reaching their fullest potential? Only the steer skull knows for sure.I get it. I’ve been guilty of rolling up a few quilts and sticking them in a big wicker basket in my hallway. But this is “quilt-as-home-dec,” not “quilt-as-quilt.” The patchwork looks cute in the basket, but any quilt forced into a home dec role is not living its best life.
A quilt wants to be on a bed. A quilt wants to comfy up a couch. A quilt’s highest and best purpose is to be used, above all else, and it’s hard to argue that the quilts you’ve arranged to lovingly spew out of a vintage steamer trunk in the guest bedroom are really being used.
I heartily recommend giving them away. Even if—especially if—it hurts a little.
Look, it’s not like you’re not going to make more. You’re already making more. Cute as it might be, I’m not sure a quilt is doing anyone much good draped over a stairwell; perhaps it’s better said that a quilt can do a tremendous amount of good when draped over a person.
Too special to give away? Not so fast.
Who do you know who needs a quilt? A neighbor? A woman at church? Your son. Your daughter. Your best friend from college. If you simply cannot think of a single person in your world who could use a handmade quilt, there are a whole lot of people you don’t know who need one.
Connect with a charity organization (these days I’m very into what Quilts Beyond Borders is doing) or a community program in your town that could help get any of those lame duck quilts in your house into the hearts and hands of people who would love them, use them, keep them forever.
You’re not going to like it, but it’s the quilts that are a little harder to part with that are the ones you should be giving away for sure. Your “latest greatest” quilt is harder to give away than the scrap-buster nine-patch. And though any gifted quilt is a good quilt, when you hand over your extra-good quilts, you’re sharing your best. And that feels good.
Note: there are quilts in my collection that you’ll have to pry from my cold, dead hands. I claim ten or so quilts that are so special for one reason or another that I literally regard them as personal friends and are therefore not for sale or distribution. These are often quilts I teach from, too, so they’re staying put. But after I’ve finished a quilt and lived with it for a year or so, I’ll start noodling on a recipient.
I’ll bet you anything this lady is about to give that quilt away.
My college roommate and best friend Sarah had her first baby a few years back. Without warning, I sent the happy family “Northbound,” the cover quilt for my book, Make + Love Quilts, available at fine bookstores everywhere. I put a note in the box that said, “I love you, sleep well.” Yeah, that quilt was special to me; it was on the cover of my book! But it became clear when Katherine was born that my time with it was over and that Sarah needed it more. Simple.
The day I shipped it off, the empty space in the big wicker basket in my hallway looked amazing.