Mercy Quilt, Part Two

About a month ago, I posted some thoughts about charity quilts and since that time have given more thought to the subject.  The gist of my initial post was that there are times that I see quilts that people have made that are not particularly pretty, not made with particular care, and the makers will say, sort of dismissively, "Oh, this is a charity quilt."  As though if a quilt is being made for someone we don't know, someone who is down on their luck, homeless, a disaster victim, then it really doesn't matter what it looks like, or how carefully it is made.  As though a person in difficult or reduced circumstances would not appreciate something beautiful.

Not long after that, I worked on a quilt for my guild, a "charity" quilt where others had pieced the blocks and my task was to make them into a top.  I did what I had volunteered to do.  But it isn't a quilt that I would have  given to one of my grandchildren.  And I felt a little bit uneasy that it was going to a child who had lost a parent.  I guess I didn't think it was good enough.

My friend Mary was in a similar situation last week and she wrote eloquently about the perceived worthiness of the charity quilt recipients.

I've just finished a quilt that I will give to the hospice unit of our hospital.  It will go to a very sick man, someone I don't know and won't know.  I loved making this quilt, and love how it turned out. Sometimes when I was working on it, I thought about the potential recipient, whether he would like the colors, be interested in the pattern.  I wondered if he would know that it was a churn dash block.  Sometimes I prayed for him.

As I said, I've thought a lot about this in the past month or so and have come to understand what is at the root of my discomfort.  Some of us serve One who says, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters, you did for me."  It makes me uncomfortable to think of anyone as "the least," but I know that the homeless, the very sick, the tornado sufferers, all may live on the margins of our society.   And as such, are worthy of our very best effort.


Deb said…
I agree totally with your thoughts on charity quilts. I've donated very nice quilts, gave a very nice quilt to a neighor who was taking treatment for breast cancer this past Christmas, and my husband and I have mowed yard for them, and an elderly neighbor for going on two-years now. We do it because we want to, not because we have to, or expect anything in return. We do it just because it makes us feel good and we're of the health and income that we can afford to do both. Good for you!
Mrs. Goodneedle said…
You are a kind and compassionate woman. That quilt will bring the ultimate comfort because you gave it your best. Well done, well said.
Brenda said…
I'm with you. the one difference in giveaway quilts like this is that the recipient doesn't care about trendy fabrics or the latest lines ---they are just happy for the quilt. I've found myself apologizing for "old" fabrics in charity quilts, but really, that doesn't matter. I think the intention behind the gift is important, and I like what you're saying.
Ray said…
Gorgeous quilt - a marvelous, thoughful post. Thank you!
Janet O. said…
I am so with you on this. Yes, a person in dire circumstances may be grateful for anything, but why not give them a quality effort? I believe the scripture to which you refer also goes on a few verses later to say that if you do it NOT unto the least, you do it not unto Him. I like that you call them mercy quilts. "Charity" takes on a negative connotation in so many of the ways we use it today, and we reinforce that with the quality (or lack thereof) of some of our offerings.
Maybe they shouldn't be called "charity" quilts. There's something "I'm up herer and you're down trhere" about it. HOw about gift quilts?
It is a lovelyt git of your time and effort and kinfess.
I make a lot of charity quilts and try to my utmost to do my best work. This quilt raised a lot of comment in my little group when I donated it to Quilts of Valor because several of the women thought it was "too good" to be a charity quilt. Say what???
Try this link:

Maybe it will work.
Quiltdivajulie said…
I love this post (and your earlier one on the subject).

I make lots of quilts for others (gifts AND donations). I cannot give what I would not be happy to keep for myself ...

I love the term Mercy Quilt!
Anonymous said…
Donation quilt has an good vib to it as well. I guess most of my donation quilts, and there are not many, do fall into tops I don't want area. For the most part I don't want them as they are not big and I do not want to put the work into making them bigger. They do work well for a child. Too, I have dogs and after practicing my "machine quilting" they get the real "dogs" in old fashion fabric and beginner sewing as puppy pads. Sew in the end, I believe it comes down to attitude... a loving attitude towards all.
pcflamingo said…
I'm with you. I think all quilts should be our best work. If you don't have time to do it right, when will you find time to do it over? 95% of my quilts are for charity, mostly from donated fabric, but with some store-bought stuff added in. Often, friends or family will say "oh, you're not going to give that one away are you?" Yes. Yes, I am.
OT Quilter said…
I agree with your thoughts about "charity quilts." I am a (retired) school librarian, and your musings remind me of comments from people when I was weeding the collection (of old, outdated, ugly, sexist, racist books.) "You're not going to throw them away, are you? Why don't you donate them to (insert inner city school district's name here?)"
Yeah, right.
My quilt guild calls them "service quilts/projects," which I like better.
quiltmom anna said…
I believe one gives quilts for the said purpose of giving warmth and comfort to others. I also think that I don't want to give something away that I wouldn't want to keep myself.
We all could find ourselves in circumstances where we need the comfort, love and support of others. I like to think of quilts as gifts of kindness and caring- whether I know the person or not.
I like that you made a beautiful quilt for someone you do not know. I am sure it will be treasured and loved.
Sometimes the ones that I get the most pleasure of giving away, are those ones that I have given to people with whom life has not been the easiest.
I feel fortunate that I am able to do something nice for others.
Thanks for the reflective post.
Warmest regards,
wordmama said…
I think your post is very thought-provoking. I agree about the idea of forgetting how close we all are to being in the same condition as many of "the least of my brethren." I like your idea to change the name from Charity quilts.

Food for thought...

Dawn said…
Well said. I can't think of a single thing to add!
Helen said…
So very eloquently said, my dear. Your quilt is beautiful and your care and prayer for this man is so touching.

You are truly an angel on earth.
YES! YES! YES! I had never really thought about that until I heard myself say it one day - "If I don't like this I can always make it a charity quilt." As soon as I said it I felt uncomfortable and I knew my heart was telling me I was wrong. Those who are in less fortunate circumstances are especially in need of beauty in their lives, not just something to cover up with! Thanks for putting into words what my heart was thinking!!!
Beautiful quilt. Well done!!!!
Synthia said…
Well said. You really put my feelings into words. Thank you.
howdidIgethere said…
Nancy, I'm curious as to why you wouldn't have given the guild quilt to one of your grandchildren. Too simple? Too "easy"? Just not to your taste? Having seen it "in person", I found it delightfully cheerful and think that any child (who doesn't have a quilter grandmother, at least [wink]) would love to snuggle down into it.

Also, Teresa wrote that she heard herself say, ""If I don't like this I can always make it a charity quilt." As soon as I said it I felt uncomfortable and I knew my heart was telling me I was wrong."

Of course "charity quilts" should not be items with inferior materials or workmanship. However, IMO, if something is well-made and good quality, but just not to my aesthetic liking, why not finish making it and donate it to an organization where it is more than likely someone WILL find it to their taste? As Brenda said, trendy fabrics (or techniques) and the latest lines are not likely to matter to the recipient. (Actually, I think that's true of most of the non-quilting world.)

If, for example, I decided to challenge myself to make something out of my least favorite colors, the odds would be that, in the end, even with my best efforts, I would create a lovely quilt but it wouldn't "speak" to me. Yet I'm sure that it would appeal to someone else and would make a fine donation.

Guess I'm just playing "devil's advocate" here to caution that something can be good quality and well-made but not necessarily to one's personal taste.

p.s. I've also seen them called "healing" quilts, another name I like.
Thank you, howdidigethere, for your thoughtful comment. You've made me think some more.

I guess the issue for me was that the bright quilt seemed to have been "thrown together" rather than carefully thought out. Maybe I'm too picky!

I'm still trying to sort out the quality/quantity question, and I guess that when many quilts are needed quickly (so many q's in one sentence!), this prolly isn't the charity venture for me because I like to take more time to be sure fabrics really go together.

You are absolutely right that "taste" and "workmanship" are two different animals. I have given away many quilts that I finished up that were not to my taste -- but were well made and that someone would like very much.

I suppose I need to try to think further in that direction, and your comments are helpful with that.

Some of this, I think, comes from the fact that I'm relatively "new to scrappy" and that for many years all of my quilts were planned out. I'm learning to love to work scrappy, but for me there's a point beyond which scrappy loses its charm and turns into a jumble, a mish-mash.

I need to remember that what I see as a jumbly mish-mash (so happy to be done with all those Qs), others may see as pretty.

Thank you again for taking the time to comment.
NeverBored said…
I agree with you 100% ! I belong to 2 quilt groups and the one I enjoy the most is the one where our focus is on service projects: Project Linus quilts, quilts for the homeless shelter, Quilts of Valor and quilts for service organizations to raffle. The "least" among us often suffer with self-esteem issues; what better way to say, "you are worthy" than by giving beautiful quilts, not our rejects.
Many years ago, my doctor sent me to Denver to the National Jesish Hospital for asthma, which I had developed in my 50s. I was there for a month and it was a fine adventure. While I was there, some ladies in Denver made a bunch of lap quilts for the patients.I chose a very bright.simple patchwork thing. It probably wasn't very well made, but it was colorful and cheery and I was glad to have it and appreciated the gift. I think it was something these ladies did regularly, knowing that peoplehad come to the hospital from all over the country and it was their way of adding a little comfort. I kept it until it fell apart, which should tell you something abotu the quality, but was not an issue for me. It was a gift.
Quayquilter said…
This is a wonderful quilt and I am sure it will be bring delight and solace to the recipient. I think it's a good thing to make these points and do a bit of conscious raising as to why we are making these quilts. A year or two ago I read a post on a list from a quilter whose comments I always respected to say she had spent time on the streets and that the gift of someting nice and good was so very precious and meaningful. I've never forgotton her words. Mary No need to reply, Nancy. I read all your posts!