Quilts bring comfort to those in crisis

Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

This is the twentieth year that a group of women have gathered weekly to make colorful quilts that will be donated to women and children in tough times, bringing solace to both those who receive the quilts and those who make them.

The women gather weekly on Tuesday mornings at the Halkirk Firehall and Community Center in Halkirk, Ontario, for a relaxing and meaningful time of quilt-making. In addition to Tuesday mornings, the women also have monthly quilting meetings on Saturdays from 9 to 4 pm.

Roberta Oliver, director of Halkirk Firehall, said they began in 2003 and started making about 8 quilts a year. Now, they make about 30 quilts a year on average.

Around fifteen quilts have already been made this year so far, she said.

“I know it’s not enough to cover everybody in the crisis center, but at least they’re getting some,” she said.

A growing collection of colourful quilts is being assembled at the Halkirk Fire Hall and Community Center. Local volunteers have been created the quilts, which will be delivered to the Women’s Shelter of Hope, to bring joy and comfort to the women and children there. The group also assembles small lap quilts for residents of Rainycrest. – Submitted photo

The quilts are donated to the Women’s Shelter of Hope in Atikokan, Ontario, every year around the week before Christmas, she said. In the past, the group has also donated lap quilts for residents at Rainycrest Long Term Care in Fort Frances.

“We get donations of fabric and money from various people. I know my aunts in particular have sent me either fabric or money to buy fabric. And we were usually looking for bright colors or kids fabrics,” said Oliver.

“You know, stuff with turtles on it or seashells or things that kids would find cute. It’s just to help lift their spirits if they’re having to be in a situation where they’re taken to the Crisis Center. And at least they have a quilt to cover them up when they sleep and just give them a little bit of comfort.”

Quilt-making is a special time as the women spend time in community while sharing their wealth of quilting knowledge with each other. Some have been around for a long time and have more quilting knowledge than others, Oliver said. “It helps everybody else learn new skills,” she said.

Whether in the presence of others or coped up at home, quilting brought solace to the hands who made them. Oliver shared that one lady relied on quilting to survive the COVID-19 lockdown.

“She’d go down the fire hall, she’d get a quilt-kit for a Christmas quilt, and she’d take it home and she’d sew it up and then bring it back and get a new one. And it kept her sanity during COVID, you know, because everybody was on lockdown. Nobody could do anything,” she said.

The quilt-kits include a variety of cut-up fabrics in a Ziploc bag. On average the quilts are 36 inches by 45 inches, or 42 by 45, or 62 by 50, taking about 36 hours to finish.

“By the time you figure out the pattern, and then sew all the squares together and [figure out] if it has borders or not borders… they do take a fair bit amount of time,” Oliver said.

She added that not everyone who comes by Halkirk Fire Hall is a quilter, though, as the space is open for the community to use as they wish. Some will crochet, read books, and most of all, simply enjoy each other’s company.