I’ve had the privilege of working with amazing authors who do amazing things. A great example is Sonja Hakala, the author of Teach Yourself VISUALLY Quilting. She steps in here to tell us about an incredible charity project she’s embarked on. Take it away, Sonja!
My mom loved quilts, so when I started down the fabric-covered highway, she immediately hinted that she would certainly be open to the idea of having some of my work for her own. My mom had Parkinson’s disease, an affliction that gave her hands such fierce tremors, she could no longer do any of her beloved crafts on her own.
So of course I made her a quilt. Two quilts, actually, and a variety of small wallhangings, table runners, and even a quilted Mother’s Day card one year.
But the one size I never made was a lap quilt. For those of you who don’t quilt, there are no firm dimensions for a lap quilt, though they’re generally about the same size as a large bath towel. To me, that was a quilt that was too small for a bed but too big to hang on an wall. I didn’t “get” lap quilts.
In that last two months of her life, my mom could not bear the weight of her bed-sized quilt any longer and asked me if I could make her something smaller. I was in a rush to get her what she wanted and remembered I had a number of blocks left from the log cabin quilts I made for Teach Yourself VISUALLY Quilting. But did I have enough?
I rushed to my orphaned blocks drawer and counted out 18 of them, just enough if I added some large squares in her favorite pink to each end.
I sewed like the wind and in three days, my son had a quilt to take with him when he went to see Grandma for what turned out to be the last time.
A week later, it was my turn to be at her bedside, and that is when I realized the true value of a lap quilt. It was just right to warm Mom’s shoulders or legs. Sometimes, for comfort, she curled it up in her hands and held it to to her face like a child with a beloved blanket.
While I was there, one of my brothers saw a small notice in a newsletter from the Alzheimer’s Foundation looking for people to make lap quilts for folks afflicted with that disease. “Hey, Sis,” he said with a brotherly elbow in my side. “You could do this for folks with Parkinson’s disease.”
I knew he was right the moment he said it.
Earlier this year, I teamed up with the Parkinson’s Center at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, to make my brother’s idea a reality. And the response has been incredible. Quilters are a generous lot, and they above all others know how much comfort there is in a quilt.
For now, I am shepherding this program into being in Vermont and New Hampshire, connecting local quilt guilds with local Parkinson’s Disease support groups. But we hope that this effort grows nationwide because the need is so great and the effort so appreciated.
If you would like to learn more about the Parkinson’s Quilt Project and see some of the quilts that have been donated so far, please visit http://www.parkinsonsquiltproject.com/.