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A pattern of prayer

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Members of the Pawleys Island Prayer Quilt Ministry tie knots and say prayers, filling the quilts they make for the sick and distressed with love and hope.

“We work to bring comfort to those in crisis or ill health,” said quilt ministry member Moe Boucher of Allston Plantation, who attends church at The Abbey of Pawleys Island. “We tie our quilts with knots as opposed to taking them to a quilt shop. The knots represent a prayer that each one of us prays before the quilt is blessed and goes out.”

Boucher has been a member of the ecumenical quilting group that meets on Tuesday mornings at the former schoolhouse on the campus of Holy Cross-Faith Memorial Church since 2007.

The group relies on its members to collect scraps of cotton fabric for quilts and has planned a fundraiser, “Quilt Palooza,” Sept. 26 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Holy Cross-Faith Memorial. Proceeds will be used to buy muslin and batting for the quilts.

The Pawleys Island group has distributed almost 400 quilts since it began as a chapter of Prayers and Squares International nine years ago with seven members. Now there are more than 15 women from all denominations and backgrounds. “You don’t have to be a quilter to come,” Boucher said. “We need ironers, cutters, folders. Everybody does what they feel is best for them to do. It’s a very good group. We are like a little family.”

Every quilt is numbered, and members write a brief history in a notebook about the recipients and their ailments: hip surgery, kidney surgery, arthritis, emotional crisis. Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy can wrap themselves in a prayer quilt and feel the love, Boucher said. Those with ills that are urgent but not critical get a quilt square “to let them know we are thinking of them,” she said. The group also makes a patch the size of a post card for military personnel to put in their helmets or pockets.

Donna Owens of Litchfield Country Club and Precious Blood of Christ Catholic Church said she enjoys the mix of personalities in the quilting group. “We’ve come from different backgrounds,” she said. “We all have different interests as far as what we can bring to this group. We’re all different ages, go to different churches, all come from different areas of the country. There’s never been a time — I’ve been a member for eight years now — that you haven’t felt that when we come together it’s a group. We’ve all got the same common goal. It’s just so much fun to listen to their stories; we tell each other things about our lives.”

Owens learned quilting as a child from her grandmother in Upstate New York, three miles from the Canadian border. “She’s the only one who had the patience,” Owens said. “My mother could not sew a button on, so I think it skipped a generation.” She still makes quilts at home the way her grandmother taught her. “A quilt made by hand,” she said, “is a true quilt.”

Andrea Harriss of Prince Creek West and a member of Belin Memorial United Methodist Church, inherited nine quilt tops from her father that had been sewn by her grandmother, great-grandmother and aunt. “I had absolutely no idea what to do with them,” Harriss said. “I took a quilting class and got so hooked I bought a quilting shop.” She and a partner ran the shop in Richmond, Va., making custom quilts, finishing them for others and teaching classes for six years.

Jo Fortuna, a member of Holy Cross-Faith Memorial, joined the quilters when she retired from International Paper in 2007. She was helping her sister, Betsy Marlow, with Miss Ruby’s Kids but wanted another means of expression that quilting met.

Fortuna said she gets as much from giving a quilt as the person receiving one. She recently took one to Earnestine Sparkman, a fellow church member. “I never thought someone would think of me in that way,” Sparkman said when she got her quilt.

Members of the group vote on making a quilt when one is requested. Few are turned down, Boucher said. “Oftentimes, we pick out a quilt not knowing a person really,” she said. By coincidence, the women put a picture of a school bus on a quilt for a former school bus driver. A quilt with a pansy print fabric was a great comfort to a woman who said pansies were her favorite flower from childhood. “It’s amazing,” Boucher said, “how many times it’s a favorite color or something meaningful.”

Fortuna said it’s usually men who have the most touching reactions. They have a hard time believing strangers would care about them. “We are touched and energized by the notes and comments we share from people who receive the quilts who often take them for warmth as they go through chemotherapy or in their long journey through the health care system,” she said. “For me, and for other members, our meetings are as much a support group for us in the journey through our lives as it is about the people who receive the quilts. We have a wonderful, close bond and it feeds us.”

“Quilt Palooza,” will be Sept. 26 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Holy Cross-Faith Memorial Episcopal Church. Members will sell old and new quilts along with quilt tops and kits, table toppers and miscellaneous items on a “revival” table. There will be two auctions. Bidding in a silent auction of antique and modern classic quilts and quilt tops ends at 12:30 p.m. A Chinese auction, a combination raffle and auction, of table toppers, finished quilts and kits, wall hangings and place mats ends at 1 p.m.

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