When most of us decide to donate money, we go through a professional agency such as Red Cross, Save the Children, or, closer to home, Make a Wish or KidsCan. It simplifies things, as all we need to do is hand over money, and in return, a receipt pops up in our inbox. But for a group of Southland quilters that go by the name of ‘ET Patchwork Circle’, not only is the giving rather more involved, it’s also a labour of love.
The circle’s current co-ordinator, Linda Marshall, had been a regular member of another patchwork group run by noted Invercargill artist and quilter, Errolyn Tane. For a number of years Errolyn’s group had been making quilts for themselves, and also for charity, using ever-increasing quantities of fabric donated by previous members. Whenever the group attended weekend quilting retreats, special time would be set aside for members to come together to work on charity quilts designed by Errolyn, who would then join the different sections together.
When a bout of ill health meant Errolyn had to relinquish her studio and classes, the charity quilting looked set to cease. Linda found herself grieving for the loss of such a good cause – and she wasn’t alone. Other members were also keen to continue their good work. The idea blossomed, and soon ‘ET Patchwork Circle’, a collective of 10-15 quilters, was the phoenix rising from the ashes.
Determined the group wouldn’t be weighed down by committees and expense, the quilters meet in a very affordable space forming part of ‘South Alive’, a community hub in South Invercargill. Here, there are cupboards for storing equipment and materials (much of it having come from Errolyn’s studio), and a space for coming together over a shared cup of tea and a chat, in between sewing. Just as they did at their original retreats, the women work on their own personal quilts, but also sew charity quilts (co-ordinated by Linda), taking home fabric to complete them.
Considering ‘ET Patchwork Circle’ was only formed in May 2021, it is astonishing to learn that the group has already sewn and donated over 60 quilts (that’s 10 quilts a month)! Deciding where they will be donated is a joint decision, but there is one thing everyone agrees on: the quilts are to be given to individuals and are not to be sold, auctioned or raffled as fund raisers.
“We don’t want money to come into it,” says Linda firmly. “We want each quilt, whether it’s intended as a knee rug or a bed quilt, to be a personal gift to a deserving adult or child who will treasure it forever.”
This intention is made clear in the hand written label, sewn into the back of each quilt, which reads: ‘Made with kind thoughts by the ET Patchwork Circle Invercargill’. So far, the group has donated quilts to Family Works (Presbyterian Support’s umbrella organisation), Ronald McDonald House Invercargill, South Alive, and Southland Charity Hospital.
As for what’s next for the group showing no signs of slowing down, Linda has good news.
“The manager of South Alive has offered to help us apply for funds to continue our charity work, and we’re excited to see where this leads!”
ET Patchwork Circle is an excellent example of what can be achieved when a group of like-minded hobbyists decide to take things to a new level. They show that doing what you love, doing it as a group, and doing it for charity, can have amazing results.
Whether you’re a knitter, sewer, painter, potter, embroiderer, felter or spinner, why not come together with others who share your interest, and use your collective skills to create beautiful items to gift to those in need!