Quilters sending creations to earthquake victims in Japan


FARMINGTON — Less than a month ago, Sherry Tompkins and her Material Girls quilting guild discussed the tragic consequences of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of Japan in March.

Usually, Tompkins said, local guilds sew quilts for local causes, but they wanted to reach out to Japan. In collaboration with the national eQuilter Charity Program, they challenged their guilds and individuals to make quilts to send to Japan.

Tompkins got her list of contacts and they responded with boxes of fabric, hours of volunteer time, and even cash donations to cover shipping costs.

Tompkins even brought 17 bins of fabric from her home and said her husband was thrilled to have the extra room.

On Monday morning, she surveyed the results of her call for help. Helpers were sorting and packing quilts for a Tuesday UPS shipment.

“This all took place in the last three weeks,” she laughed, looking at the pile of 50 comforters she and other volunteers brought to her basement workshop under the storefront she operates on Main Street.

In this partnership with nonprofit Mission of Love, based in Youngstown, Ohio, the eQuilters around the world have been making countless donations of quilts which will be sent with other supplies to Japan. United States Air Force personnel will deliver the items overseas.

Volunteers at Tompkins’ shop cut the fabric, planned designs, and put the pieces into kits for quilters to get at her store. Others met at her shop to iron and put backings on the finished quilts.

Although they enjoy helping locally, volunteer quilter Mary Tosch explained that they wanted to switch gears to help children in Japan instead.

“Bev Savage is my right hand, and I couldn’t do all of this without her help” she said. “Mary McFarland made piles of backings that we had all over this room, and everyone just gave what they could.”

Mary Wilford of Phillips stayed up until 2 a. m., putting the finishing touches on her handmade donation.

“We had started this before the tornadoes did so much damage here in the U.S., so we will probably continue doing something to help folks in Alabama and other states,” she said.

While Sherry said she could not predict how Japanese people will react to these gifts from far-away quilters, she knows she’s made a difference in lives of people she will never meet.

The Country Squares Guild in Jay, Maine Mountain Quilters in Farmington  and other guilds and individuals donate many of the quilts they sew. Many go to people who have lost their homes to a fire and to babies born at Franklin Memorial Hospital. While many guild members are retired, some schedule their volunteer sewing time around their work schedule.