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Keiki Quilts posted: 3/29/2004
by Patricia Littlefield Printable Page
Category: General Method: All
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I began making and donating keiki (children) quilts to the North Hawaii Community Hospital to give to their younger patients about three years ago. In the past year, I have also started making and donating wall hangings and lap quilts to the Children's Justice Center of West Hawaii for their silent auction fundraiser that is held each spring.

I started making keiki quilts because since I began quilting, I had given quilts to practically everyone with a pulse who lives on the Big Island of Hawaii, as well as all my family and friends on the Mainland. Therefore, I needed a reason to continue quilting.

The keiki quilts that I make are machine pieced and quilted. Each one has turned out to be different, and the fabric often is just what's in my stash, although if I see something that grabs me at my local quilt shop: Top Stitch, in Waimea, I will buy it, especially if Ellie, the shop owner, has put it on sale.

I often make a keiki quilt out of a new pattern that I am experimenting with to see if I like it and want to make a larger quilt out of it someday. However, many of the keiki quilts are scrap quilts; periodically, I get an urge to just do a mindless, "bubble gum for the brain" kind of piecing in which I pull out all my leftover strips of fabric and sew them together randomly, widthwise. When the created "fabric” piece is 8 to ten inches wide, I cut out squares of a predetermined size. When I have "enough” squares (whatever that may be on any particular day), I put them together and make a keiki quilt, adding sashing and borders if the spirit moves me. Most of the keiki quilts turn out to be about 45 inches square, although I have made some smaller and occasionally get a request for a larger one for an older patient.

I officially began quilting about six years ago, but from having taken one class years and years ago, I knew that quilting was something that would become habit forming if I allowed myself to partake. So, after I retired from teaching on the Mainland and moved to Hawaii with my husband, I began to indulge myself.

Currently I am a member of a very informal mini group that meets weekly at Top Stitch. Everyone (usually there are about four to six of us are in attendance) works on whatever she wishes to: some are into embellishment, big time, others work on Hawaiian appliqué, and others, like me, work on whatever her current interest may be. This is a very independent-minded gathering that wants no part of dues nor rules or "you have to” or "you must” as is the custom of many quilt organizations. Despite the fact that there are indeed such groups meeting at the same time who've asked us to incorporate with them, we are adamant in desire our to be totally self-directed.

The best part of making keiki quilts is occasionally receiving a phone call or letter and/or a picture from one of their recipients' parents. As a child, I spent a long time in hospitals and vividly remember how frightening that environment can be. Therefore, it is very satisfying and humbling to learn that something I made was able to ease some of that fear and perhaps provide a little comfort.

Who stirs up my stash
and unwinds my bobbins?
Who drops pins on the floor
that I find only when barefoot?
Who hides my scissors
and moves my ruler under the mat?
Who puts my rotary cutter in a different place
and buries my template under a pile of scraps?
Who tangles my spools of thread
and puts my favorite stiletto somewhere else?
Who loans out one of my quilt books
and forgets to whom she lent it?
Who turns off the iron just before I need it?
It couldn't be me; it's got to be the Quilting Poltergeist!

©2004 Patricia Littlefield
Ed. Note: Patricia has donated 181 quilts to the local hospital since 2001. Hurrah for Pat and great luck for the hospital and those in need.

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