London

Quilters coast to coast rally to sew blankets for London, Ont., women exiting homelessness

A fabric shop in downtown London, Ont., has rallied quilters from across Canada to stitch quilts for women in the southwestern Ontario city who are transitioning out of homelessness. Stache Fabric & Notions launched the project in celebration of its fifth birthday in July.

Volunteers are sewing 14 quilts for My Sisters' Place

Michaelanne Hathaway is the owner of Stache Fabric and Notions located at 213 King St. in downtown London, Ont.'s historic Novacks building. She's rallying her community of customers to collectively sew quilts for My Sisters' Place in London. (Michelle Both/CBC)

A fabric shop in downtown London, Ont., has rallied quilters from across Canada to stitch quilts for women in the southwestern Ontario city who are transitioning out of homelessness.

Stache Fabric & Notions launched the project in celebration of its fifth birthday in July — and gave out quilt block kits to more than 85 eager quilters — with some requesting mailings as far as New Brunswick and British Columbia. 

They expected to make three quilts, but received enough blocks, or squares, to make 14. The blankets will be donated through My Sisters' Place, a drop-in centre for women. 

"Blankets, quilts symbolize warmth. They're like a big hug," said Michaelanne Hathaway, owner of Stache, who was raised in downtown London.

"I think that's what we wanted to be able to give the women who are with My Sisters' Place — the quilting community embracing other women and helping them through a tough time," Hathaway said. 

Hathaway was inspired to launch the quilt project in celebration of the shop's five years in business in downtown London. (Michelle Both/CBC)


The majority of Stache customers are women, so it felt right to come together to support other women, Hathaway said. The blankets will be a housewarming gift when women who were previously experiencing homelessness become housed. 

'Feeling of community'

"I think that will give them the feeling of community," said Rose Whalen, team lead at My Sisters' Place. "It's going to be a nice thing for them to take home to their new home with them.

"This quilt project has been absolutely amazing — and the amount of the heart that's gone into each piece." 

My Sisters' Place supports women struggling with mental health, addictions, and experiencing homelessness and domestic violence. The drop-in centre depends on donations and fundraising for 80 per cent of their budget, Whalen said. It is run by the Canadian Mental Health Association and Thames Valley Addiction and Mental Health Services.

The quilt project is an example of "women supporting women," she said. 

A close up of hands sewing a quilt together with a machine.
The quilts are made with teal, orange and white fabrics. Over 85 quilting block kits were given out and enough were returned to make 14 quilts, which are expected to be finished by the end of September. (Michelle Both/CBC)

Anne Lyons, a quilter who works at Stache, said she's seen so much need in the community, she'll do what she can to help. 

"Quilters are a generous lot," said Lyons, who's been quilting for about 40 years. She is one of the volunteers sewing the quilt blocks together piece by piece. Lyons estimates each quilt takes about 20 hours of labour from start to finish. 

When her husband had COVID-19 and she was in isolation, she spent hours in her basement sewing —  creating five quilt tops in one week. 

"It gave me something to do," Lyons said. "I was happy to sit and do that while I was stuck at home."

Quilts should be finished by end of September

The quilt fabric colours include teal, orange and white — the official Stache colours. Quilt blocks were returned in a diversity of patterns, from modern to traditional and artistic, said Hathaway. It takes 12 quilt blocks to make one quilt top. 

Volunteers are sewing the quilts together piece by piece at each stage of the process, from assembling quilt tops to binding the edges. Hathaway hopes the blankets will be ready by the end of September, in time for cold weather. 

"My heart is full and I'm super excited," she said. 

"We wanted to make happy quilts, comfortable quilts, bright quilts, and I think that we've accomplished that." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michelle Both is a reporter for CBC London. She holds a master's degree in journalism and communication from Western University. You can reach her at michelle.both@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @michellelboth.

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