There is something about wrapping up in a handmade quilt that is so much more comforting than a store-bought blanket.
Morag Nocher, who has been making quilts for the OBX Blanketeers for 15 years, knows the feeling well.
“It’s a feeling of being cared about and loved,” she says. “Even though that person doesn’t know you – and I don’t know who gets the quilt that I make – that person is thinking, ‘Whoever made this cares about other people, therefore they care about me.’”
That could be the mission statement of the group, which was formed by Sally Meagher in 2000. She and eight women from Duck United Methodist Church started making and donating quilts to children in need through Project Linus. Renamed the OBX Blanketeers, the group has expanded to 70 members who make quilts for senior citizens, nursing home residents, and chemotherapy and dialysis patients, as well as for children.
“Some of the people who get our quilts don’t have the ability to go out and buy one,” Nocher says. “They are either homebound or have no transportation.”
The group averages 300 to 400 quilts annually; last year they turned out more than 500 pieces. These are distributed to local agencies providing disaster relief and emergency services, to hospitals, a women’s shelter, nursing homes and to individuals in need.
The group also make carry-all bags to attach to walkers and have added a project of fashioning simple dresses for girls in Africa, using a pillowcase and drawstrings.
They accomplish all this despite meeting just once a week in January and February when the group gathers at the church, sitting in a big circle to share the work they’ve done.
“It’s like show and tell,” Meagher says. Each quilter is photographed with her creation and the picture is displayed alongside the quilt. When the piece is gifted, the person who made the quilt gets to keep the photo for posterity.
Meagher comes up with a different pattern each week, to be interpreted by the individual quilters.
“It is interesting to see one pattern done by 20 people,” she says. “They all come out different, because of the choice of fabric, border, embellishments, and so on … .”
All the materials are donated, and members do their stitching at home. A few of the quilters don’t even live on the Outer Banks; they drop off a pile of blankets they’ve made during visits to the area.
The quilts are small and the patterns simple to facilitate speedy construction. Experienced quilters may take a week to complete a project, while others use the entire eight weeks to make one quilt.
“It’s really more about all of us getting together than keeping track of how many quilts you can produce,” Meagher says. “It’s just a fun way for women to get together in the winter, when there are not so many visitors or family coming to the area.”
The group has also made accommodations for older residents who can no longer sew, but still want to be part of the group.
“We have ladies who either have never sewed or got up in age and can’t undertake sewing a quilt,” says Nocher, who oversees the construction of fleece blankets. “So, I do the prep work, laying out the piece, cutting the 1-inch strips, and putting the two pieces of fleece atop one another. Then they tie a square knot in the two pieces all the way round.”
Nocher says a couple of her “favorite ladies” were 95 and 96 years old, respectively. She would give them a project on Friday, and they’d have it complete by Sunday and ask for another. Contributing to the comfort of someone else made the nonagenarians feel useful, Nocher says.
What magical creations are these quilts, with power to warm both giver and recipient?