MACGREGOR — Rarely do quilting clubs involve covert operations, but these aren’t ordinary times.
In ordinary times, avid quilters Antoinette Blankvoort-Wieberdink, Odette Blankvoort, Judy Burch, Sharon Lloyd, Heather Martens Rempel, Jennifer Wiebe and Heather Stone would meet regularly at the MacGregor United Church to work on their personal projects while catching up on news from their daily lives.
When lockdown restrictions made it impossible to meet, the women decided to maintain their connection by collaborating on a series of quilts. Each woman contributed a row to each quilt, resulting in seven unique pieces. They dubbed them the Silver Linings quilts.
To avoid close contact while exchanging material, they would place their unfinished work in a box and leave it in a garage, where it would be collected by the subsequent quilter. A bit of cloak and dagger for their quilt and needle.
"We had talked about working on a collaborative quilt numerous times and when the lockdown came along, it was our signal to do this," Stone said.
"We used Jennifer’s garage as the quilting hub. The garage was called ‘Jennifer’s Depot’ and we would leave the boxes there, labelling them carefully."
One of the challenges they faced was working out the logistics of passing the boxes around.
"I had to make a mathematical grid of who had a big box and who need to do it next. It got a little complicated to figure out," Stone said.
They started the project in October 2020 and all seven quilts were completed last April.
There was no concrete theme to the pieces; each quilter had the creative freedom to design and continue the quilt in the direction they saw fit.
"The only thing we discussed was dimensions — each row had to be 60 inches wide and 10 inches tall, " Stone said.
"Other than that people could do whatever they liked. We all noticed that the first row a lot of us did was fairly simple. But by the end of the project the rows became really complicated. Some of the quilts started with a theme and some were just abstract and then a theme would develop."
Receiving a box during those dark winter days felt like getting a gift.
"It was exciting to get a box full of fabric and colours and to see what people had done," Stone said. "One thing we noticed when we passed these boxes around was that every time it came to you it felt like Christmas.
"Additionally, there is a strong connection between making things and a sense of well-being," she continued.
"The power of art, the making of art and expressing yourself boosts the mood. The social aspect of it doubles the feeling of well-being because there is a sense of community, too."
With the project complete, the women produced a set of notecards as a record of the quilts.
The notecards are available for purchase via donation boxes, which have been placed at various locations around MacGregor, including the library, Bison Cafe, Victoria Place Assisted Living and McKelvy Agencies. There is also a donation box at Big Wheel Quilt Shop in Austin.
"We are doing it by donation; there is no set price. Take some cards and give us whatever you like to donate to the fund," Stone said.
All monies raised will go to the MacGregor and District Kinette Emergency Fund.
A display of the quilts will be rotated between MacGregor Library, Bison Cafe in McGregor and Victoria Place Assisted Living MacGregor, where they can be viewed by the public until Christmas.