Sunday, October 19, 2008

Many hands make light work

Like the pioneer girls of yore, many of your church ladies learned to sew by quilting. Even if the Amish folklore of humility blocks has been disproved, quilting still affords the opportunity for cultivating patience, creativity, and generosity.

Many parish's groups make a quilt for the annual raffle; others make smaller ones for crisis pregnancy centers (especially appropriate in October, Respect Life month) or hospitalized children. Whether you are putting your quilts to use for those in need at home or elsewhere, through quilting you can engage in a corporal act of mercy.

Enter some inspiration from Catholic novelist (and fellow alum of Our Lady's University!), Jennifer Chiaverini, author of the Elm Creek Quilt books. Below are excerpts from her interview in the St Anthony's Messenger September issue. And Jennifer's newest book, The Quilter's Kitchen, includes recipes perfect for sharing at your local helping hands group meeting.

It all started when Jennifer was planning her wedding to Marty Chiaverini and longed for an heirloom wedding quilt to brighten up their apartment. But Jennifer didn’t have any close friends or relatives who quilted, and her budget prevented her from purchasing such an item. Thus, the young woman whose sewing was limited to basic mending taught herself how to quilt.

Jennifer and Marty met in a creative-writing course when they were undergraduate students at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a B.A. in English.

Regarding her education, Jennifer says, “I specifically chose Notre Dame because it was a Catholic school.” She recalls that the “wonderful theology and philosophy classes they offered were very important in my formation, my intellectual development.”

Being Catholic “is part of my moral code, my ethical beliefs and the way I make decisions and choices,” such as “who we are going to vote for or what products we are going to buy,” says Jennifer, a member of St. Bernard Parish in Middleton, Wisconsin. “My Catholic values come into focus, even though I’m not talking about them.”

She confirms that their home holds many examples of her needlework. Unlike the characters in her novels, Jennifer doesn’t belong to a quilting bee. “When I make quilts, I make them myself,” she says. But one group effort she coordinated was a fund-raiser for Capital Candlelighters, a nonprofit in Madison that serves families whose children have been diagnosed with cancer. Jennifer contacted some of her favorite authors for autographs on fabric, which were stitched together into a quilt that was auctioned.

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