Every Monday throughout the fall, winter and spring, and every other Monday during the summer, Karen Keyes has a party at her house on Kenney Field Drive in Boothbay Harbor. The dozen or so women who come to the party, which starts at 9:30 a.m., all have at least two things in common: They make quilts and they have big hearts.
The group, Kwilts 4 Kidz, started around 10 years ago at the Boothbay Baptist Church when a few women started making fleece blankets for kids in need. The blankets were given to the kids through Project Linus, a national organization that hand-makes blankets for critically ill children.
The group eventually moved to Keyes' house because her mother was a master quilter and there was a large quilting room in her basement. The group, which has expanded to around a dozen, now makes quilts for people in need of some comfort and warmth, as a result of homelessness, a crisis, or sickness.
Group member Sue Burge said it started with a core group making quilts by hand. “We made around three a year,” Keyes said with a laugh.
When Colleen Gaffey joined the group, everything changed — for the better. Thanks to Gaffey's large quilting machine, the group now makes around 50 quilts a year. Gaffey herself made 35 this year. “Colleen has moved us to a different level,” Burge said. “I don't know if we'd be here if not for her.”
Recently, the group gifted four quilts to the survivors of the Pleasant Cove fire in early October. Another quilt was given to Allison Barter after her mother, Leslie, died unexpectedly in late October. Sandra Rumery received a quilt from the group after she became the victim of a fire.
The quilters use only 100 percent cotton fabric for their quilts. Most of the money for that and other necessary supplies — batting and thread — comes out of their own pockets. The next source of income, all used for supplies, comes from sales of their quilts at events and fairs like the annual Fall Foliage Festival and holiday craft shows.
The quilts come in different shapes and sizes, and the members make a range of other items to be sold: pillows, soft fabric baskets, soft sculptures and “quillows” — small quilts, or throws, that fold up and tuck into themselves, making a pillow. The women even make bags for microwaving potatoes.
Keyes said the group of women loves making the quilts. “Most of us are retired, and we have the time, and it's so much fun. And I've got enough quilts to last a lifetime.”
Every year as Christmas nears, the group gives quilts to the organization Healthy Kids, in Damariscotta. The group recently delivered 14. “For many of those children, the quilt they receive is the only Christmas decoration in their home,” Burge said.
The group makes quilts for the residents of Wiscasset Green and Boothbay Green assisted living facilities. It also makes bags to carry food from the food pantry; and place mats, mug rugs, pillow cases and carrying bags are gifted to residents of St. Andrews Gregory Wing each Christmas and on other holidays.
“Our quilts are nothing more than a warm hug from a group of women,” Burge said. “We are a group of women who have caring hearts for people in crisis.”
Members include Keyes, Gaffey, Burge, Vickie Pinkham, Cindy Goodwin, Maggie Brown, Martha Reed, Debbie Lewis, Cheryl Whittle, Barbara Lally and Shirley Brown.
The quilts and other items made by the group of talented women will be available at the Southport Craft Show this coming weekend at the Southport Library. The show starts on Friday, Dec. 2.
Call 633-0894 or 633-2295 for more information or to volunteer your own talents as a quilt maker.