Most of us experience internet turmoil and ugliness from time to time, especially on a political blog. Some of us leap right into the fray. Some of us withdraw, or disappear altogether.
Sara R searched her heart and started what would become the Community Quilt project.
photo at NN13 by lusty -- click image for full panoramic view
Sara had just spent a year creating a Star Quilt ("the best quilt I ever made") for the Plains Indian peoples, a work that included handwritten signatures gathered from numerous kossacks at the 2008 Austin Netroots Nation. "The idea was born out of the moment when I was trying to refocus from something that was hurting me. I wanted to turn my attention to something that would be more positive," Sara recalls. Disturbed by recent turmoil on the Street Prophets site she administered, Sara was meditating on the Star Quilt in her living room when it came to her: Make a signature quilt for Othniel. Othniel, a gay lawyer in Austin who was deathly ill from cellulitis, faced surgery the following morning. Trusting her inner prompting, Sara put up a diary asking for healing messages she could transcribe onto a quilt for him.
With his partner by his side in the hospital, Othniel read the messages online that night before surgery. The healing intentions of his fellow kossacks were already doing their work, and once Othniel received his quilt he never again entered a hospital or endured a scan without its transcribed messages of love and hope wrapped around him. When he finally passed on last year the quilt was displayed at his memorial service.
"Sometimes you do things without knowing the effect they'll have in the world.
It bowls me over when I hear how people receive these."
winglion and Sara R at NN13
photo by mimi2three
Follow us below the orange ball of yarn for more history, pictures and a video of the Quilt FlashMob in action at NN13.
Transcribing messages on quilts goes back to the 19th century. Pioneers heading for the Oregon Trail carried the practical gift of quilts inscribed with messages or signatures from dearly loved people they would never see again. What made Sara and her sister Ann's project different was the internet. These inscriptions were from people who often hadn't even met in person, offering tangible gifts of loving intention and connection.
"Ojibwa feels strongly in his tradition that healing depends on community. In our culture we don't do illness and grief very well, and these quilts fill a cultural gap.
This is an invitation to say something meaningful and kind in a way that's concrete and real."
Sara R, shanikka, and winglion, holding the 100th Quilt made for shanikka
photo by mimi2three
The next of a series of signature quilts (soon to be dubbed "Love Catchers" by Dallasdoc) followed. "There was just this howl of grief when exmearden
was diagnosed with a cancer in her heart," Sara recalls. "I wrote to the grieving room diarist offering to do a quilt but we couldn't afford the cost, and this was the first quilt to have a PayPal link to finance its creation. It had over 200 messages on it. exmearden also took it to the hospital with her and it was featured in her memorial. At the Community Panel [at NN10 in Las Vegas] exmearden credited that quilt with extending her life."
Letting the Daily Kos community finance the quilts by taking a small donation per message opened up a much-needed livelihood for Sara and Ann, who had moved to Portland Oregon from Washington D.C. to care for ailing parents, an experience that sharpened their empathy for caregivers but also left them financially strapped. After exmearden's quilt the project took wings and in doing so also helped Sara and Ann pay their bills. Sara, who had been self-employed for years doing insurance consulting work from home was "shocked to realize that as a 50 year old woman with talents and abilities I was suddenly 'past my shelf life' and unemployable." Sara and Ann now make their living creating quilts, pootie pads, and other hand-made items.
After Sara and Ann created an amazing quilt for my husband paradise50 as he prepared for grueling throat cancer treatments last year I wanted to do everything I could to emotionally and financially support the sisters in their soul's work. When Sara told me it wouldn't be long until their 100th quilt was made (for shanikka!) the inspiration for a gathering of quilts at the upcoming Netroots Nation took hold.
Once navajo applied her considerable skills into helping organize what she dubbed the Quilt FlashMob it all quickly fell into place, transforming the convention space shown above into this gorgeous tapestry of smiling faces and colorful quilts:
photo by Anne Savage
My tremendous thanks to the quilt recipients who brought their quilts or entrusted them to other kossacks for the convention. As you can see, the quilt backings are every bit as exquisite and original as the fronts!
photo by Anne Savage
linkage has also devoted himself to the sisters' ongoing project, and conducted a series of sensitive videotaped interviews with quilt recipients. From linkage:
I met Sara through Street Prophets and enjoyed her friendship during her tenure as site administrator. Her outreach and love to the Kos community has been an inspiration to me.
Quilts are the physical embodiment of a metaphor for a better way of living. A better way of organizing our communities. See my recent diary about the quilt metaphor.
Interviewing some of the community quilt recipients at NN13 was a powerful life changing experience for me. It reinforced just how important community and love is for each of us. And, how fragile and precious our lives are.
"Empathy is one of the values that is woven
into every quilt,
and it is this understanding we are not alone
that helps us heal.
The quilts truly are 'Love Catchers.' "
video by linkage. See credits for participants.
My favorite part of the video is the audible gasp from the onlookers when everyone flips their quilts over to the reverse side.
Want to be a part of the Quilt Community Project?
FOLLOW Sara R on Daily Kos (click the little ♥ next to her name) so her Community Quilt diaries will show up in your stream. Whether or not you can contribute or leave a message, recommending her diaries keeps them in front of more eyeballs.
Leave a Message for the next quilt recipient. If you can't afford the $15 donation for a square, don't worry about it. Many of us donate extra to cover other people's messages. You don't have to personally know the recipient, either....all you have to desire is that peace and healing be brought to a troubled soul.
Check out the Community Quilt Project online. Perhaps you'd like to privately commission a quilt, or suggest a quilt for a kossack you know is struggling with pain, illness, grief, or the burdens of caregiving?
Check out the Kos Katalogue for lap quilts, pootie pads, and other beautiful gifts.
Donate to Sara R and winglion. Some of us have set up a small recurring monthly donation to smooth out the financial ups and downs of their projects.
To donate: Go to paypal.com (you do not need a paypal account), click on Transfer money to a friend, and enter firstname.lastname@example.org
photo by navajo. click image for full panoramic view