Handmade Quilts, a Lifeline for Haiti

Organization builds better lives through quilting, as John Christopher Fine reports.

Maureen Matthews McClintock sat enjoying the ambiance inside a restored circa-1860s barn, in Pennsylvania during an old-fashioned Sunday supper with bluegrass music.
Freshly made quilts hung from the walls and rafters and draped over little rocking chairs. A medley of tunes filled the air from mandolin, viola, and guitar. A quiet voice sang popular country ballads.
“I’m a quilter. I go down to Haiti three to four times a year. We bring materials for them. We now have a hundred quilters,” she said.
Maureen and other volunteers have embarked on a project to encourage artisanship in Haiti, where a devastating earthquake hit the capital last year. They are helping provide a way of earning money for talented women who would otherwise not have a ready market for their finished quilts, some of which were now hanging in the barn alongside the American ones.
“We’re volunteers. We pay our own way down to Haiti. All the funds raised from the sale of quilts go back to the quilters. We have a touring exhibit and a catalog we publish ourselves,” Maureen said.

How this Vermont native and her partner Jeanne Staples, from Martha’s Vineyard, began Peace Quilts is a compelling story of caring and compassion. “Jeanne was working in Haiti in 2006. She wanted to establish a fish farm for them.
“While there, with a group of volunteers, they built a school. During her stay, Jeanne saw women making beautiful linens [that] they were not selling. She’s loved quilts all her life.
“When Jeanne returned home, she told me about the magnificent artwork she witnessed in Haiti. We came up with the idea of quilts. I love quilting and I love to travel,” Maureen said.
Thus, Peace Quilts was born. The organization’s motto is: “Building better lives through art.”
The Haitian women work in a shop that has no electricity. “They use treadle sewing machines and charcoal irons. Imagine working in 100-degree heat. I tried to use a treadle machine and couldn’t get the rhythm.”
It looks hopeful that their hard work will pay off, “Quilting is so intricate. The most-expensive quilt that has been sold through the project was $2,500. The most-expensive we have on display here is $995,” she said.
The quilts are sold through the organization’s website, Haitipeacequilts.org. Potholders made by women of Haiti are sold at Macy’s Department Stores.

The practical art of quilting dates back to a time when country folk used patches of material to create bedspreads that would keep the family warm in winter. Leftover pieces of cloth, old clothes, and discarded fabric were saved and put to use by industrious people while rocking in front of a hearth fire.
What was once necessity has become a valued art form. Many antique quilts are sold for thousands of dollars. Contemporary works of art often sell for hundreds, depending on the intricacy and beauty of the quilt.

For the original report go to http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/life/handmade-quilts-a-lifeline-for-haiti-60841.html

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