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Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Sewing MAYHem : Quillows, Charity Work and the Australian Sewing Guild

Today’s post is from the multi-talented Rhona Feeney, ASG Regional Officer for the Northern Sydney Region. Here she is, showing off one of her amazing Quillows. What's a Quillow? Read on....

What do quillows for the homeless, trauma dolls, library bags, breast cancer pillows and dementia fiddle mats have in common? They are all things that Australian Sewing Guild Groups have made for charity.

This year NSW is making a big effort to make and supply quillows for the ASG Convention in North Sydney in September. After that we are going to donate them to The Exodus Foundation. Bill Crews, CEO and founder of The Exodus Foundation, has been invited to talk at our Gala Dinner, and we hope to present him with many quillows to go to people in need who visit the Centres in Ashfield and around Sydney.

What is a quillow? It's a large fabric pocket, attached to one end of a fleecy blanket or quilt. When the blanket is folded up into the pocket, the quillow works as a cushion and is easy to carry around. When it get cooler, you pull the blanket out and wrap it around yourself!

ASG Groups have been making our version of quillows with a fancy pocket made from scraps, orphaned quilt blocks and embroidery samples. It's a great way of using up items which people can not bear to throw out and helping the environment too! Some people have made quilts, others have purchased fleecy fabric and yet more have found a source of reasonably priced blankets at Ikea.  To date, we have over 70 quillows, and hope to see at least double that number.

Scroll down for details of a Quillow Sewing event for Sewing MAYhem on Sat 31 May.

The Australian Sewing Guild members sew many items for charity. These can be very specific, as in the case of vests for children who have autism. The Dee Why Group was asked to make vests and fill pockets with sand as the children like the comfort of feeling some weight on their shoulders but often cannot bear to be cuddled when they are upset.

Hospitals are often in need of things which would just make life a little easier for patients. We've made bags for holding drip liquids; much nicer than carrying around a plastic bag. When a baby does not survive, a small quilt can be an incredible comfort to the parents. Premature babies are often too small for the commercially available clothing and we are asked to make up tiny clothes to hide tubes on these precious little lives.

Other times groups seek out charity work to do. This might be funded by a grant or a need is seen in the community and an effort is made to fill that need. At Top Ryde we made waterproof toiletry bags for elderly patients who often go into hospital without the time to collect items from home.

For a few years, some Northern Beaches members made Raggedy Anne dolls. These were a challenge to make and improved our sewing skills. The police were delighted to receive them for use as Trauma Dolls. When they go out to a case where a child is involved, something soft to cuddle and love can ease the stress and calm the child down.

For Sewing MAYhem this year, the Alexandria Achievers spent a meeting making pillowcase dresses. These simple dresses, made out of a length of fabric or a pillowcase, are relatively simple to make, with elastic tops and shoulder ties, allowing for growth. They might be the only new item of clothing that a girl receives. For more information see Dress A Girl Australia.  Our President Toni Stuart left her husband at home with three granddaughters making dresses, while she came to Alexandria for a visit.

It is always nice to give something back to the community, or to people who are struggling or not able to look after themselves for many reasons. Sometimes we are only spending a few hours sewing something which could mean a lot to the recipient. Other times we donate finances, but when you can use your passion to help others, it is a win-win situation for everyone concerned!

Would you like to join in?

Here’s information about a Sewing MAYhem event for Quillow Making on Saturday, May 31 from 10-4 at Rhodes, in Sydney.

Making Quillows for Convention and The Exodus Foundation

Date:             Saturday 31 May 2014
Time:           10am – 4pm
Where:         The Old Schoolhouse
                     63 Blaxland Rd (parking in the grounds)

Rhona will demonstrate how to create crazy patchwork.

Equipment to bring:
· Machines and general sewing equipment
· Cutting mat, rotary cutter and quilting ruler (18” is a good size)  if you have and don’t mind sharing.
· Scraps of fabric or fabrics you would like to make into a quillow cushion – approx. 20” or 50cm square.
· Fleecy blankets approx. 120x150cm – we have been buying from Ikea for $2.
· Fleecy offcuts approx. 50cm square for backs of cushion, or wadding which can be cut to same size.

Rhona is hoping this will encourage people to use up their offcuts of fabric and supplies rather than go out and spend a fortune on materials.

Guild volunteers at the “new" Crowle Fabric Shop (aka The Fabric Cave) cnr Bowden Street and Nancarrow Avenue, Meadowbank, have been collecting pieces that are too small to sell. They have a good collection of fabrics in all shades.

There is also fleecy available at $3.00 a metre.

These off cuts will be available for use on the day.

You will also be able to get machines and items for the ASG Convention tagged on the day, there will be no charge for the first 3 items after that the cost will be $5 per item. Bear in mind that all electrical items used at ASG events are to be tagged, and this is to be kept up to date. Some venues insist that we tag items, or they will not be able to be used. Please have your name on the items you bring. This will be an opportunity for groups to get electrical cords and irons tagged too.

If you would like these instructions sent out again prior to the event, please email Rhona

Please confirm your attendance by email to Rhona, for catering purposes.
BYO lunch
Morning and afternoon tea are provided

If you are a charity looking for assistance with items to be sewn, email us at

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