I was inspired by Jenny Stratton’s recent article about the new program “Under Our Wings”. This new program encourages quilters to become a ‘coach’ and to adopt a non-quilter ‘rookie’, and teach them how to make a quilt top, get the top quilted, and donate it to the Quilts of Valor Foundation(QOVF).
I had heard about this idea at a Quilting Together retreat I attended in Chicago last fall. Marianne Fons was the keynote speaker, and she spoke about the project, which would debut at the Fall Quilt Market in Houston, 2010. “Under Our Wings” was created for independent quilt shops, and there is lots of information about it at http://www.qovf.org/content/uow-unreg-qs-homepage.html. You will have access to information including tips on publicity, marketing, running a workshop, and lots more.
Independent quilt shops will benefit from supporting this initiative because it will bring new quilters into their shops. Since there are nine different fabric companies that have designed an American Valor Fabric collection, surely there are lots of styles to suit your customer base, so choose a collection or two, and prepare some kits! (There are free quilt top patterns on the QOV site). The rookies may start by buying a kit, but with positive encouragement, they might decide to make more quilt tops and start to make some of their own fabric choices. Naturally, the new quilter will be interested in purchasing quilting notions and patterns!
When it comes time to actually quilt the tops that coaches and rookies complete, the team can request a longarm quilter to help. Or, the team can do the quilting themselves. This is all explained on their website.
I would like to suggest a third idea for shops that have access to a quilting system. Why not encourage your coaches and rookies to learn about the quilting process? I have been a ‘longarmer’ for the QOV foundation for many years, and it is very satisfying. However, there is a cost associated with shipping the quilt to the longarmer, and returning it to the maker. Why not save time and postage, and do the quilting locally? The QOV website also offers free quilting patterns (both digital for computerized systems, and paper based for free motion systems).
For shops that sell quilting systems, perhaps you might advertise a demonstration of your quilting system, and use one of the Rookies’ quilt tops. The attendees are potential buyers, and they will be able to see the quilting system functioning, in realtime! You may or may not want to have them try their hand at doing the quilting – that is up to you, the rookie and the demonstrator.
For people who sponsor a longarm quilting club or guild, perhaps you could organize a mini-retreat where the members focus on quilting only the Rookies’ quilt tops. Naturally the rookies and coaches should be invited to attend, so they can learn about the process of finishing a quilt. The quilt top can be returned to the coach and rookie for a binding lesson!
Be sure to visit the QOVF website http://www.qovf.org to register as an official Under Our Wings Quilt Shop. While on their site, check out the free digital and paper patterns. Don’t forget to promote this initiative in your newsletter!
Always “checking” for a better way to quilt!