26 June, 2021
We venture into the sewing room of Harbour Hospice’s volunteer quilting group.
‘Quilt until you wilt’ is the tack that the Harbour Hospice quilting group likes to take, and it’s their mutual itch to stitch that has kept this group of volunteers together for more than eight years.
Originally starting out as two friends, Helen Harford and Jill Bezencon, sewing together around the kitchen table, the pair were soon joined by the others and now the pin pals meet every month for a day of sewing and friendship-growing, says keen quilter and group member Jan Adams.
The quilt queens make up to 200 quilts a year and all are donated to hospice to give to patients.
“The idea behind the group was that we wanted to be able to give patients something they could wrap themselves up in, to keep warm,” says Jan. “And it’s quite nice to know there are all of these beds and armchairs out there in the community that have our quilts draped over them.”
Harbour Hospice’s spiritual carer Vincent Maire provides a monthly report on where they go. “He doesn’t give names or details but he will say seven quilts were given away by the nurses this month, and two went to men and five to women and that’s really encouraging for us to know.”
What Jan loves most about this seamstress sisterhood is that every quilt they tailor is done collaboratively. “One person will lay out the fabric pieces, another might stitch them together. Someone will sew the back to the front and then others will sew on the binding and label them.
“They really are a collective project and we all like to throw in our opinions when we’re starting a new one.”
While the quilts are always bright and cheery their backs are left neutral and one-toned so that they can be flipped over if patients are feeling restless or agitated.
And the nurses will often take patients a big armful to choose from, so patients can match them to the décor of their homes.
The women always have several quilts on the go and will even complete half-finished ones donated by families. “Quilting people always have a pile of half-done quilts at home,” Jan laughs. “As the saying goes ‘Behind every quilter is a big pile of fabric.’”
The quilting group with a very special quilt they created especially for Harbour Hospice to represent a holistic Maori model of care that Harbour Hospice prescribes to: Te whare tapa wha, which reminds us to take care of all the different aspects of our life to support our wellbeing – our physical wellbeing (taha tinana), spiritual (taha wairua), mental and emotional (taha hinengaro), and family and social (taha whanau).