Saturday, February 6, 2010

Kids draw, stitchers stitch, and sick kids smile in Meg Shaffer's world

Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles kicks off our celebration of the HEART with a week long offering of heart related blogs and guest blogs and special treats. Our first treat will tug at your heart strings and give you yet another way to help this needy world.

Meg Shaffer, an American living in Montevideo, Uruguay,  stitches by the sea and soaks up ideas for designs. She has a big heart and a fine touch at cross-stitching. Her blunt little needle weaves in and out of the Aida cloth creating hearts for sick children whom she has never seen and probably never will. She is one of about 60 cross-stitchers who participate in a delightful organization originating in Germany that connects kids in a most unusual way. Her story and links may require a Google translation from German to English. It works surprisingly well and definitely worth the effort.  -- Dawn

Imagine yourself a very sick child, in hospital, and possibly in a country where you don't speak the language. You'd be scared, confused, and in pain. Your life is attached to an IV drip and you are removed from all that is a normal life. This is the life of hundreds of children in hospitals across Europe and the US.

A group based in Germany started a program in early 2009, to help these children in one specific way. Hilfe fuer Kranke Kinder (Help for Sick Children) is a foundation started by Elke Reiss, a cross stitch designer in Germany. The aim of this group is to provide handmade quilts to incredibly sick children.

These are not ordinary quilts, though. See photo: A quilt made by HFKK.

They are designed by children all over the world who draw hearts. These hearts are then converted into cross stitch patterns and sent to volunteers to be brought to life. Sixteen of these hearts are put together to make a quilt. Hearts from Argentina, Spain and Germany might be in the same quilt. They may have been stitched in Germany, Luxembourg, France, the US, or even Uruguay.

Once enough stitched hearts have been gathered, Elke visits German hospitals, seeking a child who is exceedingly sick. The majority of these children receive treatment for cancer, but may be from Russia, the Ukraine, Turkey, or elsewhere.

Elke meets the parents and tells them of the quilt, and asks about favorite colors and themes. These are incorporated in the sashing and backing of the quilt, making it a one of a kind match for the child. The quilt is something a sick child can keep in hospital and draw solace from the hearts,  knowing that other children around the world thought of his scary situation.

Several quilts have already been given to sick children, but of course there's a bottleneck. Cross stitching hearts takes time. It is the rate-limiting step of the whole operation. Although the foundation has approximately sixty volunteer stitchers, that is a drop in the bucket versus the number of sick children.

The foundation also needs people willing to piece and quilt the quilts. Fabric is donated by generous patrons.

To participate you need to provide your time, a ten inch square of 14-16 count Aida cloth or 28-32 count linen, and some floss. I like to use silk or a mixture of silk and cotton. See photo of a striped heart stitched by the author from a drawing by Phillip, age 7, of Germany.
Can you do it?

I have been a part of Elke's group since it began and learned of it through this blog. I have stitched three hearts. I'm working on my fourth. It connects me to the children who draw the hearts and to the child receiving the quilt.

Would you like to participate?

There are two ways to get involved: one is the foundation's blog, and the other is via the foundation's Yahoo group. I encourage you to visit the blog and learn about the latest quilt recipient, Polina from Russia, who has metastasized kidney cancer and is in hospital in Germany. Her story is found on page four of the blog or the original news story can be read online. The news story link is a translation into English from German. All of the other sites are in German and may require a translator.

During this season of hearts and love, consider giving a Valentine every day. Stitch a heart for a child.

Photo is of a heart stitched by the author from a drawing by Julia, age 7, from Spain.

1 comment:

Carol said...

A wonderful story. The hearts on the blog at the moment are beautiful.