Starting from scraps: Quilters rally to spread joy amid tragedy

Diane Bowden, owner of The Cotton Patch, helped organize care packages for quilters who lost their handiwork in the Santiam Canyon fires. 

Over the last month different communities have been stepping up to help those in a time of crisis; from RV stores to livestock owners strangers have been coming out of the woodwork to help those who have experienced loss from the wildfires. So when they heard of friends of friends who had lost everything, some of Keizer’s local quilters mobilized to help.

“I can’t stand the thought of people losing their everything,” said Diane Bowden, the owner of Keizer’s local quilt shop, The Cotton Patch. 

Bowden put out a call for spare fabric, needles, pins and thread, to donate to quilters who had lost their homes and quilting supplies in fires, as quilters – according to Bowden – are notorious for hoarding fabric. 

Quilters are also known for putting love and care into the projects they take on, so they made sure that none of the fabric had been washed in case a recipient was allergic to certain kind of detergent. Some of Bowden’s customers volunteered to pack the boxes for Bowden.

“There’s a big joke in our store that I can’t fold anything. I just shove it in the box and leave it that way, which is probably true. So Rosie came in and she packed all the boxes along with Sharon and we got them ready to go,” Bowden said. Rosie and Sharon are frequent patrons of Cotton Patch.

An example of the care packages assembled at The Cotton Patch on River Road in Keizer.

After the boxes were packed, her and her husband drove from Ashland to Jefferson delivering care packages to local quilt shops. Because most quilt shops are small and packed with quilting essentials, there usually isn’t a lot of room for extra things, so Bowden called other quilt shops to ask if they knew of anyone who lost their supplies that needed a care package before dropping them off. 

“I skipped Eugene because they were doing their own thing and we didn’t want to mess with their stuff,” Bowden said.

One of the stores told her about a woman, Linda, who had made a hand-stitched quilt for each of her four granddaughters, all of which were lost in the fire. Bowden hoped Linda, along with everyone else, will be inspired to create again, even after losing all their previous work.

“The hours and hours of work that went into that, we can’t replace it but we can maybe give them a little bit of joy by giving them some new supplies to use,” Bowden said.

Each box included a card signed by the people who donated so that the recipients would know that real people cared about them and their loss. The thread company, Aurifil, donated to the cause as well.

“Quilters are notoriously generous, but this was over the top,” Bowden said.