ISLE AUX MORTS, NL – Of the 30 quilts folded neatly on Gussie Lawrence’s dining table, only two pairs are alike. The other 26 are unique works of art Lawrence quilted alongside her friend and regular walking partner, Louise Strickland.
“My father-in-law (Jack Lawrence) was in the hospital on long term care so we used to visit every day. We interacted with all of the patients there,” said Lawrence. “But he passed away in January and it was so sad, and everybody seemed to be very sad.”
It was then, said Lawrence, that she had a good look around and wondered how she could make a difference and perhaps cheer up the long-term care residents. She didn’t have to think for too long.
“Everybody loves a quilt,” she said.
Lawrence’s hobby is quilt-making, and luckily enough she had a friend and fellow quilter to help. Louise Strickland figures she has been quilting for about 15 years.
“Basically, scrap quilts,” said Strickland.
Initially the pair had big, fancy ideas for their quilts, but Lawrence said that soon changed.
“That wasn’t our thing. We just got into the scrap quilts and we love doing it.”
Usually these quilting queens stitch their creations for family, particularly grandchildren. Strickland is currently working on a hockey one for her grandson. When it comes to designs, the ladies sometimes get their ideas for patterns from the Internet.
“We don’t download them,” said Strickland. “We look at them and then adjust them to our own piece.”
Before they got started Lawrence approached hospital staff who loved the idea and happily provided measurements so the quilts would fit the hospital beds. Lawrence explained it’s important that the quilts won’t hang too far or prove too cumbersome for staff providing care for the seniors. Since there are 30 beds, it only made sense that the ladies craft 30 quilts.
“I don’t know if they thought we would do 30,” laughed Lawrence. “But they were really excited over it.”
Crafting that many quilts represented a significant investment of time and labour for the two retired schoolteachers. Each quilt took about four or five hours to construct.
“We’d go for a five-kilometre walk first and then we’d come back, and we’d sew,” said Strickland. “Some days we would quilt from say 10 o’clock in the morning until six o’clock in the evening.”
Lawrence says even with plenty of time, once they set a goal for themselves they tend to hunker down and get to work.
“The people that we are – once we start a project we’ve got to finish it.”
The pair had a lot of scraps they were able to use for the quilts, and friends and acquaintances offered even more bits and pieces once they learned about the project.
St. James Orange Lodge 177 also chipped in $225 to ensure the project could be completed. The organization is the only non-profit group in Isle aux Morts.
"We had 14 done and then we found that we were short for backs and batting in the middle, so Gussie decided to contact the men’s lodge,” said Strickland. “And they decided to give us money to buy whatever we needed to finish them, which was very good.”
The quilts were donated to the Dr. Charles L. LeGrow Health Centre in Port aux Basques on Wednesday afternoon, April 18. The plan is to let the seniors pick out a favourite, although the quilts will remain with the beds for future patients to enjoy.
Both ladies would like to express their gratitude to all who donated materials for the hospital quilts.