When the smoke cleared from October’s wildfires, 17 members of the Santa Rosa Quilt Guild had lost their homes, including many lifetimes’ worth of handmade quilts and all their quilting materials. Just as devastating to the organization, the Fountaingrove garage that held the Guild’s stash of fabrics used for charity quilt projects had also burned. Somewhat wryly, the Guild’s fire survivors are now known as the Cinder Sisters.
The Santa Rosa Quilt Guild is well known and beloved in Sonoma County for the hundreds of quilts they make annually for premature infants in NICUs of Sutter and Santa Rosa Memorial hospitals, for veterans and pregnant teens and for foster kids at Valley of the Moon Children’s Home. They make lap quilts for seniors, pillowcases and doll quilts for children and even pet blankets for animal rescue organizations. Their handiwork represents thousands of hours of hand- and machine-sewing, in their homes and together at regular marathon sewing sessions. Tens of thousands of Sonoma County residents have received quilts from this group since its inception in 1976. The community stash is where the materials for most of these quilts come from.
“Quilters are warm, they are loving, and they’re there with a quilt when you need one,” said member Diana Watson. She should know; she’s living in a 30-foot trailer in Santa Rosa with two members of her family after losing their home in the Orchard neighborhood off Piner Road. Her home studio was filled with beautiful fabrics, notions and finished quilts, all of which burned when the fires swept through northwest Santa Rosa.
Even as fires were still smoldering and evacuated quilters were trying to figure out where to live, the quilting community got busy. Somehow, word got out through Facebook and various influential quilting websites that the Santa Rosa Quilt Guild had lost its community fabric stash, and of the Cinder Sisters’ losses. A quilter in Texas came up with the idea for a “Fat Quarter Drive” (a fat quarter is a quarter-yard square of fabric). The posts went viral, and suddenly, SRQG president Jim Jensen was inundated with messages via the Guild’s website. Boxes began to arrive daily at the Guild’s P.O. box, sometimes more than he could load into his car. As packages of fabric piled up, Jensen said he tried to stop the flood, but to no avail. Generous donors sent yards and yards of fabric, backing, batting, notions, machines and more.
Vice President Linda Hooper had a new shed and the fabric filled the space so quickly, “the storage shed started showing a definite tilt,” according to Jensen. By New Year’s, the donation pile comprised some 30 cubic yards of material — equal to 30 pickup truckloads.
A group of Guild members started meeting weekly to sort and prepare the materials to share and sell. The Cinder Sisters had first pick of the beautiful fabrics, and the rest have been bundled in small batches to sell to Guild members at their bimonthly meetings, and to make community quilts. All proceeds from the sale of fabrics go to the Cinder Sisters, Jensen said.
Fabric donations came from 49 states, six countries outside the United States, and from some 80 quilt guilds around the country. Newly made quilts also arrived for the Cinder Sisters and for others who had lost their homes — 178 of those.
Read all of the PD's fire coverage here