Friday, January 17, 2014

Meet Marilyn Our Guest Charity Quilter

I thought it would be nice to showcase a charity quilter that has reached out to Layers of Hope - Quilting 911 and find out a little bit more about our amazing quilters.

While I know some of you like to stay hidden in shadows, I want to showcase the love and compassion you have for others as well as to let others get to know you better.

I asked for quilters to step forward for January and Marilyn was the first quilter to do so. So without further ado, let me introduce you to Marilyn at North Hills Quilter .

Marilyn and I first met on line when I put out the call for quilts for the dispatchers in Aurora, Colorado after the theater shooting and she has remained a huge supporter and quilter for Layers of Hope when there is a need.

So grab your favorite snack or cupa and comfy chair and sit down and read all about our quilter of January.  My questions are of course in purple, her answers are in black!

You and I met through our love for making charity quilts and while we have not met face to face I know we share a passion for quilting for others. Can you tell us, how long you have been quilting and how you got started in quilting? 

I have only been quilting for about 6 years.  I started because I was crocheting afghans for others and just couldn't make them fast enough so I started making quilts.  I had done some quilting about 25 years ago, but those were made by hand and were mostly pillows or wall hangings.  My mom is an avid quilter and really encouraged me to get started.  My mom and dad gave me my first quilting machine. 

My grandmother was an amazing seamstress and made beautiful crocheted blankets and yet she never once made a quilt out of scraps. However, she made the most beautiful wedding dresses without a pattern, I use a pattern for everything.  Do you use patterns for piecing your quilts or do you just make them up as you go? 

I do both.  I love simple patterns that make up quickly.  If something takes more than 3 hours to finish, I lose interest and it will sit forever before it gets finished.  I recently got EQ7 and have started designing my own quilts. 

You have an amazing Binky Patrol that can whip out quilts quickly and beautifully. Tell me about the Binky Patrol. How long has it been in existence?  How did it come about? How many members do you have? Does each member do a different part of the quilts you make? Is it set up for one particular charity or many? How does the team decide which charities get quilts?  

Binky Patrol is a national nonprofit organization that has been around for 15 years.  My mom started with the organization when it first started in Southern California. The group's motto is comforting covers for kids.  

When I first started making crochet afghans faster than I could give them away to friends and family members, I tried giving them away to the local hospital.  They looked at me like I was crazy.  They told me they didn't want my blankets.  So, my mom told me to find a local Binky Patrol group.  

Problem was, the closest was 2 hours away, so she encouraged me to start a chapter in my city.  It was really easy to start a chapter and the leader of the group is super nice and really helpful.  We meet every other month and have about a dozen regular members since we started ten years ago.  

We've had more than 100 total members over the years who have contributed blankets and quilts and we've given away thousands of blankets.  We donate locally first to the hospital, homeless shelters, foster care programs and school kids and we also give to national disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  That was our biggest collection where we collected and sent 1144 quilts with the help of Fed Ex who came to my house, picked up the quilts and shipped them for free.  **This was an amazing thing for Fed Ex to do!**
We have many members who work on blankets at home and then just drop them off at the quilt shop where we meet.  We also have quilt days where lots of people come together to cut the fabric, sew it together into the quilt tops and then my friend Carla and I who have long arm machines do the quilting.  
We have four ladies now who put the binding on all the quilts.  Each person has a specialty and that makes the quilting go much faster. **Boy can they!  I have seen how quickly they get together so many where there is a large need!**
You have a new long arm quilter and you have an embroidery machine. Tell me a bit about these and do you prefer to use one over the other and why?

I have two quilting machines, one is robotic and the other manual.  I got the manual one five years ago and have quilted over 1,000 quilts on it.  It is a Janome 1600P DB on an original Handi Quilter frame.  I modified the machine so the foot pedal doesn't control the machine, there is a button you push that turns it on and off.  It sews really quickly (1600 stitches per minute) and I can quilt a kid size quilt in 15 minutes.
My new machine my husband got me for our 25th wedding anniversary this summer.  It is robotic and is much slower than the manual machine, but the great thing about it is you push a button and it works by itself.  You don't have to stand there and make it go.  You just have to roll the quilt at the end of each row.  I found it on Craigs list, so if you are looking for a quilting machine, check that out because I paid less than 1/3 the original price and it had only been used about 50 hours.
The plan was to be able to quilt on both machines at the same time, but I find I'm not really using the manual machine much these days. I usually sew while the quilt machine is working away.
I got the embroidery machine used as well.  It is a Brother pe770 and I love it because it has the bigger hoop (5x7).  I would recommend getting an embroidery machine with the larger hoop because you can do so many other things.
I use it a lot for making patches for my husband's tennis team and for labeling quilts.  I know you are supposed to label every quilt, but then I would never give any quilts away because making labels does take time.  So, I only label the very special quilts.  I also use it for fun things like making tote bags or hats.  I can't say I like one better, I just like them for different things.
You are married, have a daughter in college and a son still at home, are any of them involved in your quilting at all?  Do they help choose patterns, colors, charities, cut fabric, etc.? 

I have four kids,(and here I thought she only had 2) my oldest is in grad school and she is becoming quite the avid crocheter.  She designs crochet clothes for herself and doesn't use a pattern most of the time. 

My second daughter has helped me the most with my charity work.  She has a real eye for color and when she was home would sit for hours and help me pick out fabrics that went together and help me put together quilt kits.  She is a freshman in college now.  

It's just me and the two boys at home now (with hubby) and my older son has helped a lot with the heavy lifting.  He has loaded boxes and helped deliver quilts. (seriously need to share this with my grands who do all my boxing, taping and carrying to the car and post office!)

He's also done a lot of cutting fabric and sewing things. He's not afraid to use a sewing machine or rip out a stitch.  He learned to sew through 4H and started when he was about   He's sewn Christmas stockings for our troops for many years (What a great young man!) and sews all of the bumper pads for his robotics team.  He designs them every year too and comes up with the patterns they use. 

My youngest (9) tries to stay away from the sewing room as much as possible.  :)  He does like using the Accuquilt Go! and Studio fabric cutter but would rather play video games than pretty much anything else on the planet.  

He has come with me to more of my Binky Patrol meetings than any other kid because he was born into the group so I really can't blame him for trying to get away from it now that he can.

You are involved with a charity that makes quilts for children of prisoners and you know with raising my three grandchildren and being a part of Angel Tree, this to me is an amazing act of love especially when I saw how this organization evolved.  Tell us a bit about this and how you got involved.

I teach high school and deal with kids whose parents are in prison.  They are being punished for a crime they didn't commit. (This has always broken my heart. Why punish the children when they didn't do anything wrong?)

If their friends find out their parent is in prison, they get teased.  My heart breaks for these kids.  They are usually under performing for many reasons.  When I read about Margaret's Hope Chest, I knew I had to get involved by sending them quilts to give to the kids. **If you are NOT aware of this amazing organization, I encourage you to read about it, the story will make you weep!**

My husband grew up and attended school in the same area you live in and has been away for many years. If any of us were going to be passing through the Vacaville (California) area, tell me what one thing we should not miss seeing and what quilt shops should we all visit?

Vacaville is known for our outlet stores.  If you like to shop at the outlets, stop there.  I love the Opportunity House Thrift Shop.  They have a 40% off sale on the 3rd Sunday of the month.  Our quilt shop is A Quilted Heart and of course, you can always find me at JoAnn's :) 

How does your husband support your quilting habit?  Does he feel his home is being taken over by quilting machines and fabric as many other husbands do?

My husband doesn't complain too much anymore about my quilting/crafting habits.  I am an over-doer of most everything I do.(I used to be, now just quilting)  I go through phases.  

I had a phase where I raised birds.  I turned our living room into an aviary.  I have over 200 birds in the living room.  Yep, 200.  I had finch, parakeets, quail, lovebirds and it was noisy and messy.  That lasted about 5 years. (Not sure my hubby would have been so understanding)  I gave them all away when we moved. 

I also had over 60 guinea pigs when the kids did 4H.  I had tubs and tubs of yarn when I was in my crochet craze, so he's pretty used to my hobbies taking over the house.  I let him have his one corner of the bedroom for his desk and computer :)  And I still feed him dinner every night, so he's a pretty happy guy. 

 I'm not spending a bunch of money on things as most of the fabric is donated, but every once in a while, he will ask how I'm ever going to use up all of the 'stuff' that is around here. **I think most husbands wonder the same thing!**

 I've told him about my plan for when I die.  My friend Carla will organize my funeral to be a quilting day.  Everyone who comes to my funeral will have to make a quilt before they can leave.  I have enough sewing machines and fabric that they should be able to to get quite a lot done. 

Plus, hopefully I've touched enough high school kids with a lot of energy that they can work all day.  Those kids can sure get a lot done!  He knows that he won't have to clean up all the mess when I'm gone so he's pretty happy about all of that. 

Of course, if my friend Carla goes first, I'm taking all of her stuff and doing the same thing.  Whatever is leftover, comes home with me :) **Out of the heart of a quilter!**

One thing I love is that you have gotten your students involved in the quilting process.  Tell us how you were able to do this and get the schools approval for this amazing project?

I'm a teacher at the high school, so I can basically do whatever I want.  If you are an outside person and wanting to get high school or Jr. high kids involved in a charity quilting project, the best way is to get a teacher involved. 

Talk to the counseling office and ask them if there is a teacher who still teaches home ec., or who they know who quilts.  Most of the people in my group are teachers or former teachers.  You'd be surprised how many teachers quilt.  I think it is our sanity/therapy tool.  It's much cheaper than getting weekly therapy sessions. **And safer than spending our time in a bar! HaHa!**

But seriously, call the school, ask for the counseling office and talk to the secretaries.  They know everything.  Secretaries run the school (shh, don't tell the principal!).  If there isn't a teacher of home ec., ask for the teacher who runs the National Honor Society or Key Club. 
Maybe they have an S club (Soroptomist).

Any of those clubs are service clubs.  They are all looking for community service projects to do.  You do NOT need to get permission from the principal to get help from the students.

Organize a work day at the local library, your church or if you want to work at the high school, then you do have to get permission from the principal. You have to fill out all these forms and have proof that you have insurance and it's a real pain.  

That's where you need a teacher to be the sponsor.  They don't have to do any of that stuff.  They just have to say they want to use the facilities.  They are covered.  But, if you can get the advisor for one of the clubs to work with you (usually, they will be happy to get the facility for you on a weekend or evening and sometimes they will even come and help out) then you just organize the kids.

Have lots of stuff for the kids to do.  Many want to help, but don't know what to do.  Many don't know how to sew, but are willing to try.  Ask volunteers to bring sewing machines and teach the kids.

Be patient, they mess up a lot, but keep trying.  I pick up older sewing machines at the thrift stores for about $25 all the time.  I think I have about 6 now.  I love the Kenmore ones because having all of the same kind makes it easier to thread and show the kids.  They are from the 70's and are heavy and don't break like the new plastic ones they sell.

Apply for grants from Walmart (when they open a new store, they give away money to local charities), I got one from Fresh and Easy for $1,000 and spent it on an Accuquilt Studio.

Best purchase ever.  The kids use it to cut the fabric into shapes that can be then sewn together to make quilts. 

No worry about cutting off a finger with a rotary cutter.  I had one student using a rotary cutter.  He says, this thing doesn't look sharp, then tries it on his hand.  Sure enough, it cuts right through his hand.  Really?  Kids!  Ugh. **I know that pain, cut right through my finger one day when it slipped off my ruler**

I know it is your dream to publish a book this year on quilting. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Yep, I'm working on the book.  It will be about how to start up charity quilting.  How to get others involved, will have some patterns that are simple so you can make lots of quilts quickly.

It will talk about where to donate and have lots of stories of where I've donated and who has received quilts.  Stories about the lives I've touched through quilts.  That's the goal, Lord willing. **Keep your fingers crossed lady, maybe she will give me a few copies to have a giveaway for all of you...hint, hint!**

Quilting has really blessed me as much as I've been able to bless others.  I've found that the more I've given away the quilts, the more I've received in friends, fabric, and blessings.

Sometimes I feel like I can't do enough, but for that one child who receives the warm comforting hug in the form of a quilt, the little bit I'm doing if just enough for them.
So, the 15 minutes at a time added up really is making a difference.  I encourage everyone to work together so we can all make a bigger impact. 

I want to thank Marilyn for taking the time to answer my questions and for letting us know a bit more about her and for making the difference she does the lives of those who receive one of the quilts!

This my quilting friends is what Layers of Hope - Quilting 911 is all about. Making a difference one stitch and one quilt at a time!
Quilts From Marilyn and Her Binky Patrol. As Quickly As I Recieved Them.  They Were Sent Out!
Stop by Marilyn's blog and introduce yourself and let her know you read about her here!


  1. It's amazing what a couple of women can start. Congratulations to both of you for getting this movement going.
    paweis at yahoo dot com

  2. A Great interview form an very inspirational lady. I too love to make for charity and people like Marilyn keep me motivated. A good job all round. thank you.

  3. Sue and Patty thank you for reading about his amazing lady and leaving your comments! Patty, you have blessed me over the years with gifts of your friendship and fabric at times when it is needed most! Sue, we would love to have one or two of your quilts to send to someone in need! Blessing!


From head to heart to hands, I quilt! I May Only Be One Person, But Together We Can Make A Difference. Bless you for stopping by!