A group in Hazard has recently celebrated its 10th anniversary of making homemade gifts for those in the community who may need more support.
Prayers & Squares is a nationwide “interfaith outreach organization that combines the gift of prayer with the gift of a hand-tied quilt,” according to the group’s website.
Liz Buchanan, head of the First Presbyterian Church of Hazard’s chapter, which has dedicated over 300 quilts in the decade since its inception, explained that the gift the group is giving is much more than simply a quilt.
“Instead of hand quilting, we don’t have time to do that and be able to give all of these away. We tack the quilt, and we tie a knot (on each tack). Then at church, people will come up and ask to tie a knot, they’ll say a prayer for the person we’re dedicating it to, and you give it to the person and they’re covered in prayer,” she said.
Tacking a quilt is a method used to bind the top, batting, and back of the quilt together by using thick thread to sew through multiple spots on the quilt where a knot is tied and the ends are left loose. Buchanan said traditionally there should be around 250 to 300 tacks in a quilt. The organization’s quilts may contain much fewer than that.
“We kind of skimp a little,” Buchanan joked.
However, this does not mean there aren’t hundreds of knots tied and prayers said once the quilt is ready to be sent to whomever it has been requested by, she said.
“People ask for them for their cousin in Florida. We’ve sent them to the Philippines, and we’ve sent them to Afghanistan,” Buchanan said of the farthest places their quilts have been sent.
Buchanan said the crib-sized quilts can be requested for anyone from the church who may need prayer, many of whom are injured or suffering from some kind of ailment, however, the person must want the quilt; it can’t be requested without their permission.
Margret Keith, a member of the group, said the quilts and the meaning that comes along with them resonate with the members who make them, but are even more special to those who receive them.
“It’s amazing, some families, when the person dies, they bury the quilt with them,” Keith said.
The organization started in California, Buchanan explained, and the church decided to take part in 2003 after its minister, Ellen Peach, received a video about the group and showed it to Buchanan.
“She handed me a video … and had me watch it and said this might be something you might want to think about doing. I thought, you’re crazy! I mean I can sew a straight line, but I don’t know how to do anything like that,” Buchanan laughed. “But we have just learned over the 10 years how to make one. We just learned last week how to do that binding the correct way, how to do a stitch the right way. You know, it’s a work in progress.”
Gretta Combs, another member of the group and a longtime sewer, said it’s almost impossible for the small group to not become personally invested in the quilts when they spend so much time with them, and many times will know the person it is being made for.
“One of my favorites was one we gave to Gerry Roll’s mother. Each of us can put quilt tops together and we’ll bring them here and we’ll put the whole package together. I had done the quilt top on that and I did it in yellows, blues, and pinks and it had sections of my old prom dress in it. That was a personal favorite,” she said.
After a decade of making quilts, the group has lost many who have received and made many of the quilts over the years. Many of the founding members of the chapter have passed away before the 10th anniversary for the group, Buchanan said, but they’re not forgotten.
The group hopes to be able to continue, and maybe even recruit members from anywhere who like to sew. Buchanan said regardless of the size of the group or the number of quilts produced, the message and support they are spreading with their work is what’s important.
“Isn’t it a nice idea?” she said. “People being covered in prayer.”