The children of Newtown Quaker Meeting have completed their fifth healing quilt.
The healing quilts are loaned to members of the Meeting community who are recovering from an illness or surgery. On each quilt there are approximately 49 handprints of members of the Quaker Meeting of all ages.
The handprints represent “a collective hug from the Quaker Meeting” when wrapped around the person who is ailing, according to Wendy Kane, quilter and head of the Quaker Meeting in Newtown.
One young teenager who was loaned a quilt while recovering from Lyme’s disease this past year said, “It’s wonderful to have had a healing quilt from Quaker Meeting with all the handprints and signatures on it. I knew they were thinking of me, even though I couldn’t be there. When people say ‘It’s a hug from the Meeting,’ it really is.’”
“This is all about the children doing something for people in the Meeting,” Kane said.
Kane said to make the quilt, the fabric is cut into nine-inch squares. The children then paint the hand of an adult or another child with fabric paint and the painted hand is pressed on the fabric. The person then signs his or her name and the ‘hands’ are sewn together into a quilt top.
“Making a quilt probably involves a total of about 30 hours of work by all of us,” she said.
Quilting is an old Quaker custom, Kane noted, and the “healing” aspect of quilts and quilting is not unique to Newtown.
One early English Quaker quilter was Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845. Fry, concerned by the plight of women prisoners in jail, formed a Quaker group in 1816. That group, the British Ladies Society for the Reformation of Female Prisoners, earned praise from Queen Victoria.
One product of Fry’s efforts is The Rajah Quilt, one of Australia’s most important textiles. Fry’s group taught female prisoners who were being shipped to Australia how to quilt and furnished them with supplies so they would have a useful skill upon arrival.
In 1841, female prisoners on board the Rajah en route to Australia put their talents to work, producing The Rajah Quilt.