SOUTH TAMPA – Jasmine Ali couldn’t believe her eyes – stacks of handmade quilts, each gray with a wide swatch of colorful patches in bright reds, greens, blues and yellows.
All made in a 24-hour stretch by volunteers – some sewing through the night. Others took two or three shifts. Some brought husbands to help by ironing the material flat so it wouldn’t “bunch” when stitched.
“It’s memorable, said Jasmine Ali while holding her one-month-old Symphonique Ali. “They didn’t have to do this and I am very appreciative.” Meanwhile, several quilters hugged her and wiped their tears.
Twenty-four quilts – 12 for cribs and 12 for single beds – were made in the sew-a-thon for Alpha House, a nonprofit home where Ali, along with other new mothers and their babies as well as pregnant women in need live.
Keep Me In Stitches, a sewing store, staged the Jan. 30-31 event in conjunction with the grand opening of its new store at 4504 W. Kennedy Blvd. More than 50 people participated in the event.
Ali, along with another resident, Brenda Gutierrez, whose baby is due March 27, as well as Alpha House staff came for the donation at noon Jan. 31. They also joined the quilters for lunch.
“It’s just unbelievable,” said Pat Langford, executive director of Alpha House while accepting the quilts. “They are so nice, so cheerful and definitely will brighten the rooms.”
Melissa Helms, owner of the 14-year-old business, said, “We wanted to do something to help the community. The sewing community is very giving, very supportive and very social.”
Socialization is part of the concept of Helms’ 3,000-square-foot new sewing center, which has a bistro in addition to the 500-square-foot classrooms and a display room of sewing machines, fabrics and notions.
“This event was an opportunity for sitting, sewing and socializing – which is very old-fashioned,” Helms said, comparing the sew-a-thon to quilting bees in pioneer days.
But the style for the quilts was not old-fashioned. Instead they made modern quilts, a style that features minimalism and a simplistic blending of bright colors with a single expanse of one color.
Marcia Pickard, a New Tampa resident and a store employee, coordinated the project and worked with a fabric company, Kaufman, which donated the material.
People like Lynnita Shipman of Lutz and Sandra Valdes of North Tampa donated their time and skill.
“I like charities and I think it is great we can take beautiful colors and make something to keep people warm,” Shipman said. “A quilt is the next best thing to a stuffed animal.”
Valdes agreed, saying, “I love this store. And the Lord blesses those who help others.”