Hugs you keep


A quilt is a hug you can keep, says Jane Turner, who, along with other members of the Marsh Quilters, makes quilts for sick children. An exhibition of their work will be held in Wanstead this month

Some 25 years ago, I went to an evening class to learn about patchwork and quilting. I loved it and I was hooked. I made my first quilt, which is still hanging on the wall at home. Since then, I have made many quilts and accumulated lots of fabric and equipment. I now belong to a group called Marsh Quilters, which meets regularly in Leytonstone.

The Marsh Quilters formed in 1979 when a group of women who supported the Save The Walthamstow Marshes Campaign began meeting in their homes to create a quilt. This quilt was used by the Walthamstow Marsh Society to promote the marshes as an educational resource. From this humble beginning, other quilts were made to raise funds for charities, and we celebrated our 40th anniversary in 2019.

After I had made quilts for all my family and friends, I wanted to carry on making them but wanted them to be useful. One of the members of Marsh Quilters was a coordinator for a charity called Project Linus. The name comes from the character Linus in the Peanuts cartoon. Linus always has his security blanket with him. Project Linus provides handmade quilts and blankets to sick, terminally ill and traumatised children. Volunteer coordinators cover all the areas of the UK, collecting quilts and distributing them.

I started to make quilts for children and passed them on to the coordinator, Linda. In 2018, I joined Linda as a coordinator for the east London area. I collect quilts from my fellow quilters, check them, label them and distribute them. The quilts are for any child up to the age of 18 who is in need of a hug. We can help to provide a child with tangible evidence that someone cares, along with the physical reassurance that comes from being snuggled in a quilt.

We make quilts of all sizes and in many designs using cotton fabric. The quilts and blankets are all washable and they are for the children to keep. We take quilts to The Royal London Hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital, Evelina London Children’s Hospital, The Baby Bank and to foster care agencies. All the London hospitals are covered by coordinators. The hospital staff are very keen to have quilts to give to the children in their care because it makes the environment less clinical. Some of the children have multiple visits to hospital and often take their quilts along with them.

In the last five years, Linda and I have given away more than 1,000 quilts. I still make some myself, but the majority of them are made by other members of Marsh Quilters. We will be holding an exhibition of our work in Wanstead this month, and I will be there with a display of Project Linus quilts.

The Marsh Quilters will be holding an exhibition of their work in Christ Church hall on 15 October from 11am to 4pm. For more information, visit marshquilters.org