Quilters know better than any other group that fabric often builds a bridge between people that is stronger than steel. This is proven time and again by quilt drives to help comfort victims of natural and not-so-natural disasters, such as 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, last year’s Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando, Florida, or the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. Then there are the families who lost homes in the Colorado wildfires and the Haitian earthquakes and storms. (It’s so painful that we can just go on and on with recent examples.)
For every one of these events, and so many others, we’ve watched and participated as the call for quilts was rallied and answered. These quilts are always made and sent with the most basic of motives: to let the recipient know he or she is cared about. Regardless of religious/sexual/political creed or preferences, these quilts are simply offered as literal and figurative comfort.
So last week, when a mosque was burned to the ground in Victoria, Texas, and six Muslims were shot and killed unexpectedly in a Quebec mosque, that familiar let’s-make-a-quilt impulse surfaced.
That impulse got stronger for our senior editor Tracy Mooney as she watched news coverage of a local legislative outreach event in Austin, Texas. The event was Muslim Capitol Day, a day on which Austin Muslim school kids visit the Texas Capitol to learn about government. Two years ago, this event was interrupted by Christian extremists chanting “Muhammad is dead” and sabotaging the microphone to denounce the religious beliefs of this small group of Muslim American kids. As this year’s event date approached, there was plenty of concern about repeat harassment. About 500 people were expected to attend, and organizers were wary. Instead, 2,000 showed up, with hundreds of volunteers forming a protective human chain around the Capitol building so attendees could peacefully have their event.
“It made me think about all of the Muslims I interact with in my life, Americans who have lived here all their lives who are coming under attack because of the actions of religious extremists,” Tracy says. “What could I do to show them support? Could a quilt be a prayer rug? Is that a kind gesture? Or inappropriate?”
Tracy shared her thoughts with the Generation Q staff and with her friends on Facebook. To say the idea grew legs is an understatement. And so we are announcing the #QuiltedPrayerRugs initiative.
Now, the Generation Q staff members hold very diverse political views and religious traditions. We don’t always agree on everything. But we DO agree that–at least for us–we often feel connected to God as we make quilts, especially for others. And we believe that connection finds its way into the stitches.
“I connect with God deeply while I’m making,” says Teri Lucas, our associate editor. “And I like to think someone else can connect with God on my quilts.”
Prayer quilts–sort of a sub-niche in the gifted quilt tradition–are not an innovation. Groups in countless churches and houses of worship in the United States and other countries make quilts that are blessed, prayed over and given to people struggling with health or life problems. A quilt used as prayer rug is merely a variation. And it is not a stamp of approval on any political view; it is a symbol that the recipient is cared about.
Want to get involved by making a quilted prayer rugs? Here are the basics:
Guidelines for a quilted prayer rug:
Please send quilts to Lovebug Studios, 1862 E. Belvidere Road. PMB 388. Grayslake, IL 60030. We will keep you posted as to what the needs are as soon as we have more information. However, donations of quilts can also be made to mosques located in your city or state. This way you can meet new people and find out what they really need and offer support.
If you would like to volunteer to collect quilts for distribution, please email tracy @ generationqmagazine.com.
Email Tracy if you would like to donate funds for shipping. We will likely need approximately $10 per quilt to get the quilts to their recipients.
We have also set up a Quilted Prayer Rug Initiative Facebook Group.
International author and quilt artist Linda M. Poole reached out after reading about the idea of prayer quilt rugs. She shared her own experiences with Turkey, a nation where the majority of the population is Muslim.
“I was invited by the Minister of Culture of Turkey to represent America in their first Peace with Quilts quilt show back in 2000. Since that time, I have been back to Turkey four times to study the culture and the artworks, hence my first book long ago was Turkish Delights to Applique. I have been to many mosques to study them and also have many Muslim friends there,” she says. For prayer rugs, she recommends anything colorful and easily rolled up for carrying.
Author/quilter/designer Latifah Saafir, who was raised Muslim, says prayer rugs are often very colorful (green was said to be the Prophet Muhammad’s fave color) and that geometric designs and patterns would be perfect. No fabrics or designs that resemble humans or animals would be suitable. (Our thought: This might be a perfect project for blenders.)
UPDATE: Toni Smith, of quiltoni.com and Craft Hackers, has volunteered to be the collection point for Ontario Canada. Contact her via email, email@example.com.
Quilt. Sew. Live. Breathe. Pray.