Stone Soup

One of my favorite folk tales is that of stone soup. There are variations from many countries and traditions across Europe and central Asia. The basic premise is of a poor and hungry traveler whose pleas for food are ignored. All the traveler has with him is an empty cooking pot. Finally, he fills the pot with water and puts it on the fire to heat. One by one, villagers ask him what he is cooking. He shows the first one a smooth, clean stone and says he is going to cook stone soup. After making a show of cooking the stone and tasting the broth, another villager asks if it is good. “Good, yes, but it would be better if only I add some carrot tops.” The questions go on, with a different ingredient in response each time. The villagers each provide the needed item, and finally the broth is done. Delicious indeed! They all are treated to a feast of stone soup.

Quilting with others is much like making stone soup. Each participant may not have much to give, but together they can make a thing of value. Time, talent, material, ideas, we all add to the soup.

I’ve mentioned before that I belong to my local quilt guild, and as a group, we are very generous. With approximately 150 members in the group, each year we donate more than 200 quilts to local organizations, in addition to special projects. A large proportion of the items donated are made through the efforts of multiple people. Today I’m sharing photos and stories of a few of my favorite “stone soup” donation quilts.

My first collaborative quilt project was a round robin, a form of quilt-making that typically starts with a center block and builds around it with borders. Each participant adds a border and then passes it on. This is the project after my border, which includes everything after the cream checkerboard and dark brown border. Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of the completed project. It was spectacular and was donated to a local organization to use for fund-raising.

During the next guild year I chaired the service committee, which coordinates the donation efforts for the guild. During that year, I helped create a couple dozen donation quilts. One of my favorites was this top, which I worked on with my friend Beth. Along with donated fabric, we also had patches and blocks. The 4-patch centers of the stars had been donated, but by themselves were too small to do much. Beth and I decided to use star points to frame them. The dark navy alternating blocks and borders, along with the sawtooth border, set off the bright colors well. The finished size was just right for a lap or nap quilt.

This baby quilt is not one for my guild, but made with my sister to donate to Relay for Life efforts for the American Cancer Society. The small panels show nursery rhyme images. She and I pieced and assembled the top, and she quilted and bound it.

Besides ongoing donations to local hospitals and other organizations, my guild has made a tradition of giving placemats to Meals on Wheels every other year, to distribute to their clients. Last time they asked us for at least 200 placemats. Here are four of the six I made.

As with any non-profit organization, we also must have means to continue our operations. The majority of our funds comes from annual dues. However, we also have a quilt show every three years, and with that we have a silent auction. Proceeds from items sold in the silent auction are added to guild coffers. For our last show I finished a table runner abandoned and donated by another guild member. She did the center, the part surrounded by borders. I added the coral-pink and green borders, quilted and bound it, and turned it in for our sale. It was fun to rescue it and turn it into a decorative item that someone will enjoy using.

One of the things I enjoy about collaborative projects is the spur to my creativity, the need to design in a different way than when I start and finish a project by myself. Do you do quilting or other craft projects with others? What do you enjoy (or not) about it?

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