Quilts for Comfort

Jackie Gillies, despondent by the impact of family violence on women, decided to make a quilt for a McAuley Community Services for Women’s refuge in Victoria. Thirty-three quilts later her sewing machine is still going strong and Jackie continues to be overwhelmed by the support her project , #quiltblockstohealviolence, has received. 

Tragically, her project was inspired by the death in Queensland of Tara Brown, allegedly by her former partner. Driving to work from her son’s pre-school recently, Jackie heard a news report about Tara Brown’s death, where it was alleged that Tara’s former partner ran her off the road and then bludgeoned her to death with a cast-iron fire hydrant, while she was still trapped in the car.

“It struck me that this woman was a mum, like me, and now her child will have to live without a mother. I felt like I wanted to do something and the only thing I could do was to make a quilt, something that would give comfort to the women forced to leave their homes because of family violence,” Jackie said. Through her work Jackie had heard about the safety McAuley Community Services for Women provide to women fleeing family violence.

Jackie couldn’t think of anything as comforting as a quilt that some woman could wrap herself in after fleeing her home. She put out the idea on Instagram and the crafting community responded in force. The idea of a single quilt soon got lost amidst the generosity and support from women around the world. Jackie has been sent hundreds of quilt blocks and offered sewing support from dozens of women who are happily sharing the sewing load.

Each day more and more blocks arrive in the mail bring the total to almost 500 blocks – enough for more than 15 quilts. They have come from Australia, New Zealand, US, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom. In addition, women around Australia have donated 17 completed quilts and quilt tops.Fabric and craft suppliers have donated materials needed to complete the quilts and a crowd funding appeal has raised almost $1000 for any extra material and for postage of quilt tops and blocks to other sewers. Any money left will be donated to McAuley Community Services for Women.

It’s been an unexpected labour of love for the ex-lawyer and Melbourne mother of two children aged two and five, who recently established her own executive search business, Sigma Executive, and is on the Executive Board of Victorian Women Lawyers. But there is certainly more labour involved that she ever anticipated!

“When I put out the call on Instagram I hoped to get 30 blocks for one quilt, but I got 45 blocks from one woman alone with the promise of another 10. Another woman even sent me 4 completed baby quilts. The response is so amazing,” Jackie said.

Now there are enough quilts to donate to several refuges in each state including the refuges and safe house run by McAuley Community Services for Women. The quilts have been made with love but also with a sense of purpose and so they can be washed and waiting for the next woman.

Jackie, who only began quilting two years ago, has learnt a lot about quilting in recent weeks, but even more about people. She has received many letters from women who have had harrowing experiences at the hands of husbands and partners, as well as heart warming stories from people encouraging her work. Jackie, who had an experience of violence by a former boyfriend many years ago, is more grateful than ever for the life she now has.

“I have a wonderful loving husband, two children and so much good in my life. This project has brought together a lot of people, mostly women, who wanted to show women who are doing it tough, that they care. And the best way we can think of is to make a quilt with love for someone to snuggle up in.”

“There are a lot of things going on that can make you think the world isn’t such a great place. But doing this makes you realise that people are good. This quilt project is something small that I can do for these women. It also shows what is possible when people work together.”

You can follow the project at: https://instagram.com/jackiegillies/

To donate to the project go to: https://www.mycause.com.au/page/113133/quiltblockstohealviolence

Caption: Jackie and a group of her volunteer sewers with another quilt.