Rescuing Fabric Scraps for a Noble Cause

By Pam Condie

AS A QUILT MAKER, I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN FASCINATED by how simple small scraps of cloth can be sewn together to make something larger and more beautiful. It intrigues me how several individuals can come together to accomplish a big project. In this case, I was able to use “rescued” fabric scraps (that would end up in a landfill) to help struggling youth in my community.

My neighbor teaches fashion arts at a community college. I asked her if I could have her students’ cutaways— fabric scraps that I could use in my quilting stash. The scraps I couldn’t use I passed along to two collage artists. In return I gave my neighbor fabric pieces large enough for some of her students to use in their clothing production projects. We continue our exchanges today.

Blue patchwork quilt
A quilt made from rescued fabric. Photo courtesy of Pam Condie.

A quilt is often made from rescued fabric. In April 2018, an opportunity to serve others through quilting presented itself. I have long known about a wonderful Oakland, CA organization—Fred Finch Youth & Family Services. This nonprofit center provides programs and services to help children and youth overcome severe challenges such as autism spectrum disorder, physical and emotional trauma, and homelessness—for example, providing a home for foster kids who face aging out of the system. The center has a residence and a school. Each April multiple congregations from my church descend upon the Fred Finch campus to clean, paint, prune, and repair or improve the grounds. I have always admired the agency and my church’s service there, but for medical reasons I have never been able to participate. How could I help the Fred Finch kids? My intuition said: Do what you love.” This answer was similar to the one I received years ago when asking a question of a large old tree, “Focus on what you love in life.” Solid advice whatever its origin.

One April years ago, women in my congregation made “quickie” quilts—using sheets, batting, and yarn—for the older thirty kids at Fred Finch facing life on their own soon. The tied quilts struck me as not strong enough to survive prolonged use. An idea germinated: Why not make sturdier quilts—machine-quilted ones—and why not give them to all the Fred Finch kids?

My goal became to produce about sixty quilts. I am a member of both the San Francisco Quilters’ Guild and the East Bay Heritage Quilters (EBHQ), large local guilds that run ongoing community-quilt projects that bring beauty, warmth and comfort to many needy people, including survivors of firestorms in Northern California. I thought this idea could help the Fred Finch kids, too. Then I prayed a lot. I didn’t know who, if anyone, would be willing to help. I made some calls. In 2018 a group under the EBHQ mantle, the Deanna Davis Community Quilt Project, (DDCQP) volunteers assembled eighteen quilt kits for my project volunteers to sew into quilt tops—each with enough coordinated blocks of fabric to stitch up a top for a quilt to envelop a child, teenager, or young adult. I donated funds for batting and machine quilting. Later DDCQP surprised me in December by delivering 30 finished quilts to Fred Finch.

I began the project by making a nine-patch quilt top with donated fabrics from my neighbor to demonstrate the ease and simplicity of creating 60″ x 80″ quilt tops from scraps. I named the sample quilt “Nine Patch with Assorted Chocolates” (shown to the right). I showed it when I reached out for help to get thirty more quilts made by individuals and small quilt groups.

A Buddhist friend promised me that if I were doing righteous work, people would come out of the woodwork to help. She was right. Quilters volunteered from my extended family, from my church, and from local community quilt mini groups. This generosity happened repeatedly over the ensuing months. I have continued to donate quilts ever since—a truly joyful experience! In August 2019 my husband and I delivered the last of these sixty-two quilts to the Fred Finch Youth Center. One of the directors told me that the recipients were more delighted than we could imagine with the beautiful quilts they now owned. Beauty in quilts is almost as important as warmth and comfort. I was happy to provide these kids with something beautiful and hand crafted they could call their own. 


Pam Condie, a retired resume writer and professional organizer, loves networking to connect people with others who can help them. Formerly focused on drawing and painting, she started making quilts because she could not find a suitable bedspread at any price 40 years ago. Enjoyment of color is the reason she gets up in the morning. She can easily make people laugh, an important part of good health.


Note: Blog posts are written by volunteer writers; the opinions of writers are their own and are not necessarily representative of Latter-day Saint Earth Stewardship.

brown patchwork quilt
"Nine Patch with Assorted Chocolates". Photo courtesy of Pam Condie.