FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The Fort St. John Country Quilter’s Guild is on a mission to bring supports to Ukraine, crafting blue and yellow pattern blocks and taking part in a global quilting movement to aid relief efforts as Russia continues to ravage the country.
Guild secretary Lisa Babuick and vice-president Donna Gauthier both have Ukrainian heritage, and say they were called to action after hearing refugees could be coming to both Fort St. John and Dawson Creek.
“If you put the word out that you need help, quilters are there,” says Babuick. “A lot of these blocks started because different designers came up with the patterns and offered it for free; all they asked was a donation to UNICEF or Red Cross. Some of these have surpassed the quarter million dollar mark.”
A display has been set up at Fireweed Market, where completed quilt blocks line the windows, a monument to the tragedies unfolding in Eastern Europe, and a prayer for peace and safety for those living in Ukraine.
“Quilting is really a very international world,” adds Babuick. “We did quilts a couple years ago when the Humboldt Broncos incident happened and there were Canadians all around the world who were sending blocks to quilters in Humboldt.”
Babuick is a third generation Canadian, with her grandparents coming from the Ukraine. Gauthier’s grandparents also immigrated from both Poland and Ukraine, and both of their families still have relatives living in those countries.
“For us to be able to make quilts and give them something of their country’s colours is important, whether that’s their flag or their flower,” says Babuick.
The two say the guild has only just started meeting in person again as members met virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the inconveniences of the pandemic, Gauthier says the quilting remains a labour of love for everyone involved, with quilts continuing to be given away to those in the community: hospital patients, mothers in maternity units, seniors, and more.
“Some people don’t understand why we give them away, it’s because we love to do this. For all my quilts, I don’t sell too many,” says Gauthier. “If someone wants a quilt, I’ll make them a quilt. I don’t think about my labour or the money, it’s about making people happy and them appreciating it.”
The pair add that the group is also looking for a dedicated space where they can set up their gear and store their materials and finished quilts after moving from their old space along Highway 97. Anyone looking to get involved with Ukraine relief efforts or simply interested in learning to quilt can reach out to the guild on Facebook or check out one of the free patterns here.