WELLS — When someone loses a loved one, people often offer their thoughts and prayers. In the local Holy Spirit Parish, there’s a group that offers thoughts, prayers, and quilts.
For their kindness and for the gifts they share to those in grief, the York County Coast Star is honoring the members of the Tender Loving Quilters as one of this holiday season’s “Christmas Angels.”
Holy Spirit Parish serves both Wells and Kennebunk. Parishioner Carol Varano founded the quilting group in September of 2017 as a way to comfort those who are grieving over the death of a family member or friend. Varano got the idea for the group from her experiences with another one she founded while living in Massachusetts – that collection of quilters made quilts for people with an illness in their families.
There are about 15 members of the Tender Loving Quilters, according to Varano, and they have made around 50 quilts in the past year alone. The group meets every Tuesday at St. Mary’s Church at 236 Eldridge Road in Wells at 9 a.m.
“We have snowbirds who quilt in the summer and golfers who quilt in the winter,” she said. “And then there are those who quilt all the time – rain, sleet or snow, they’re there. It’s a great group.”
Some of the quilters are experienced, and some are new to the craft.
“I can teach anybody how to quilt,” she said.
Varano has been making quilts for 30 years. Her family alone keeps her busy at the craft.
“I have 10 children, and they all have kids, and they’ve all gotten at least two or three quilts – at least,” she said.
When the quilters learn about a grieving parishioner, they reach out to the individual. Most people prove open to receiving a quilt as a gift. The group offers to meet with the bereaved, to show them materials they can pick for a quilt’s design. If the individual does not wish to meet, then the group at least asks for some details from which to start – for example, which color they might enjoy, or which one would go best in their home.
The time it takes to make a quilt varies, according to Varano. It depends on the maker’s available time and their level of skill.
“It’s not something that can be done in a day or a week,” she said.
Each quilt tends to be five feet by seven feet. Each one has a label with words of comfort attached, Varano said.
Earlier this year, local writer Pat Putnam drew a connection between grieving and quilting in a feature she wrote about the Tender Loving Quilters.
“Grieving over the loss of anyone who was once a part of your life can be a long and complex process,” Putnam wrote. “There are stages that one passes through, each at their own pace. It can take days, weeks, months, years . . . It is not uncommon to ‘fall to pieces’ for a while, until you are able to put the pieces of your life back together. And so it is with quilting. Quilting is a process of binding together many different pieces to create a thing of beauty. It takes time, patience, and some creative effort.”
For Varano and her fellow Tender Loving Quilters, the work of providing both literal and figurative warmth to grievers is rewarding.
“It gives me so much pleasure to do it,” she said. “The reaction is always a surprise – people start weeping or hugging us. It’s great.”