AMHERST, N.S. – Quilt-making takes on a whole new meaning when you’re making a quilt for a cancer patient.
“Cancer is something that doesn’t stop, so the girls work at it all year round,” Mary Farrow Sinclair said.
Farrow Sinclair is the founder and chairperson of Victoria Quilts Canada, Tantramar branch.
“I’m from Amherst but I lived in Quebec and I started a branch in Quebec called the Laurentian branch,” Farrow Sinclair said. “When I was ready to move back to Amherst I asked to bring Victoria’s Quilts to the Fibre Arts Festival and asked if they would like a branch here.”
The local chapter started in Amherst in 2010, and since then they’ve made close to 600 comfort quilts for cancer patients throughout Cumberland County, Colchester County, and Pictou County.
“The majority are in Cumberland County but there’s quite a few in the other counties as well,” Farrow Sinclair said.
The Tantramar chapter currently has 20 members who meet on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month at the Mason’s Hall at 20 Lawrence Street in Amherst. They’re always looking for new members.
“I like to emphasize that you don’t have to be a quilter to belong to join Victoria’s Quilts,” Farrow Sinclair said.
One member who is not a quilter but joined the Tantramar branch at the first meeting is Gayle Janes. She is a cancer survivor who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007.
“I’m not a quilter but I thought it was such a nice thing to do that I thought I’d like to be involved, so I came to the first organizing meeting and said I will help,” Janes said.
Janes is the request and distribution co-ordinator for the Tantramar branch. She takes comfort quilt requests and, after they’re made, delivers them.
“I have the best job in the whole organization because I get to see how much people appreciate what the quilters do,” Janes said. “I see a lot of tears and I get a lot of hugs.”
She is usually invited into a cancer patient's home when delivering a quilt.
“I don’t always tell them I’m a survivor but sometimes it will come up in a conversation,” Janes said. “Some of them will be quite surprised that I’m relatively healthy. Maybe they think, ‘oh, I can beat this too.’”
Cancer patients often confide in her more than they do with their own family.
“I think it’s sometimes easier for people to talk to a stranger. I was recently at a home for an hour and a half because she was telling me her whole story.”
Farrow Sinclair says Janes is perfect for the job.
“It’s important that the position is filled with a person who is able to relate to the people and doesn’t mind visiting the people. It takes a special person to do that.”
They make quilts for people of all ages and sizes.
“We had a request sent out for a child for a superman quilt,” Farrow-Sinclair said. “We also got a superman backpack to make it special and more child-oriented.”
Victoria’s Quilts Canada his headquartered in Ottawa. They have 26 branches across Canada, have no paid staff, and raise money through donations and fundraisers.
The Tantramar Chapter is holding their annual luncheon fundraiser on Friday, Oct. 18, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Masons Hall during the Fibre Arts Festival.
“We usually have it on a Wednesday but we thought we’d try Friday this year,” Farrow Sinclair said.
The cost is $10. Food will be served, and they will have a craft table and quilts on display.
For more information about Victoria’s Quilts call Mary Sinclair Farrow at 902-667-7401.
To make a quilt request, call Gayle Janes at 902-667-7647.
Sewn into each quilt is a quote from the bible that says:
Be strong and of good courage, do not be afraid or dismayed
For the Lord, your God is with you wherever you go.