Handmade items get leg up in home fashion

This “Patchwork Heritage” quilt (front shown at left, back on right) is the design behind the Blanket America project or Buy 1, Give 1, in which each quilt sold results in the donation of a fleece blanket to an American in need. Mesh Gelman of New York City, the project founder, says his campaign is about changing the way charity and business work. He calls it a perfect example “of the idea that we can prosper while at the same time enriching the lives of those around us.”


QUILT COLORADO SCHEDULED JUNE 16-20 IN ESTES PARKFive days of quilting classes from 18 nationally known teachers, a juried show with cash awards, merchants mall, lectures, banquets and other activities are planned June 16-20 in Estes Park.

Instructors include Debbie Caffrey, Rachel Clark, George Siciliano, Elly Sienkiewicz, David Taylor and Ricky Tims. This biennel symposium is sponsored by Colorado Quilting Council. Class registration begins Feb. 19. Visit http://www.QuiltColorado.com for a list of teachers and registration details.

Admission to the show, exhibits and merchants mall is $7 per day, $6 per day for seniors 62 and over, free for children under 12. Lodging reservations can be made at the Holiday Inn Rocky Mountain Park (970-586-2332 ). Mention CQC to get the $99 rate.

The home fashion industry takes its cues from artisans and crafters. Today’s trend toward handmade items and domestic endeavors drives the products being manufactured and sold to the American public.

Quilts are front and center in that movement. Take, for example, retailers such as L.L. Bean and Pottery Barn.

L.L. Bean’s Spring Home 2010 catalog introduces on its cover a bold red, white and blue “Maritime Star” quilt, and many other designs and patterns are offered inside.

Pottery Barn’s Web site promotes “Farmhouse Style for Spring” with a variety of ready-made quilts.

One titled “Single Girl” is by quilt designer Denyse Schmidt. It’s made from her collection of Katie Jump Rope fabrics and produced through Schmidt’s partnership with Sarita Handa, a woman-owned manufacturer in India. It’s advertised as carefully pieced and stitched by hand.

You can also watch a video on the site narrated by antique quilt expert Robert Shaw. It’s titled “Quilts, An American Art.”

“Quilts have always been important to the home environment because they provide beauty and warmth,” Shaw says.

That’s exactly what New York businessman Mesh Gelman is capitalizing on with his newly announced Blanket America project.

He and his design staff of 11 who work on 34th Street in midtown Manhattan have produced a “Patchwork Heritage” quilt for sale through three outlets: retailers J.C. Penney Co., Amazon.com and QVC on television.

Gelman works in the manufacture of home fashions, such as bed sheets, quilts and comforters.

For every quilt sold, Blanket America will donate a fleece blanket to an American in need.

Gelman’s goal is to give 1 million blankets to needy persons this year. He based his idea on President Barack Obama’s inaugural speech a year ago, in which Obama referred to America as having a “patchwork heritage.”

The president meant that the United States is a compilation of people from all walks of life, religious backgrounds, etc.

“But patchwork is textile terminology, too,” Gelman says. “Blanket America is our response to Obama’s call to action.”

With a reported 40 million Americans living in poverty, and with heating costs and joblessness on the rise, it’s clear that individuals must work together, he says.

The Patchwork Heritage quilt features 13 stripes, plaids, florals and calicoes to symbolize the original 13 colonies. On the back, a large image of the Statue of Liberty stands against the backdrop of words from Obama’s inaugural address.

“Life may be too busy for volunteer work, and the recession makes money tight for benevolence,” Gelman says. “But this is something consumers can put their arms around.”

He also promoted his Buy 1, Give 1 project at the Sundance Film Festival this past week in Park City, Utah, where socially conscious celebrities such as Lisa Edelstein (she plays Dr. Lisa Cuddy on television’s “House, M.D.”) were on hand to film some public service announcements.

Distribution of the fleece blankets for the poor will be handled through Gifts In Kind, Gelman says. That organization has access to 60,000 charities, such as The Salvation Army and United Way.

“They’ll see that the blankets get to the nearest location where they’re needed,” he says.

Most quilters don’t buy ready-made bed coverings; we make our own. And most quilting guilds sponsor charitable giving as part of their mission.

But I think it’s important to let people know about such retail endeavors, too.

As quilt historian Robert Shaw puts it, “quilting is a democratic art, done by every kind of American.”

Every ethnic or religious group, for example, brings its own tradition to the craft. That’s why we have such tremendous variety in quilt styles, Shaw says.

Ready-made or made at home, quilts are cherished by all.


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