TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Quilting For A Cure, by Donna Hussain

Quilt Auction in Sacramento, California

Quiltmaking is time consuming. Fabric, batting, and thread are costly. In addition, the quilter invests her creativity and a range of emotion in the sewing process, from frustration when star points fail to meet, to relief when they do. From panic when problem blocks are distorted, to satisfaction when solutions are found. When a new quilt is completed, quilters feel a joyful sense of accomplishment. When their artistry results in a quilt of beauty, they feel ecstatic as well.

Live Auction Quilt

With so much effort and emotion invested in making a quilt, it is noteworthy that most handmade quilts are given away. Not just to family members and friends, but to disaster victims, hospitalized children, the homeless, veterans, seniors in convalescent homes, people with AIDS, and others in need. Quilters gift their quilts with love.

So I was not surprised at the response of the members of my Sacramento quilt guild when asked “Would you be willing to make and donate a quilt for an auction to raise money for breast cancer research and treatment if given a year’s advance notice?” Throughout the room hands were raised in support of the auction. All of the women in the guild knew someone touched by the disease. Many had been treated for breast cancer themselves, or had family members at battle with the disease.

Setting up for a silent auction display.

The willingness of guild members to participate in a quilt auction led to the formation of a planning committee to investigate how best to move forward. As the committee talked with other organizations about fundraising events they were disheartened. They learned that a venue for the auction would be expensive and that the committee would incur expenses for the cost of supplies, advertising, and mailings. Fortunately the committee found a co-sponsor for the event, the Sutter Cancer Center in Sacramento. The Center assisted with publicity, allowed the display of auction quilts in hallways and lobbies, and donated the use of their Education Center as a venue for a live auction. Quilter volunteers on the planning committee agreed to work without a budget, to absorb expenses for paper, gasoline, and postage themselves as their contribution to the auction.

Silent auction hallways with quilts.

In September 1998 the committee issued a Call for Quilts, setting the date of November 6, 1999 as Auction Day. No restrictions were placed on the size, pattern, style, or color of donated quilts. Two hundred twenty-seven quilts ranging in size from miniatures to king-size quilts were received over the next twelve months. The auction consisted of two parts, a silent and a live auction. Most of the quilts were sold in a three-week silent auction which closed the morning of Auction Day. In the afternoon a live auction with a professional auctioneer sold forty of the larger quilts. A total of $57,800 was raised from the sale of the quilts, money that was donated to the Sutter Cancer Center for breast cancer research and treatment in Sacramento.

Audience at a live auction.

Three years after the success of the 1999 quilt auction, quilters and Sutter Cancer Center teamed up again in the fight against breast cancer. More than four hundred quilts were donated for the 2002 auction, raising $108,616. A third quilt auction was held in 2005, this time raising over $150,000 from the sale of over six hundred quilts. If you add up the auction numbers, quilters in northern California have donated nearly fourteen hundred quilts and raised a total of over $300,000 to help fund breast cancer research and treatment at Sutter Cancer Center.

Live auction in action.

A fourth quilt auction is in preparation for November 1, 2008. To learn more about this upcoming auction, go to the website www.suttermedicalcenter.org/quiltauction. The website contains information on the auction and photos of the quilts collected to date.

Let me close by listing some of the side benefits of our quilt auctions. Quilters say that the auctions enable them to strike back at a disease from which their relatives and friends have suffered. Many of the quiltmakers use the auction to memorialize a loved one lost to cancer or to celebrate recovery of a relative or friend. Many of the quilt donors have cancer themselves. They say making an auction quilt helps them cope with their illness. The quilts hanging on display at the Sutter Cancer Center attract visitors to the building, who are then introduced to the services that the Center provides. Patients at Sutter appreciate the support of the quiltmakers and say they feel enveloped in care when walking through hallways lined with quilts. The auction has certainly helped to promote quilting in Sacramento.

Payment and Pick-Up

If you are a quilter or know quilters I urge you to consider a quilt auction as a fundraising activity for your community.


For more details on how to conduct a quilt auction see “Blueprint for a Quilt Auction,” by Donna Hussain, American Quilter, Fall 2003, pp.16-18.

California quilter, Donna Hussain, has exhibited in major quilt shows around the country, authored books, and is a regular contributor to Fiber Focus. Click on her name to see all of her past articles.

The photo shows Donna with her husband, Pascha.


1 comment:

  1. Quilters are amazing people! What beautiful quilts. It is really heart-warming to see such carefully executed pieces being donated to such a worthy cause.


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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