Long-arm quilting can be a satisfying endeavor. A quilt, pieced together lovingly by a client, just needs to be stitched and bound before it’s ready to be used and enjoyed.
For years, as a professional long-arm quilter, Krysti Wright put the finishing touches on fabric masterpieces. Clients brought in their work, she stitched beautiful designs on them, and they took them home.
She loved it, but she wanted to do more. Something meaningful. With a longer reach. As a kid, she recalls when someone’s home burned down and Wright wanted to give her prized half dollar as a donation to the family. Her father knew this would not make much of a difference for the family, but it would make a world of difference for her. That idea of giving always stuck with her.
Wright asked God how she could help others now. She didn’t have to wait very long to know what to do. She knew that giving quilts was the answer. And as a result, her life and the lives of many others have changed forever.
Beginnings of Quilt Giving
Fall of 2016, Stitching Hearts Worldwide was born. Wright knew the sewing side of things, but not the rest of running a nonprofit. How to ask for donations, how to find volunteers to help, how to find people to give quilts to. What she would find was that by taking a leap of faith, miracles happen.
She shared her idea with her husband, Victor, and got his full support. As she studied how she should go about doing this she would wake up in the middle of the night with ideas.
Soon, she met a key person—RoseAnne Gunther, founder of the nonprofit Launfal—who would give her thousands of yards of fabric over the next couple of months, essentially jumping start her first projects.
So, she had fabric. It was a start.
“From there, I tried to get whoever would sew with me,” Wright remembers. They made quilts and donated them to Launfal, who at this time were donating quilts to the families of polygamy wives whose husbands had left them. Those lovingly handmade quilts helped many women and children get through hard times.
As more fabric kept showing up at their house, Victor would give up space in the garage and shed and purchase more shelving. He’s supported his wife every step of the way.
Later, quilts went to humanitarian organizations like Lifting Hands International, Guatemala volcano victims, Paradise fire survivors and many of the local The United Way programs. As their reach stretched, so did the list of volunteers.
That’s when things took an interesting turn. Wright had originally started Stitching Hearts as a way to give to others, which it was doing, but what she didn’t anticipate was that her nonprofit was turning into a vehicle for people who wanted to serve but weren’t sure how. Yes, this was a giving organization, but Wright ended up seeing that they needed to also focus on making it a service organization.
Jump Starting Service Events
Only about six months in, Wright was asked to put on a service event for a Y-Serve Refugee club at Brigham Young University in Provo. They were so grateful to do meaningful service they begged for her to come back weekly. Shortly after, Utah Valley University Institute of Religion in Orem also started serving weekly. Each group would often show up with more than 100 volunteers. Several other local youth, young adult, and adult groups would offer their services. No matter the religious background—Catholic, Methodist, Muslim—she found all wanted the same thing—to serve their fellow man.
During this time, Stitching Hearts was asked to partner with Lifting Hands International (LHI), founded by Hayley Smith, to help provide quilts and sleeping mats for their first 40-foot truck delivery in 2016.
“I asked where the mats and quilts would be going, and (the warehouse manager) told me to help the thousands of refugees just outside of Jordan living on the desert floor,” says Wright. “She explained that they were to help protect them from snakes and scorpions.”
Using a 3×6-foot loom and a good amount of plastic grocery bags, they “weave” a mat that keeps people off the desert floor and keeps them 40 degrees warmer at night when the temperatures can get below freezing. Instructions for these mats can be found on the Stitching Hearts website.
Over the years, other projects have been added as well: fleece receiving blankets for babies, and two types of “Loveys,” which are soft fabric squares that help ground and comfort victims of trafficking or other trauma and anxiety-caused situations.
Of course, quilts continue to be a mainstay for the group. Wright is originally from Paradise, Calif., which experienced devastating fires in 2018. She knew right away that quilts were how she could help the people of her hometown.
“We went down a few times,” she explains. “They call them their ‘fire quilts.’”
Many people have commented about receiving a lovingly sewn quilt at a hard time in their lives. A quilt can be used every day. A quilt is beautiful and represents hours of selfless service. It’s like a big hug.
“It’s a big item. Every stitch has love in it. That love is passed on. It shows somebody you care,” says Wright. “People think, ‘Somebody did this for me.’”
Of course, for a quilt to be complete and be as soft as it is, a quilt requires batting in between the top and the bottom. For a while, Wright and her husband used personal funds to buy batting for quilts. At the time the organization was producing 24 quilts a week, meaning the battling bill was very expensive. They decided to ask for donations to help continue making quilts. But what if nothing came?
That very next week, Wright got a call from Meryl Ellsworth, someone who had been helping her friends from Gathering Humanity in Arizona. He offered to pay for Stitching Heart’s next 10 rolls of batting.
Whatever doubts Wright may have had, the growth of Stitching Hearts was evident. They had helped so many people, plus offered continuous opportunities for others to serve. So much so, that the nonprofit was experiencing major growing pains.
Stitching Hearts had an incredible four years, and now it was time to really grow.
Expanding Their Reach
From 2016 to 2020, fabric and notions and batting and all manner of supplies were housed in the Wrights’ garage and a shed. But they were maxed out, and Stitching Hearts was still growing.
It was time to move out of the garage and into a warehouse space. They were offered a 1,200 square-foot store front space for half the rent price. Spreading out a bit has allowed them to continue to accept donations and grow even more.
When 2020 hit, they set up a Pony Express type system to get millions of handmade fabric masks from sewers to first responders. Originally, Wright had anticipated organizing the production of masks, but she felt a strong push to instead facilitate making service easy for people. By organizing picking up and dropping off, the sewers could stitch at home and give of their time without worrying about logistics.
“This is the kind of thing that brings communities together,” Wright says. “It’s tangible.”
Making quilts. Making masks. Making mats. Making dolls for children in Guatemala. Making “Loveys” for trafficking victims. Stitching Hearts has helped people in the United States, including Utah and California, and the Navajo Nation in Arizona. Its reach goes all over the world: Somalia, Lebanon, Jordan, Bangladesh, Greece, Guatemala, and Mexico. And they are currently gathering donations to send quilts to earthquake victims in Turkey.
What does the future look like for Stitching Hearts? The sky’s the limit, but Wright realizes that growing wisely will make it sustainable. So it’s important to focus on key projects and prioritize.
“I’m trying to gain balance in my life. I’m first a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter . . . and I want to be there for all of these important people in my life,” she says. “I also know that Stitching Hearts Worldwide is my calling.”
To volunteer, donate, or organize a service event, visit stitchingheartsww.org.
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