There is power in a quilt – especially when stitched together with love, sympathy, hope and caring. No one understands this more than Deb Homer, the founder of Project Julia.
Located in the heart of Sunapee, NH in a little-known studio tucked away lakeside is a quilter’s paradise. There are rows of thread in every color, nooks and shelves lined with yard after yard of fabric in every hue and design imaginable. Ongoing projects, hi-tech machines and quilt patterns stacked high adorn the workstations where each quilt is crafted with precision and care. It is here that Deb Homer and friends design and craft quilts for survivors of violence and others in need.
“The story really begins with Julia” said Homer, seated at a sewing table, fingers deftly sorting through colorful bits of fabric as she speaks. “She loved people. If she knew you, she would always hug you. She also loved quilting. All of this, is because of her.”
The “Julia” Homer is referring to the late Julia Philipson of Andover, NH. Julia, an avid quilter, was well known and loved in the community. Born in Illinois, Julia graduated from the Parsons School of Design before relocating to Andover where she then worked for almost 30 years at Peter Christian’s Tavern in New London as a pastry chef. It was here that she co-authored two cookbooks. She also worked for The Constant Quilter in Andover, NH. In later years, her entrepreneurial spirit shone as she became a partner in several local businesses such as Ruby and Petunia, a stained-glass business, Moose Country Gourmet, a specialty food company, and last but certainly not least, Piecing Harmony, where she became known for her quilting patterns. Over the years, Julia collected fabrics, filling her home studio with bolt after bolt, amassing a treasure trove of fabrics and prints that would keep any quilter busy for a lifetime.
In 2010, Julia was diagnosed with Glioblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer. For the next year and a half, surrounded by her friends, Julia battled for her health until December of 2011. In her will, she left her studio full of fabric to her good friend Paula Higgins.
“It took several months before we were ready to go into Julia’s studio” said Homer. “Paula took the largest cuts for her home studio in Vermont, but it didn’t make even a dent in the fabric collection.”
It was right around this time that Deb Homer learned of Turning Points Network through another friend of Julia’s, Deb Coffin. “I had learned a young mother in the shelter who had been abused during her pregnancy had given birth. I gave Deb one of the quilts to give to her for the baby. It was then that it really hit home to me– pregnant women are abused. I knew I wanted to help.” In that moment, Project Julia was born. “We had to use the material in the studio, and this was a perfect cause.”
“In the beginning it was me, Deb Coffin and Linda Barnes at The Constant Quilter donating her longarming services. Over the years, we have built a network of quilters across Vermont and New Hampshire – some who do entire quilts, some who do certain parts. Together we make all kinds of quilts – throw quilts, cuddlers, swaddle sizes, lap quilts and more” said Homer.
The quilts are a welcome gift. Turning Points Network, with offices located in Claremont and Newport, NH, is the Sullivan County crisis and support center for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Since its inception in May of 2012, Project Julia has donated 453 quilts to the nonprofit. Quilts are given to survivors and their children. Especially for young children who often have to leave their home with nothing, the quilts provide comfort, warmth and security – all invaluable elements in healing.
The kids will say “This is mine. I don’t have anything else that is mine” said Homer “To know there are children anxious from the aftermath of leaving their home – it touches your heart.”
As Project Julia continues to grow, so too does the creativity; “We make bins, bags, etc., we even have a quilter who makes dog beds and has donated them to the Upper Valley Humane Society and Franklin Animal Hospital. We continue to expand, and we waste very little. Even the scraps are used to create quilting kits which we then distribute.” The studio has also grown, equipped with the latest in computerized stitching with a recently acquired computerized long arm machine which gives the team access to 500 designs, all at 1200 stitches per minute, allowing greater creativity and speed when crafting their designs.
Project Julia holds one fundraiser a year to help with the cost of batting to sandwich the quilts, at the Wilmot Community Association Holiday Fair, always the 1st Saturday in December.
“The generosity of Deb Coffin – she created this space and bought this beautiful machine – she really helped make all of this possible, she and Julia” said Deb Homer. “We have very little overhead, we have so much fabric donated – bins and bins of material people have brought to us to deconstruct and reuse, from fabric pieces to antique quilt tops, we get so much and it’s fun to see what comes in.”
“If we can give back to the community with our various talents in quilting, there is the reward.”
For more information on Project Julia or to get involved, please contact Deb Homer directly at firstname.lastname@example.org