Imagine you are 18, been in care most of your life, and next week you will be living on your own for the first time, with no one other than your overworked social worker to turn to. This is the situation for many young people every year, and Christmas 2019 will be a time when many will be sat at home with a TV, if they are lucky, and perhaps a slice of turkey. No family to join in with, and very little fun to be had.

That’s where Quilts for Christmas Dinners will be stepping in. In 2018, 117 quilts were created by quilters from around the UK and donated to the Christmas Dinners for Care Leavers, initiated by the Lemn Sissay Foundation, who in turn gave them to young people in Manchester, Leeds and Barnsley, who were guests at Christmas Day dinners there. The Charitable Foundation was created by poet Lemn Sissay MBE, who himself had been in care most of his young life. It offers to Care Leavers a proper Christmas Dinner, with company, fun and presents. In 2018, 17 Dinners were arranged, but only 3 of them received quilts – we only had time to reach out that far, the quilt project only having been instigated in October that year by me, when I asked quilters to create quilts to give each care leaver at those dinners a hug that would last them all year as they moved from being a care leaver to homemaker. It left smiles on many faces, be they makers, dinner hosts, or recipients, and not a few tears.

This year and beyond, there are admittedly ambitious plans to escalate the project and deliver quilts to more Christmas Dinners, with possibly as many as 25 dinners planned for 2019, all run by volunteer committees. The aim is for over 1000 quilts to be made in 2019, which would be 50 for each of 20 dinners.

The gifting of any quilts to even 1 dinner can only be done with the generosity of the craft and crafters themselves. We are regarding this as a year round activity, and indeed, quilts are under construction by some already, and tops are about to wend their way to several of our long armers.

Each quilt should be at least 44” x 66” up to a maximum of 54” x 72”, which has been identified as the perfect size for a great big hug!

We are asking for donations to achieve this – from the retail trade, from quilters, from suppliers, long armers and Gracie frame owners, and anyone else we can persuade to help. Orphan blocks (6.5” or 12.5”), finished tops, or finished quilts; backing fabrics, fleece and wadding , threads, and fabric for binding, all are welcome.

Regional co-ordinators are being set up to collate the quilts, and sew days are already being planned in areas where we have groupings of quilters. We know that quilts will be moving around the country, as the dinners are not yet in every county in England or Wales. The aim is like the dinners, for the local community to take care of the needs of its own care leavers.

Not everyone feels able to sandwich and finish their own quilt. We have a small and busy group of long armers and people with frames, and would like more. Can you help ? We would supply wadding and backing /binding where necessary. We have tops ready for quilting now !!

If you want to discover more about the Lemn Sissay Foundation then go here.

And for Quilts for Christmas Dinners go to Quilts for Christmas Dinners on FaceBook for general info

Or Quilts for Christmas Dinners makers and shakers if you are a quilter.

Our email is [email protected], and if you wish you can donate direct:

Do come and join us – we are a friendly, helpful group, who have found great joy in the ability to bring a smile to the face of so many young people, setting out into adulthood after such a difficult start. Our quilt label asks them to “remember, you are loved”.

Maggie Lloyd-Jones

Jan 2019