I think I was always meant to be a quilter but it took lessons while my daughter was in middle school that sparked the flame. I've been sewing since I was 10 and buying fabric ever since. Quilting allows me to embrace my addiction to fabric in a healthy way. I am an American living in Bangkok, Thailand...I was the trailing spouse in 1995 when my husband's company moved us here. When we arrived, I thought it was for a short 18 month to possibly three year stay. Well, I'm still here. When my daughter was in 8th grade, I spied a flier offering different quilting classes, I signed up for the machine class where we made miniature samples. Doris, the teacher, was an expat from Minnesota who taught the classes in her home. After that first class, I was hooked. The next school year, I signed up for her Sampler class.   Back then, cotton fabric was not easy to find even though Bangkok is a manufacturing hub. Doris would bring suitcases back from the States after home leave for her classes. In one of the quilt magazines I was avidly buying, I read about Project Linus & ABC Quilts. I wanted to do this, but in Thailand. With the support of the quilt group (Doris' students) we started making baby quilts for HIV & AIDS babies. (see article on the Charity Quilting page).

What I have learned since 1999 is that there are more deserving children than our quilt group can handle. Our biggest project was the Children of the Forest free school in Sangkhlaburi. This was a massive undertaking of 227 quilts. The only reason we were able to do this is the commitment of some quilters to produce four quilts a week.  Our most recent donation was to an Australian sponsored orphanage. This group has three orphanages in Khon Kaen, Phetchabun & Nan. The orphanage in Khon Kaen received quilts from Australia. When I contacted the director to ask if our group could make some quilts she was delighted. No more quilts were planned to be sent from Australia due to the high cost of shipping. Quilting by Thais is growing. Within 8 miles of my home, there are two quilt shops and another shop that has quilting, knitting & other handicraft supplies. Thais are starting to sew for charity.

There are many non-governmental organizations (NGO) working to better the lives of those living in Thailand. Some work with the Hill Tribes, some with refugees, some with those in the sex trade. Some NGOs  provide training to create income opportunities. When the training is to make physical items, then the NGOs have to create a market for the items. One that I'm familiar with is NightLight which offers alternatives to working in the sex trade industry. The ladies have been trained to make jewelry which is then marketed online.

Last year, Heidi and I visited a local government training program. This is a Thai government program that was started in 1997, after the crash to help women learn job skills which they could then use to earn an income. Thais can attend the training for free. There are classes in massage, hair dressing, hospitality skills and sewing. The sewing training is six months long and covers all aspects including tailoring & pattern drafting. Once students graduate, they receive a certificate and return to their communities.

Micro-loans are available to assist individuals to create their own businesses.

All these bits of the puzzle have been churning in my brain...how do these pieces fit together to help me get more quilts to children that will benefit from them. This is what I'm thinking now. Micro-loans to purchase sewing machines & tools for newly trained seamstresses. While they are working to build their businesses, they would be paid to sew baby quilts so they would have a small income. There would be a limit on how many quilts they could sew each month as the goal is for them to create their own independent business. Since I am not one to reinvent the wheel, the idea would be to work with organizations making micro-loans as they have the infrastructure in place.

The last bit of the puzzle is how to pay for the fabric & labor for each quilt. There are quilters worldwide who already donate their time & materials to make quilts...Project Linus, ABC Quilts, Wrap Them in Love and more. However, I think their are non-quilters & non-sewers who also want to be able to provide quilts. While I was in the US, I learned about the Downy Touch of Comfort Program. Consumers were asked to buy specially marked bottles of Downy. Donations were made to Quilts for Kids so that they could create 10,000 kits that are being sent to volunteer quilters.

update June 2011
Think the last bit of the puzzle has fallen into place. Sales of mainly Thai fabric and handicrafts through Siamquilter Designs will go towards funding my Quilts of Aloha project.