Making a Difference in STEM in 2021

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“One Small Step” was created by the Gulf Coast Modern Quilt Guild in 2019 for the MQG’s annual Charity Quilt Challenge and was displayed at QuiltCon 2020 in Austin, Texas. GCMQG draws from the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas, and surrounding towns. We have many members and friends who work at NASA's Johnson Space Center, as well as scientists and engineers in other fields around town. Our quilt celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo program that landed humans on the moon for the first time, and the new Artemis program that will take us back there. The quote is from John F. Kennedy's famous 1962 speech that led to the beginning of the Apollo program.

We began this project by discussing design ideas as a group at a guild meeting. Once we converged on a design, GCMQG Vice President Sarah Ruiz designed the quilt layout, figured out all the cutting math, and prepared for signups. (The paper pieced letters were made using the "My First Alphabet" pattern by Diane Bohn, who gave us permission to use her pattern in our quilt. The letter patterns were enlarged to fit our quilt design.)

Twenty-four CMG members signed up to help. We held guild sewing days in October and November of 2019 to work on star blocks and more than 40 letter blocks and finished the quilt top just before Thanksgiving.

GCMQG member Katie Welch volunteered her longarm quilting skills, with stunning results. She highlighted several of the stars and creatively added an additional text element by subtly quilting a second quote from Neil Armstrong, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," down the right side of the quilt.

Although the design was created without a specific charity in mind, we hoped from the beginning to donate the quilt to a STEM-focused charitable organization. GCMQG member Elle Garodnick led the effort to find a home for our Apollo quilt, as well as identify a charity for the guild’s 2020 QuiltCon Community Outreach Challenge quilt. She proactively searched for local charities and contacted 10 STEM-related organizations with a short and sweet email inquiring about the possibility of donating a quilt for fundraising purposes.

Four charities responded positively, including C-STEM, which was thrilled to receive our “One Small Step” quilt. We were worried that the COVID-19 Pandemic would impact the funds that the charity would be able to raise, but to our delight, they raised $4,500 with a raffle during their virtual Holiday Social in January 2021. C-STEM was solely responsible for the fundraising effort and rolled it into an existing event. 

For our 2020 Community Outreach quilt, we identified Girl Start as our intended charity and were able to work with them on the design. They provided artwork and phrases that they use to communicate with girls and the community as inspiration. Our guild designed STEM-related blocks focused around three words that reference the Girl Start organization: Brave, Creative, and Curious. (The paper pieced letters in “Brave” and “Curious” were again made using the “My First Alphabet” pattern by Diane Bohn.)

Because work on this quilt top took place during the summer of the COVID-19 pandemic, members created their blocks at home. A very small team came together in a large room to work while staying socially distanced, with masks, to complete the quilt top. Twenty guild members contributed to this quilt, and Katie Welch once again offered her long arm quilting talent. The quilt was completed in January 2021. It appeared in QuiltCon Together 2021 and was then delivered to Girl Start, who will coordinate fundraising efforts.

Whether you contact a charity before or after you have already designed and sewn a quilt, there is a charity out there that would love to have it, and can use these works of art to raise much-needed funds.