Children knot warmth and hope
Design a cheerful comforter for MCC!
Comforters, a handmade blanket from Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), bring warmth and hope to people in need. The warmth and hope are also shared with people who are at the beginning of the journey of comforters.
Try this activity with your family or church
Every year, through the support of countless volunteers, MCC ships thousands of comforters to people who are displaced and in vulnerable situations around the world. Each comforter measures approximately 60 x 80 inches and is hand-knotted with crochet cotton to keep the pieced top, batting and bottom layer together. This makes them different from quilts or purchased blankets.
Lois King, a member of Lindale Mennonite Church in Linville, Virginia, and manager of Lindale Mennonite Women, leads a project called "Design a Cheerful Comforter." The project began as a way to engage children during a comforter knotting event that was open to the whole church in February 2023. Lois created comforter design grid templates and invited children to fill in the blocks with their favorite colors.
When several children, ages 4 to 10, showed interest and worked hard to finish their designs, Lois took further steps to transform their colorful paper grids into comforters.
Based on the design grids filled with vibrant colors and patterns, Lois selected fabrics that express each child's thoughtful creativity. The following designs and comforters were completed in March 2023 by five children who attend Lindale Mennonite Church with the help of Lindale Mennonite Women.
For Daniel Billings' design, Lois chose solid color fabrics to display the rainbow effect. "As you can see, Daniel turned his squares into rectangles by coloring in two blocks together. He told me he got off track and one side was different, but he was pleased with how I kept the symmetry. He proudly showed his comforter and worked hard on knotting it," said Lois.
Daniel shared with excitement, "It was my first time learning how to make a comforter. I liked making a comforter for people who need help. It was pretty fun!"
While working on the project, Lois had to explore her own creativity and interpretation when it came to choosing the right fabric: "Lila [Sandberg]'s grid was quickly colored, and I took more liberties in finding fabric."
"Logan [Johndrow] worked very hard coloring in his squares, and I tried to find a variety of prints true to his plan," said Lois.
Sherrie Johndrow, Logan's mother, reflected, "It was a wonderful way to include children in the entire process from design to production. Allowing kids to color a design with colors of their choosing, keeping to those colors in piecing the comforters and patiently letting them help with knotting demonstrate that all have gifts to give."
Lois saw to it that the children's designs, ideas, interests and the MCC's comforter guidelines were knotted together. She made adjustments to Nora Sandberg's comforter design by adding black floral strips to the side to meet the 60 x 80 inches requirement and Nora's request for dainty flowers.
Kara Eby, Isaac Eby's mother, remarked, "Isaac talks very highly about this project. He loved participating. He said his favorite part was coming up with and coloring the design. He also thought it was exciting to see his design become a real comforter."
Lois believes Isaac summed up the whole reason behind the project. When Isaac was asked if he was keeping the comforter, the answer was a definite 'no.' He responded, "I want it to go to someone who needs it!" Isaac is looking forward to making another comforter for someone who needs a snuggly blanket.
After each design was transformed into a comforter, the five children cheerfully presented their finished comforters to the congregation in April 2023. Gloria Lehman, vice president of Lindale Mennonite Women, was excited to share this moment with her church community: "The Sunday that Isaac carried his paper design and I carried the finished comforter to the front of the church to show the children and the whole congregation the finished project, Isaac smiled a lot! And I did, too!"
The cheerful comforters brought a message to the church that in times of crisis, comforters like the children designed will bring warmth, comfort, hope and cheer to people who are in vulnerable situations, including places like Jordan, Haiti and Ukraine. Evie King, president of Lindale Mennonite Women, commented, "It was a blessing to see the children connect their efforts to tangible help to those in need."
Lois reflected, "It turned out to be a very fun project. I enjoyed finding fabrics to make their paper designs become finished comforters that could be given to Mennonite Central Committee to bless those in need."
The cheerful comforters made their way to the MCC East Coast Material Resources Center in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. Volunteers carefully folded the comforters and baled them so that they can carry warmth, hope and cheer to people across the globe.
Lindale Mennonite Church continues to be on the comforter journey. In November 2023, the church hosted an intergenerational comforter knotting event. Lois was happy to see interest shown by more children in her congregation. Lois says, "I am looking forward to offering this "Design a Cheerful Comforter" project again. What better way to teach our children the importance of compassion than to give them the opportunity to be a part of this experience!"
Last year, MCC shipped 59,277 comforters to communities in Canada, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Iraq, Jordan, Malawi, Syria, Ukraine, Zambia and the U.S., including Puerto Rico. Comforters may be used as bed covers, room dividers, carpets, curtains, wraps, mattresses and more and are a blessing to those recovering from disaster situations or lacking basic necessities. These colorful works of art are a tangible reminder to people that their needs are not forgotten and send a message of hope and comfort.
Visit mcc.org/comforters to learn more about MCC comforters and how to make a cheerful comforter!