Our Community Champions – the Seabreeze Quilters

Community Champions are the people, groups and organisations in our community who continue to champion the work we do. This edition we celebrate the Seabreeze Quilters.

Who are the Seabreeze Quilters?

The Seabreeze Quilters are a community-based quilting group that meet monthly at the Altona Meadows Library and Learning Centre. The group formed in 2006 at the Louis Joel Centre in Altona with around 16 members and now boasts more than 100 members. Recently, we had the opportunity to speak with Lee Archer, a member of the Seabreeze Quilters and a local to Melbourne’s west. According to Lee, the quilters are ‘quite the eclectic group of local crafters’ who meet to share and indulge in their love of all things patchwork and quilting. But at the end of the day what makes this incredible group of people is that it doesn’t really matter what you’ve done or where you’ve come from – ‘We bring lived experience but there is no judgement. It’s just a welcoming, loving group where we support each other. We often joke about having no quilt police. We do not care if your points don’t meet or if your socks don’t match, just come and be.’

What do they do?

The Seabreeze Quilters are a social group with a focus on quilting. The group meets monthly, which allows them to hone their skills and to support each other in their daily lives. Each meeting includes time for each of the quilters to show the group what they have been working on and a meeting can also feature a guest speaker, usually a fellow quilter or sewer. 

What is unique to Seabreeze is that the core of what they do connects them with community and purpose. Women’s Health West has been connected to Seabreeze for many years as the group continues to produce quilts that are supplied to the women and children who stay in our refuge. Seabreeze also work with other groups to support the community. They’ve worked with groups like Knit One Give One (KOGO – https://www.kogo.org.au/) and Very Snuggly Quilts, an initiative through Vic Quilters (https://www.victorianquilters.org/).

As stated by Lee, ‘donating back into the community brings such a sense of wellbeing and connection [for its members], particularly now during COVID-19 as people are isolated.’ But it’s not just now, ‘as you get older, many women find themselves socially isolated. Some of the women are older and on their own, and they don’t have a lot of money. But what they have is time. Giving time is easy and doing something you enjoy is also just as easy. The women in this group are happy to make stuff knowing it is going out into the community and is received by the community who appreciate it’.

But for the members it’s about more than just quilting. This is a group of women coming together and connecting at a much deeper level. 

When speaking with Lee, we asked why she chose to join the group and what did she really get out of it? She said: ‘I had a friend, who has since passed, who was a quilter. But she lived far away and so I decided to find a local sewing group and learn to quilt. I personally needed something that was relaxing. Some people look at it as challenging, but that’s part of the distraction. It’s a good way to separate yourself from all the stressors of daily life. It’s my escape. Being with fabulous women, and making something by hand for a friend, or a total stranger, makes me happy.’

Over the past few months during quarantine, we’ve seen a rise in the number of home bakers, sewers and crafters. I asked Lee if she thought quilting was making a comeback and she said, ‘Definitely. More so for knitting and crocheting as there is a little bit more awareness about it. You also see people yarn bombing trees and bike racks. And then there’s the home sewers, making their own clothes or repurposing clothes and fabrics. It certainly adds to your feeling of self-worth, general capability and resilience.’

Projects the group are working on

During their monthly meetings, the group collects items and financial donations for local and international groups that they are continuously supporting. Currently the group are working towards their “Quilt In” an event to be hosted at the Williamstown Town Hall. Due to COVID-19 the project has been delayed until May 2021. Attendees can expect to hear from fellow quilter, Sarah Filke, who will be coming down from NSW, as well as other activities and a quilting pop-up stalls.

Other projects the group have been working on include:

  • Fundraising for Women’s Health West’s crisis accommodation. This includes making quilts and collecting items for care packages
  • Collecting bras and bathers for Uplift Bras (upliftbras.org)
  • Fundraising for Purity and Brandy and Ride 4 a Woman (https://www.ride4awoman.org/), both located in Uganda
  • Collecting fabric and threads for the Prison Project
  • Making quilts for Very Snuggly Quilts (through Vic Quilters)
  • They also collect fabric and cash for, and coordinate completion of, their own “Care Quilts”. (Quilt tops require wadding and backing fabric, then quilting and binding to finish, before being donated to those in the community)

How can you support?

Want to support the work of the Seabreeze Quilters? Community members are invited to come along to one of the group’s monthly meetings, come to a Quilt In event, buy a raffle ticket at their events or donate to their care quilt project.

You can also follow Seabreeze Quilters on Facebook at @SeabreezeQuiltersInc.