Vida’s many vibrant quilts
Port de Grave resident uses her talents to help those in need
A little baby girl is born six weeks early at the Janeway Children’s Hospital in St. John’s, and is taken by a nurse to the incubation room. She places a knitted cap on the baby’s head, and lines her incubator with a beautiful, colourful quilt about the size of a kitchen catcher.
Both were donated to the hospital by the Bay Roberts branch of the Women’s Institutes (WI).
The district representative for WI Avalon West is Vida Porter. She is one of many women in the organization who puts in hours of her time to cut, sew and create each beautiful piece that finds a home with these premature babies.
WI, a not-for-profit organization, recently lost government funding, and has begun fundraising efforts to help promote inclusion and community involvement to be able to continue offering this, and many other services.
Porter has a knack for quilting and has used her talent to help many groups and organizations for the past decade, but also gives her time for the love of making quilts.
“With the Women’s Institute we make turbans for cancer patients. We also make
baby hats and baby quilts for the preemies at
the Janeway.” — Vida Porter, quilt maker
and avid volunteer
Porter is currently working on a unique undertaking — the Plenty of Fish Mystery Quilt Facebook project, which uses scraps of triangular fabric to create a quilt piece-by-piece.
The project is named after a social interaction website for meeting new people, and she says it is just like online dating.
“Sometimes you get a good one, sometimes you get a dud,” she explains. “Hopefully, this quilt will be a good one.”
Every two weeks the over 1,000 participants in Canada and the United States receive a set of instructions on Facebook from Prairie Quilt Mercantile, a company in Alberta that is organizing the project, for the next part of their adventure.
Resting on one of the tables in Porter’s kitchen are hundreds of pieces of material of multiple sizes in browns, greens, yellows and beiges that she is using for her mystery quilt.
“We had to have so many darks, lights and mediums,” she smiles. “I can’t wait to see what the next step is.”
The structure of the quilt has not even begun to take shape, but the decorative patterns are beginning to come together.
This is not Porter’s first quilt. In fact, she has sewn more than 60 quilts in dozens of different designs since beginning the hobby in 2001, when she moved back to Newfoundland from Toronto, where she lived since the 1970s.
Her husband, Hugh Porter, is a native of Port de Grave, while Vida is from Triton.
In her closet she has stacks of quilts with sentimental value, ones that are partially completed and ones she keeps just because she likes them. “I have only sold two of my quilts,” Porter says. In one of the bedrooms in her house, she has a small quilt with a child’s drawing on it.
“My daughter Paula and her friend were entrepreneurs in Grade 8,” Porter smirks. “They made this t-shirt for me and I turned it into a quilt for my daughter as a keepsake.”
She also has another daughter, Barb. Both live out of the province and visit when they can.
Hours of dedication
Although she spends hours on her beautiful and colourful quilts, she still finds time to volunteer with different organizations, including the local Lion’s Club, the all-female 60-member Baccalieu Quilt Guild and, of course, the Women’s Institutes.
Sometimes her quilting and sewing talents come in handy for her volunteer work.
“With the Women’s Institute we also make turbans for cancer patients,” Porter says. “And we have members that have donated from their own pockets for the baby quilts.”
For years she has also volunteered with the Lion’s Club to organize the meals and details for special events, and more recently helping with the fundraising efforts of the bluegrass and country music night in Bay Roberts. She has just taken on the role of treasurer.
Porter is also a 105-time blood donor, and promotes it in her spare time.
Although a very community integrated person, Porter’s passion is quilting. She says sometimes she cannot pull herself away from it, but the results pay off.
The colourful variations and unique patterns take skill, precision and a lot of patience. In Porter’s case, it also takes the ability to co-ordinate colours.
Very modestly, she says, “I have been told by quite a few people I have an eye for colour.” She does not always see her skills in the same way.
“I guess it’s because I wasn’t very confident growing up,” she adds.
Some would consider her beautiful quilts amazing pieces of art, but she still has no ambition to start selling everything she makes.
“I may sell this one when it’s finished,” she says, holding up a unique, multi-coloured and incomplete quilt. “But that’s not why I do it.”