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.

Mys­tery quilt

“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.

Many quilts

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.

Mod­est woman

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.”


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