Women stitch love into blankets
They’re three feet wide and three feet tall. They’re colorful. Most importantly, they’re warm. They’re “love blankets,” made by the loving hands of Wilma Bowman, 87, and Shirley Wiest, 92.
The duo sews them for residents of Richmond Children’s Hospital, the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center, several cancer centers, and some nursing homes in the Richmond area.
The project began more than 20 years ago, sponsored by Women on Mission, a group based at the Grove Avenue Baptist Church (now located on North Parham Road). Bowman and Wiest are the last two church volunteers involved in the project.
The “love blankets,” or “cozy lap blankets,” are so named because they are just the right size for patients in wheelchairs, hospital beds or chemo wards.
Bowman recalls delivering finished blankets to children. The unexpected gifts often brought tears to their eyes, she said.
All told, it takes Bowman and Wiest about six hours to make each blanket. Each blanket is made of three layers: a bright, checkered front, a solid-colored back, and insulation in between.
Friends usually donate the cotton fabric for each blanket, and the pair receives occasional cash donations, which they use to purchase fabric. The church continues to supply the insulation material, also known as batting.
The two work together on each blanket. Bowman prepares the checkered front pieces from her home in Henrico County. She then delivers them to Wiest, who sews all three layers to complete the blanket. As a final touch, Bowman adds the bright tassels to the front panels.
“Others are amazed” when they see the finished product, said Wiest, who has dementia and lives in a memory care facility.
Both women report that they enjoy the process of making blankets — and seeing the happy faces of people receiving their love blankets.