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ROANOKE--Erin Hutchinson watched in horror when Hurricane Sandy battered New Jersey and New York. Then the quilter sprang into action.
Hutchinson appealed to fellow quilters worldwide and colorful squares of cloth started to arrive at her home in Vesuvius, a Rockbridge County community north of Lexington.
By Christmas, Hutchinson had received more than 1,400 quilt squares sent from across the U.S., but also from as far away as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
The Rockbridge Pieceworkers Quilt Guild helped stitch the squares together in quilts that are about 72 by 84 inches, large enough to cover a double bed.
That's the way quilters are, she said. "Every time something happens, quilters come together," Hutchinson told The Roanoke Times.
Hutchinson is an admissions official at Washington and Lee University, where her husband, Adam Hutchinson, is the basketball coach.
The two, however, have strong ties to New Jersey and the New York area. Her first date with her husband was on the Jersey Shore. She lived in Hoboken, worked in New York and had family in Newark.
"All these places that played such a significant role in my past were cold and dark and underwater," Hutchinson wrote in her blog. She decided, "I can't sit by and do nothing."
She invited her readers to send her quilt squares. She expected that the 130 or so readers of her blog would perhaps send 80 squares, about enough for two 42-square quilts.
But the quilting call went viral.
"The internet is an amazing thing," Hutchinson said. "You think nobody reads it, but they do."
The local quilting guild contributed $100 to pay for backing and batting and postage for the quilts' trip to New Jersey. Others sent about $300 to help with the costs.
"Quilters care about one another and are so eager to share their knowledge, friendship and fabric," Nancy Leoncavallo, who oversees the guild's website, wrote in an email.
When Adam Hutchinson's team went to New Jersey for a game, Erin Hutchinson went too to personally deliver quilts to relief groups.
As she blogged about her appeal, some quilters emailed to say they had decided that instead of sending more squares, they would finish their quilts themselves and send them to relief efforts.
To date, Hutchinson said, she has sent about 20 quilts to families affected by Sandy, mostly through Blankie Depot, a nonprofit group that gives homemade blankets to New Jersey children undergoing trauma. Eight more quilt tops were put together and waiting in her sewing room for final assembly. Another five were being constructed by the Rockbridge guild, Hutchinson said.
Squares for another five or 10 quilts are waiting for attention, and "they keep coming in the mail," Hutchinson said.
"I have two kids," Hutchinson said. "I want to think the world will be supportive of them. I want to think people will do the right thing."