Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Solar Sister: Empowering Humanity through Clean Energy

In tribute to the Summer Solstice on June 21, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, we're showing a quilt challenge that highlights the work of Solar Sister. This  non-profit group  assists women in Africa who want to start their own small business. They sell solar-based appliances that provide light and power to rural households with no electricity, a condition known as "energy poverty."

Good Day Sunshine by Laura Cooke, Rhode Island, U.S.A.

Laura Cooke writes,  "When I read the title of this year’s challenge: Light, Hope, Opportunity: Empowering Women through Clean Energy, the image of a benevolent sun shining down on all of Africa lit up my mind... In Africa, I imagine women enjoying the sunshine as they work through the chores and joys of each day. Perhaps some are now cooking on solar stoves to give children breakfast before school, or using solar cells to charge cell phones to connect to family, or to light lanterns so children can read and study after dark.  Traditional or modern, the sun gives wonderful ways of using clean energy and even a single ray of sunlight can inspire hope."
The sun face reminds us of the fabric collages by Susan Carlson, the author of Serendipity Quilts.

Close up, Good Day Sunshine by Laura Cooke

Monochromatic shades of yellow-orange, plus a splash of complementary lavender, provide a beautifully colored background to highlight the sun's expressive face. Laura adds, "This quilt is an original design from my initial vision of the sun shining down to blanket the whole continent of Africa. It is made using commercially available fabrics, raw edge appliqué and free-motion quilting with rayon and machine quilting cotton thread."

Light-Hope-Light by Marianne Gravely, Virginia, U.S.A.

Marianne Gravely explains, " Our children are both the light of our lives and our hope for the future. While we in the U.S. turn off lights to save electricity, and worry about conserving energy...on the other side of the world.  children live in energy poverty. No electricity means no reading or studying at night, which limits their educational opportunities. This quilt is my vision of a happy planet with plenty of light and energy for all the children of the world." We enjoyed all the happy faces which comprise the border of this fun quilt.

Close up, Light-Hope-Light by Marianne Gravely

Look at this fabulous machine quilting work, whose individual patterns converge on the center of the quilt like rays from the sun !  This light gold thread looks beautiful on the deep blue background.

Light the Darkness by Joan Blade Johnston and and Melanie Johnston, Connecticut, U.S.A.

Joan and Melanie state, "...Without a consistent source of light, it is challenging at best for children to read books for the purpose of doing schoolwork or merely for pleasure. Solar power can mitigate the effects of energy poverty by providing a dependable source of light contributing to greater access to education.... In the bottom right corner, there is a small silhouette of a child holding an open book in one hand and an illuminating “Solar Sister” solar lantern in the other."

Close up, Light the Darkness by Joan Blade Johnston and Melanie Johnston

The quilters continue, "Our quilt consists of a large yellow-gold sun with fabric-collaged rays of sunlight in shades of yellow and blue quilted onto an iridescent “aura.” Like the rays of the sun itself…the fabric rays and decorative quilting extend to every corner of the piece."

These artists  have lettered their quilt very creatively, by placing the message on organza fabric in the center of the sun: “In one second, our sun provides enough energy to meet the current needs of the entire Earth for 500,000 years” attributed to the Boston Globe, Energy Information Administration; The Guardian Unlimited.

Sewing Sister by Allison Wilbur , Rhode Island, U.S.A.

Allison Wilbur notes,  "[This is] the story of Teddy the Tailor. Before she purchased a solar light, Teddy Namirembe would walk to the nearby village in Uganda to work at night, leaving her daughters at home. The simple purchase of a solar light brought  positive changes to her life. She has extra time to work since she does not have to walk to the village, so her income has increased 30 percent. She is safer for not having to make the walk and her children are not alone. Her children also use the light to do  homework. She is not paying for renting a work space or for expensive kerosene and they no longer breathe in the kerosene smoke.  Like most women, Teddy turns the extra money she makes (she sews school uniforms) back into her family and her business."

Close up, Sewing Sister by Allison Wilbur

Allison continues," As the owner of a small home quilting business, I can relate to Teddy.  The hours I have to work after dark, after the work of caring for my family is done, are vitally important to my business. Solar Sister is not only important  to the entrepreneurs who sell the lights, but to many others who buy the solar lights and phone chargers as a part of their small business." We admire the colorful geometric print fabric Allison used to depict Teddy's native dress, plus the elegantly quilted message, "Let your light shine", which applies not only to the Solar Sisters, but to all the people of the world.

Wind to Enlighten by Barbara Eisenstein, Maryland, U.S.A.

Here is a village of  brightly colored homes that are benefiting from electricity generated by wind turbines in motion. Barbara says of her cheerful, positive quilt with energetic quilt patterns, "Electricity brings light for reading and learning, safe refrigerated food and clean smokeless cooking. Electricity brings connection to others, through the wider world of TV and computers. Electrical power means power for women to be educated [through distance learning via the internet]  and to improve the lives of their families. Wind power is a way to generate electricity in very remote areas. I wanted to show the connection between wind technology and the light inside the homes, where women keep themselves and their families healthy, well fed and informed."

Image credits:  Photos were taken by Quilt Inspiration at the 2015 World Quilt Show in West Palm Beach, Florida.


  1. Awesome.Congrats to all the artist!

  2. Wow.....all are fantastic! But I did get a kick out of Wind to Enlighten"! What a perfect quilt for our times.....the celebration of wind turbines for producing electricity! I live near an area of Michigan USA with several "wind farms"....they are just awesome to see!


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