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Meet Pat Quigley


Meet Pat Quigley, a retired nurse with a passion for helping others. Whether she is on a medical mission trip with her church, making quilts for animals affected by natural disasters, or sewing purses for Sew Powerful, Pat puts her whole heart into her efforts. She is a talented seamstress, and we talk about her unique fabric choices, making the purse photos she posts on Facebook instantly recognizable as Pat Quigley originals.


Kigoma, Tanzania, Joy in the Harvest, pillowcase dresses, Swahili, Methodist missionaries, Little Dresses for Africa, Kennel Quilts, displaced animals, Houston Quilt Festival, abstract prints, Sew Powerful


Joy in the Harvest,

Little Dresses for Africa,

Kennel Quilts,

International Quilt Festival of Houston,

We are Sew Powerful, How a Global Community of Seamstresses Is Changing Zambia One Girl at A Time, 2nd edition. By Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, © 2016 & 2020 Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, all rights reserved.


The Sew Powerful Podcast shines a light on the people behind the mission to keep girls in school and create purposeful products in Zambia. Join us every week for a new 30-minute episode to meet new people, hear inspiring stories, and learn how you can join us in this global movement. Whether you sew or not, make purses or not, you will find something to enjoy in every episode. Listen today.


Host: Jan Cancila

Guest: Pat Quigley


Jan Cancila, Host 00:04

Welcome to the Sew Powerful podcast. This is your host, Jan Cancila. You know the sound of my sewing machine means it's time for another episode. So, let's get started.


Jan 00:19

Today I have the privilege of speaking with a Sew Powerful friend of mine, Pat Quigley. I met Pat when we worked in the booth at the Houston Quilt Festival a couple of years ago. And to my benefit, Pat lives in the same metropolitan area as I do so we've been able to see each other a few times in addition to just working in the quilt show booths, which for last year did not happen. Pat has such an interesting background and such a passion for Sew Powerful. If you have not met Pat in person, you are going to love this podcast. Pat Quigley, welcome to the Sew Powerful podcast. How are you today?


Pat Quigley, Guest 01:05

Thank you Jan for having me.


Jan 01:08

I'm so glad you're here.


Pat Quigley 01:09

Thank you.


Jan 01:10

Tell us a little bit about your background with Sew Powerful. How did you find Sew Powerful to begin with?


Pat 01:19

I believe it was on Facebook. I had been to Africa in 2014. And fortunately, my church is very mission oriented. And I I've been very lucky to travel many places as part of a medical mission team. And when I was in Africa, I was working in a clinic and a lady came in with a baby and I love to hold babies. So, I asked her if I could hold the baby and she said sure in Swahili. And she handed me this baby, and of course I right away snuggled it up against my neck, and the baby was soaking wet. And I realized they don't have disposable diapers. So that was kind of my first indication that we take so much for granted, the little things. So, when I saw this article on Facebook about these purses it brought back to my mind this mother with her baby. And, you know, we we just think we can go down to the corner drugstore and buy what we need and stay in school. And it just really struck a chord with me. The whole story of the mission with Jason and Cinnamon, and I thought, I can make purses. I've sewn all my life and have made purses for myself. So that's basically how I got started.


Jan 03:22

So how did you learn to sew to begin with? What is your history with sewing?


Pat 03:29

Well, my mom sewed. She didn't teach me to sew, but I was always around her when she was sewing. And then when I was in high school, I took the obligatory Home Ec - one semester of cooking and one of sewing. And I realized I could make clothes for myself. So that's where I started. Pretty, pretty much self taught.


Jan 03:59

Oh, interesting. Well, the purses you make are just exquisite. So, we'll talk about that in a minute. You mentioned a minute ago that you had done a mission trip to Tanzania that it was medically oriented. Tell us a little bit about Tanzania and a little bit more about those mission trips.


Pat 04:22

Okay, well, I'm a registered nurse. And we have had a team from my church that goes. There is a mission in Kigoma, Tanzania. It's run by some Methodist missionaries. And they do amazing things. It's called Joy in the Harvest. And they set up a clinic for us, and they give us translators, fortunately. And we set up a clinic and work for a week. We usually see somewhere between 1,000 to 12-1,300 patients. And so I just fell in love with the people. They're wonderful, joyful, thankful people and have nothing.


Jan 05:22

And so you went on two trips to Tanzania. Is that right?


Pat 05:26

Yes, I went again in 2017.


Jan 05:31

Okay, now, besides doing these mission trips, you also participate in another charity that is directed toward Africa. Tell us about that.


Pat 05:42

There's a group called Little Dresses for Africa, and they make what they call pillowcase dresses. And so it also is a charity that's dear to my heart. I had a very, very close, dear friend, who also is a nurse. She was working full time. But that was the one thing she would do was to make the dresses. And she unfortunately passed away very suddenly, just a month or so before she was due to retire. And so, I started doing these dresses in her honor. So, it just was another outlet for me for the people in Africa.


Jan 06:38

Now, I've seen these dresses, they're like rectangles with a casing at the top. Is that right?


Pat 06:44

Yes, very simple. Very simple.


Jan 06:47

And you put a ribbon, or do you have matching fabric for the tie?


Pat 06:52

They want us to use bias tape. We put elastic through the top and then bind the armhole. And it ties at the shoulder with the bias tape.


Jan 07:07

Yeah, it's very cute and relatively simple for people who don't have a lot of sewing experience to be able to make that contribution, right?


Pat 07:16

Correct. Correct.


Jan 07:17

How long does it take you to make one of those little dresses?


Pat 07:21

It depends how fussy I get with it. If I do a lot of embellishing, or if I decide to use you know, two contrasting pieces of fabric to kind of make a little change in the hemline or the top. So, but there, you can make them from pillowcases, which obviously makes it go really fast. But I like using pretty fabrics for these little girls. There isn't a lot of pretty stuff for little girls.


Jan 08:04

Well, you're giving me lots of hints of things we're going to talk about because your purses are noted for their pretty fabrics. But we're not getting to the purses yet, because we have a lot of layers to unpeel here before we get to your work with Sew Powerful. You volunteer for another organization that helps displaced dogs and cats that have been rescued as part of a natural disaster in various parts of the US. Tell us about the work you do for that organization and a little bit about them.


Pat 08:37

Okay, it came through the quilt magazine. I'm not a quilter. I have made some small quilts. But...


Jan 08:48

Now wait a minute. If you've made a quilt, to me, that qualifies as being a quilter.


Pat 08:54

Well, I have made them but it's not my love. So, I don't spend a lot of time with them. But because I have all these scraps of fabric this organization will get contacted by different animal rescue groups in the States. And anytime there's a disaster, a hurricane or a fire or a flood, whatever disaster they have displaced lost animals, these rescue groups take these animals and then they ask for little quilts that go in the crates to help comfort these animals. They're very simple. They're like 12 by 18. And I'll get an email saying that this rescue group in North Carolina or California or New Orleans or wherever it is, is asking for kennel quilts. So, if I have them on hand, I box them up and send them off. And if I don't have any, I just get my scrap bucket out and make them and send them.


Jan 10:13

So you send it directly to the organization that needs it. Right? And...


Pat 10:18

That's correct.


Jan 10:19

And there's some kind of a clearing house where these different rescues say we need this and the clearing house emails people who volunteer to make the quilts.


Pat 10:29

Correct. Somehow, but anyhow, yes, it's a clearing house that the rescue groups contact them, they send out the email. Many times, whatever the disaster is, there may be two or three rescue groups in that area. New Orleans, for instance, or the fires in California. So, you just choose which one you want to send them to and send them off.


Jan 10:57

Well, that's amazing. I had not heard of that particular organization. Why don't we take a break and when we come back, we will explore the work that Pat does with Sew Powerful, and she's been at it for a few years here. So please stay tuned. We'll talk with you again in just a moment.


Jan 11:20

Have you gotten the second edition of the "We Are Sew Powerful" book? This updated version of the original bestseller, 4.9 out of five stars, by the way, is again authored by Sew Powerful co-founders, Jason and Cinnamon Miles. It is available on Amazon in paperback or for your Kindle reader. This latest edition is packed full of moving stories about how Sew Powerful came to be, the volunteers who make it happen, and the way this small movement has grown into a global mission to break the cycle of poverty, through education and the dignity of work. And don't forget, when you place your order if you use, and designate Sew Powerful as your preferred charity, Amazon will donate a portion of your purchase right back to Sew Powerful. And now back to our podcast.


Jan 12:24

Welcome back. We have been speaking with Pat Quigley, who has been sharing with us the many ways that she volunteers her talents. She's a registered nurse and she goes to Tanzania and helps with a medical mission there. She sews Little Dresses for Africa. And she also makes kennel quilts for rescued animals following a natural disaster. So, you would think that maybe Pat doesn't have time for another nonprofit. But that's not the case. Pat is very involved with Sew Powerful and we're so glad she is. As I mentioned at the beginning, Pat and I met at the Houston Quilt Festival in 2018. And we were both booth workers, which is not easy to say booth workers. And I think we had many, many shifts where we worked together. Pat, what inspired you to volunteer to work in the booth at the Quilt Festival?


Pat 13:28

Well, actually living in Houston, you know it's so easy to go and I actually had helped in another booth for several years. A friend that had a booth and I would help her.


Jan 13:45

At the Quilt Festival?


Pat 13:47

That's correct.


Jan 13:48

Oh, wow. I didn't know that.


Pat 13:49

Yeah, yeah. So I was, you know, very comfortable doing that. And I just thought this is a golden opportunity for Sew Powerful to reach all these people that have fabric and scraps of fabric. So yeah, I was excited when they decided to have a booth.


Jan 14:14

Yeah, you and I worked together. There was a donor dinner that we attended together, and the Quilt Festival is in downtown Houston. And you live in one of the further out suburbs in northeast Houston. And you took a bus to do this. I thought, man, that is dedication.


Pat 14:32

Well, I take a bus on Wednesday night which is the preview night. There is a friend that I have here in my area. Every year she gets the precinct bus from the city and she she reserves this bus for preview night. You know it's late night I think if I recall it closes at 10 o'clock. So I don't like driving home alone at night. So I was able to, to do that the two times that we had the booth in addition to, you know, all the other times. But normally during the day I drive and it's an easy drive for me, but at night, it's nice not to have to drive.


Jan 15:25

Well, I have to confess all the one-way streets downtown I find very intimidating. Anyway. Well, Pat, you and I worked at the booth again in 2019. So, we did that. But you also joined the sew along that we held in the summer of 2019. And you came up to Cypress of the Houston metropolitan area for those of you who might be familiar, and we taught a bunch of people to sew that day, and we had some kits cut out. And can you remember some of the experiences from that event?


Pat 16:04

It was a delightful event. I do remember one thing, the young boy that came and made, I think he made two purses?


Jan 16:13

He did. Yes. Yeah.


Pat 16:15

And I was so impressed. Mothers and daughters came together and worked, and I thought that was amazing. I just thought it was really a well-attended event. And I think one or two of the ladies who came joined Sew Powerful and have continued. One lady sat and wrote the note cards, which was a godsend. That's my weak point. That's my weak point doing the cards, but it gets done.


Jan 16:54

Right? Well, and you know, she came in and all of our sewing stations were filled, and she said, Is there anything else I can do? And I said, well do you like to write note cards. And then so we had the writing prompts that are available from the Sew Powerful Purse Project Facebook group, if you look under files, there's a file there called writing prompts. And it really helps to write the note cards, but her name was Barbara, unfortunately, I don't know her last name. And she wrote over 100 cards for us that day. So that was really nice.


Jan 17:29

Pat, when I look at Facebook, I play this little game with myself. So, I don't look at who made the post. I look at the picture and I try and figure out who made that purse. And there are some people that have a very distinctive style, and I always know who they're going to be. And then I check myself then I scroll up and see what's the name and the Pat Quigley purses are standouts, they're so easy to identify as yours.


Pat 17:58

You're very kind.


Jan 17:59

Well, number one, your self-taught sewing skills are amazing. The workmanship is incredible, but the fabrics. Oh my gosh, they are so vivid. Can you talk to us a little bit about how you choose these big bold prints? And they're mostly abstracts, aren't they?


Pat 18:18

I love abstracts yeah. I am not a traditional person. My home is not traditional. I like pretty clean lines. I don't you know I'm not a fussy person. And I love bright colors. I don't wear bright colors well, they kind of wash me out. So, this is how I get my fix. I can make the purses and the little dresses out of bright colors. And I do use bright colors as accent in my home. So, I guess I just gravitate towards the pretty bold prints. I'm not into paisley, that that type of thing that's more subtle and more traditional style.


Jan 19:12

And you like to make the straps.


Pat 19:17

I love making straps. Actually...


Jan 19:21

Convince me that that's a good idea because I am on Team Webbing.


Pat 19:26

I know, I know. Well, when I start a purse, my system is I do cutting. I put kits together. I cut, cut, cut, cut, so then when I get ready to sew, everything is ready to sew and the first thing I always do is the strap. There is something just very, I think it's the rhythm of doing it that gets me to the sewing and I'm trying very hard to do a little more decorative work. I love denim. I've made a few straps that are kind of off the wall and I hope the girls like them.


Jan 20:13

Well they're beautiful.


Jan 20:15

Thanks. Yeah, I love, love it.


Jan 20:17

So do you embellish the flaps? Or do you let the fabric speak for itself?


Pat 20:22

I usually let the fabric speak. If I choose a fabric that is plain, then I struggle to think what I can do to make it a little more interesting for the girls. But I try. I have, you know, like everybody else probably, bins full of different bits and pieces of laces and ribbons and ric rac and whatever. So, I just kind of let that talk to me and do what, do what I can with it.  


Jan 21:01

Well, you mentioned making a purse that you think a girl would like. What is your thought process while you're making the purse? Are you thinking about the girls and how they're going to be using the purse and its contents?


Pat 21:13

Oh, absolutely. That's the whole thing. I want them to love each purse that gets sent. So, it will help them and, you know, encourage them to stay in school. I mean, it’s so important to get their education. So yeah, like you, you just pray that there is going to be a purse that speaks to them. And I think that's pretty much how it works.


Jan 21:43

Sure. Well, and at the beginning, we talked about the work that your church does and that it's very mission oriented. Was your love of mission work a factor in your passion for Sew Powerful?


Pat 21:57

Oh, sure. Oh, sure. Absolutely. I mean, when I read Jason and Cinnamon's story, I thought this is, this is just too good to pass up. It's a Christian organization and to help those girls in Africa. So, oh.


Jan 22:20

So, for those people who may not be familiar with Sew Powerful in your own words, can you sort of sum up what the program means to you, and how it touches your heart.


Pat 22:34

For me, that the fact that we live in a country that we have everything we need, and more. And I just marvel that I can be in a country where people have literally nothing and are still joyful, they're still thankful. They dance in church, they sing in church, they, they are just sweet loving people, and how can you not want to help them? These purses have to bring joy to these young girls and their aunties. And I mean, I just think of the community of these ladies learning to sew and earning a living and making soap and earning a living, and it's just like, how could you not love that? So.


Jan 23:36

And listeners, how could you not love Pat Quigley? Pat, thank you so much for your time. It's always a pleasure to see you and talk with you. And I'm very glad that you joined us today.


Pat 23:49

Thank you. I hope that we can have some more of these little sewing get togethers in the Houston area.


Jan 23:56

We need those we absolutely do.


Pat 23:59

Yeah, I miss them.  


Jan 24:00

Alright. Well, thank you very much. Have a nice day.


Pat 24:03

You too, bye bye.


Jan 24:05

Bye bye.


Jan 24:06

If what you've heard today inspires you to want to make a difference. I urge you to explore the Sew Powerful website at That's SEW POWERFUL dot ORG. The website has great information about the organization. It's where you can download the free purse patterns or even make a donation. We hope you will join us again next week when we bring you another Sew Powerful story. Thanks for listening. Now, go out and have a Sew Powerful day.


Jan Cancila has been making purses for Sew Powerful since 2014. She serves the organization as Director, Global Volunteerism, the Area Manager for Shows and Events-Mid/South USA and as the Houston Regional Coordinator. She was a public speaking major at Hanover College and holds an MBA from Our Lady of the Lake University. Jan had a 25-year career with The Coca-Cola Company before owning and operating a linen and party rental business in Houston. She is married with two grown sons, a lovely daughter-in-law and two remarkable granddaughters. Jan’s published work includes more than 100 online articles for Reach Jan with comments or suggestions at