Red Bluff — Natalie Caldwell didn't expect a simple idea suggested to her would bloom into an inspirational movement bringing awareness to Autism and touching thousands around the world.
Since she was young, Natalie has loved sewing with her grandmother and began quilting at 15. Over the years, she held different sewing jobs and businesses, where eventually, she started sewing at her home.
In 2018, Caldwell lost her home to the Camp Fire and relocated to Red Bluff with her husband. She began quilting again along with her friends, and soon, the group evolved and began to involve the community, where she shared her love and knowledge with others about her quilting.
"I began a small group at my home with about half a dozen ladies, and we met every week. After about a year and a half of moving all my furniture every week, I decided to make a permanent space in my home to have small groups," said Natalie.
And that's how the Quilt Culture began for Natalie. She said, "Quilting inspires me because you can create anything from fabric, and you can have an infinite number of people create the same pattern, and they will all look unique."
One day Natalie's daughter asked her to quilt two aprons for her grandchildren, who are nonverbal with Autism. After the aprons were made, her daughter suggested a simple idea of making aprons for more people, for the underrepresented community like those with Autism.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 2.7% of children aged 8 or 1 in 36 children were diagnosed with autism in 2020. “With 2.7% of children in the U.S. being diagnosed with autism, the autism community needs our support now more than ever,” said Keith Wargo, President & CEO, Autism Speaks.
From that simple idea, Apron for Autism was born. Natalie created a YouTube page called Quilt Culture, where viewers worldwide learned about the cause and wanted to order Apron of Autism kits for their families and businesses, all in an effort for Natalie to bring more awareness to autism and the families and lives that are impacted, one quilted apron at a time.
"Our goal for the first year is to make and distribute 100,000 aprons, which seems like a lot, but 80 million people worldwide have autism, about 1% of the population. The need is great and you can help with a simple act of kindness. We know that you love sewing and creating and we know that you love making things with your friends and organizations that you are a part of. We encourage you to grow this movement by hosting sew-ins together and encourage local organizations to reach out and request aprons for their students and children with autism," Natalie said.