How quilting for charity got me on a government watch list - Robin Quilts

How quilting for charity got me on a government watch list

Quilting for Charity

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately. I love the idea of giving quilts to charity, especially local ones. The quilt guilds I’m in do Quilts of Valor, and kidney quilts (where matching quilts go to the donor and the recipient). quilt of valorOne of the guilds has partnered with our local police department to give quilts to children in horrible situations (domestic violence, fire, that sort of thing), and that’s fun because those are really quick. They also give me a chance to practice free motion quilting, and since I’m using fabric already in my stash, cost me very little.


kids quilt

I was working on one of these when Big Brother decided to tap me on the shoulder.

I needed a color of thread that wasn’t in my stash, so I went shopping online at a store I’ve purchased from a number of times in the past. (Quilted Joy which, for reference, is in Kentucky) I threw a few other colors of thread and some pre-wound bobbins in my cart (because honestly, who can really buy just one?) and began the checkout process.

Government Regulations

Going through the checkout process, I used PayPal (as I often do). Everything seemed normal, until I got the following message.

Tabriz Orchid

The awesome “Government regulations and policies” link just went to the generic PayPal help site, so it was no help. I dug around on the Internet, and finally figured it out. The color name of one of the spools of thread I was trying to purchase was “Tabriz Orchid”. Looks pretty innocent, right? It turns out that Tabriz is a city in Iran, and that was enough to put the payment on hold while someone somewhere determined whether or not this pretty purple thread was a national security concern.

I contacted the lovely ladies at Quilted Joy to explain why I thought my payment was being held. They told me this was not the first time this has happened with this particular color, and that they have talked to PayPal about this before. This tells me that PayPal or whichever government group is maintaining the “list” isn’t exactly being responsive in updating their whitelist. Fairly innocuous words (such as “scuba”) have been triggering this for years. Internet reports of this issue go back to at least 2013. I was surprised to see that the only media reference is a TechDirt article from 2016.

After about 48 hours, and at least one call to PayPal by Quilted Joy, everyone seems to be in agreement that polyester thread is not a national security threat, no matter how shiny it is. PayPal released my payment, and I received my thread shortly after that. The engineer in me thinks that if I were the one selling that particular thread, I would begin to reference it by manufacturer’s ID rather than by color name. I have no faith that this won’t happen to someone else. If I had known it was going to cause this issue, I would have avoided ordering it in the first place. It wasn’t even the one I needed!

kids quiltBy the way, here’s the quilt that I was working on when Big Brother decided to get all up in my quilting business. The modern look of this simple quilt makes me smile. It gave me an excuse (not that I really needed one!) to use some of my bright Cotton & Steel stash, and it’s now off to someone who needs it.

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