Sisters Quilt Together Long Distance

Our Jan/Feb ’10 issue (No. 131) features a gorgeous quilt in QM Spotlight (on the last page) with an interesting story sent by Kathy O’Toole.

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Cabin Constellation

It was made from a pattern called Cabin Constellation which first appeared in the May/June ’05 issue (No. 103).

cabin2 Sisters Quilt Together Long Distance

Peggy Stern from Baxter, Minnesota and Kathy O’Toole from Oakland, California are sisters who made the quilt together, in spite of living more than 1500 miles apart. It’s one of many projects they have worked on together through a system of long-distance quilting they have developed over the past 12 years.

sisters4 Sisters Quilt Together Long Distance

Along with a cousin, Marilyn Petersen from Watertown, South Dakota, they sometimes have several projects going at once.

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It takes the three women about three years to finish a quilt together. So far they have made about nine quilts and given away three as wedding gifts to young couples in their shared families.

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Granddaughter Latice and her new husband

Cabin Constellation became a wedding gift for Kathy’s granddaughter Latice and her new husband.

Both sisters had been saying they wanted to use up some of their scraps. When Peggy saw this pattern in Quiltmaker, she thought it would be more fun than most patterns because it had more than one type of block. She suggested to her sister that they make the quilt. Kathy had already seen Cabin Constellation in Quiltmaker and liked it too.

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Kathy picked the colors by looking through many books and narrowing the color scheme to a combination that appeared mostly in antique quilts from the mid- to late-1800s. Both sisters pulled fabrics from their stashes, which differ considerably.

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They exchanged enough fabrics so that each had some from both stashes. They made extra blocks so that in the end, some could be eliminated if necessary.

Kathy says their tastes in fabrics and designs are very different but they each admire what the other can do. “It’s nice to bring two totally different sets of eyes to the same project and to use each other’s fabrics. Most importantly, the joint project gave us some alone time during visits when we were surrounded by other family members. These sessions together alone bring back the good old days of playing paper dolls when we were kids.”

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The women as children in South Dakota

The women grew up on a farm near Watertown, South Dakota. Along with Marilyn, they belonged to a girls club organized by their mothers, through which they learned to sew, embroider and bake cakes and cookies. Like many others, they discovered quilting when America celebrated her Bicentennial in 1976.

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A September wedding in Wisconsin

Peggy’s son Tad was married in September and Marilyn’s son Bruce will be married in January. Each couple will choose a quilt when the family gathers next for the holidays. By that time, another cousin who is Marilyn’s sister, Liz from Dallas, will have been added to the circle. The women are learning to chat online and to hold conference calls for virtual quilt meetings.

“This is about more than quilting. We are trying to keep a family together in an era where we are geographically scattered. I love my local five-member quilt group in the San Francisco Bay area, but I value even more the time with this virtual family group that dates back to childhood,” says Kathy.

What’s your long-distance quilting story? Have you made a quilt for a special occasion? We always love hearing in the comments what our readers are doing.

Cabin Constellation will be available for purchase as a downloadable pdf in the near future. We’ll announce its debut here.

About Diane Harris

I'm an editor for Quiltmaker magazine in Golden, Colorado, USA. For six years, I wrote pattern instructions, product reviews and how-to articles. Then I spent four years as QM's Interactive Editor, working to generate much of our online content. Now I'm back to patterns and how-tos, which is a great fit for me. I still love writing about quilt-related topics for Quilty Pleasures, and I always have my finger on the pulse of the quilting world. I teach a variety of quilt classes and give guild programs, too. Reach me by email:
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9 Responses to Sisters Quilt Together Long Distance

  1. Jeannie says:

    I’ve only been quilting for a couple of years – a few small projects and several twin-size UFO’s. I hooked my sister into quilting when I decided to go to the International Quilt Show in Chicago last April. Sis decided to join me, and that’s all it took! Now I’m busy building a machine quilting frame from plans from Richard’s Frames. I hope to finish it up this weekend so I can turn some of my UFO’s into finished quilts by Christmas! If it turns out well, I’ll probably be quilting some of Sis’s UFO’s, too.

  2. Cathie says:

    Lucky ladies to have sisters to quilt with. My sister enjoys quilts but it mostly a non sewer however my Mom and I are quilting buddies long distance as well.
    Funny thing is that I taught my Mom to quilt when I was mostly a beginner with Eleanor Burn’s Quilt in a Day books and now we are hooked!

  3. Kathleen O'Toole says:

    OK Jan! When are you going to join the quilting cousins? Jan is indeed a cousin of Peggy, myself, and Marilyn. When she worked at her Mom’s fabric store, she had the best clothes in our South Dakota town. But then she moved away to Seattle and got busy with other aspects of her life. Now she’s back in our hometown doing lots of things, but we have yet to hook her into a quilt project. –Kathy O’Toole

  4. Jan Bienn says:

    These ladies are just great and I say that from the heart as I am one of their cousins. They presented one of there first quilts to my daughter Stephanie when she was married 5 years ago. It will be treasured because of the love these ladies put into their work. The talent these gals have run deep in our family, as we come from a family of needle work and steamtresses. My mother truly helped us develope our love of fabric as she had a fabric store for 20 years in the 60′s & 70′s. I am very proud of their talent and I know our grandmother’s Veronica and Dolores are looking down from heaven ever so proud of them too.

  5. Jocelyn says:

    These ladies certainly have been busy doing what they love. I think it is so neat that they can do it long distance :-) Quilty love.

  6. Peg Spradlin says:

    I have 5 sisters but only 2 of us quilt, so we’ve made a quilt for each of the other sisters, and for graduations and new babies of the next generation. My sister lives in Colorado and I live in Nebraska so that’s not as long a distance as some of the stories, but far enough away to make me wish she were closer.

  7. lisa says:

    the only “long distance” quilting story I have is all the calls I make to mom about questions or e-mail her pictures for ideas or to help decide between a few ideas. I also save some quilt tops topick out backing with her at a remnant fabric store.

    My mom and her quilting sister (she has four sisters) were trying to make a quilt for their youngest sister for her wedding this past Oct, but they picked a pattern that was hard and didn’t hold either of their intrest. They both finished only two blocks. I laughed about it with them, but imagine I will face that problem some day too. They joke that at the rate their going they will be able to give it to their sister and her new husband for a 10 year anneversary present.

  8. This is a wonderful story. I get together with my mom and sisters to quilt…we are slowly making a convert out of a non-sewing sister! We live about 55 miles apart, so it is a little easier for us!

  9. Wyo Di says:

    I attend an annual quilt retreat with friends. Most of our group lives across state (which in Wyoming means 7 +/- hrs). Another member resides in Montana. There was an opening for a new attendee and I was able to invite my sister to attend. We made many memories!Your long distance quilting reminded me of that as well as the fact, that women can do anything!

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