By Tricia Patterson, Associate Editor, Quiltmaker and McCall’s Quilting
I have a very special quilt to share with you. I’m calling it Wishful Healing Hearts and I made it for my youngest sister. Janet was diagnosed with a rare form of colon cancer late last year and finished as many chemotherapy treatments she could handle. Early tests indicated the chemo had worked its wonder on the cancer. She returned for a three-month check-up to discover a large mass growing in her liver and now she’s facing a stronger round of chemo.
I’m the oldest sibling and took care of Janet from her birth. I was a second mom to her when we were kids and she’s probably the first person I sewed for, making clothes for her and her dolls. She is one of the most amazing and positive people I know. With a happy, smiling and witty personality, she wears bright colorful clothes and red shoes well. Janet has dedicated her work life to teaching 5th and 6th grade kids from the inner city regions of northern Indiana, a tough neighborhood. She’s one of those many teachers you hear about, bringing joy, love and hope to the classroom. She is taking this setback with the same approach she has always taken with life. Keep your head up, stay focused and positive, and move forward (with your happy face and brilliant clothing). She told me about being really cold through the chemo, and that she wore her red shoes to every session. I live in Colorado and Janet lives in Kentucky, separating us by over a 1,000 miles. It’s been really hard for me to be so far away. I know she’s dealing with a lot physically, but the mental anguish of cancer must be worse. I want to join the family to help her through this, to be there for her, to give comfort in any way I can.
I was assigned to make a color option for a Brenda Plaster pattern which will be in the McCall’s Quilting January/February 2017 issue. I selected Bouffants & Broken Hearts, a collection from Robert Kaufman, for the project. A couple days after finishing the project I walked by the table with the extra fabric and looked at it thinking, “This fabric is so not me. What will I ever do with the rest of it?” The light bulb came on, I thought of Janet and a quilt for her. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. Quilters have given comfort through their quilt-giving for generations. I started planning right then to make the perfect Janet quilt. I was ready to cut out the patches when I got home from work on Friday, and I sewed through the weekend. I began the project wanting to give her something of comfort from me because I want her to always know I’m there with her. It’s ended up that Janet’s quilt has actually given me more than any other quilt I’ve ever made.
The pieces stitched into this quilt go way beyond the fabric. I had help from other quilters. I enlarged a heart block from Paula Stoddard’s Little Bitty Love pattern published in Quiltmaker Row Quilts, Summer 2016. I also used parts of her block pattern that you’ll see in the upcoming issue of Quiltmaker, November/December 2016, although I placed the blocks randomly in my quilt. (Paula’s the Managing Editor, and my manager at work.) I used Denise Stark’s Shoe Boxes pattern that I found in volume #2 of Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks, Winter 2010. (Denise is our Art Director.)
The story doesn’t end here. I showed the gals at work Janet’s quilt top when I finished it and told them I had plans to take it to someone for the quilting (I wanted to get the quilt to Janet before her next chemo session and I’m a pre-beginner machine quilter; it would take forever for me to finish with my hand quilting.) Then, Paula spoke up and volunteered to quilt it for me in the studio at work. I met Paula for the first time seven months ago. I was so touched, and speechless, from her offer.
While Paula quilted the center of the top on the Handi Quilter Avanté and the border on the HQ Sweet Sixteen I received a quilting lesson, and all the women I work with (also quilters) checked in to see the progress and chat as she quilted. It felt almost like an old-time quilting bee, a sisterhood at work. In a short time we shared stories about family, quilting and the wonder of machines. I was able to air my worry about Janet and my purpose for the quilt, which was very therapeutic for me. And, I only met these women a very short time ago; I feel so blessed to have so much caring around me. That’s a quilter for you.
This is just my story. There are so many similar ones out there, with a quilt wrapped in love and hope, from its conception through it’s giving. Its making ended up as a healing experience for me, troubled because my sister is seriously ill. It’s also about an amazing community–quilters. I can only hope to have the opportunity to give as much as I have received in the future. I’ll treasure this memory always.
This is my lovely sister Janet with her Wishful Healing Hearts Quilt…