A Quilt Touches a Life…and a few more!

Today’s post is about a scrappy happy ending!  Meet Debbie Turner of Dennison, Texas and staff member at Tanglewood Resort.

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In my previous blogs, I mentioned stash reduction and scrap-busting is my resolution for 2014.  I recently returned from an annual quilting retreat held at Tanglewood Resort on Lake Texhoma. This retreat and location will always hold fond memories for me.  This year was especially joyful.

A little of the back story…in August, 2012, my sister-in-law bought a home here in Norman. The previous owner, who had some sort of sewing hobby, left many things behind and as summer became fall, my SIL sorted through it and gave away much.  She asked her brother, my dear hubster, if I might want a couple of large tubs of fabric and he said “sure” and brought it home. A lot of it was clothing and drapery type fabric (which I donated to The Salvation Army store near us), but there was good cotton fabric as well.  I sorted through it (admittedly not getting too jazzed as I already had PLENTY of my own!), but I made a small dent in the stash as I selected some nice fabrics to keep, sold some of it on eBay and left the rest in the tub. Now, what to do with it? I knew a retreat was coming up in a few months and at that retreat the year before I had brought stuff to give a way so that would be a sure way to gift-away most of it.

February, 2013, I carted the tub from Oklahoma to Texas for the retreat and the ladies happily dug through it and by the end of the three-day retreat, most of it had found a new home! Little did I know, Olivia Bussey, a “rescuer of sad and lost things” had found some hidden gems in the tub and her angel wings took those scraps to her friend Joyce Cofer “the one who figures out how to make it all fit.”  They had already had a discussion that a long-time and fondly loved staff member of the resort, Debbie Turner, was looking a bit sad and weary this year.  They had decided to make a quilt for her since she was always so glad to see the quilt group every year, always took great care of us at meal times and showed a fondness for the quilts the group made.  They both had busy schedules so they had given themselves a goal over the next year to make her a quilt, when the “rescuer” found some already pieced blocks in that tub of scrap fabrics I had brought. She took the poorly made blocks to her friend, the “math whiz” to figure a way to salvage the blocks and use them to make the top of the quilt. They both went back and forth through the scraps to piece together this top and worked over the next couple of weeks after the retreat to assemble it.  They then called upon another quilter from the retreat, Jane Coleman, (an even busier airline pilot with a long-arm quilting machine!) they hoped would quilt this for them at no cost.  Jane was happy to do it even though she initially thought it was pretty bumpy and a bit wonky.  She loaded it on her quilting frame and in her words, “magic happened on that top” and “it quilted out beautifully”.  She was able to quilt it before the threesome would be together again at a different quilt retreat the next weekend. Jane sewed the binding on the quilt at the second retreat, they signed and dated the quilt and made ready to deliver it to Tanglewood a few days later.

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Jane quilted Debbie’s name into the quilt…sorry you have to read it backwards…I took the photo from the back so it could be seen better.

The women arrived at Tanglewood and asked the dining room staff to see Debbie. She was working in the kitchen and was summoned.  The women described her reaction to seeing them with a moment of dread (was this regarding a complaint from a guest?) to a look of puzzlement (these ladies had a retreat long since passed) that changed to a look of wonder when they presented her a gift bag.  Her eyes wide with excitement, she pulled the quilt from the bag and the tears of joy and relief began to fall. She said she had never been given such a special gift…but these ladies had cared and had noticed her look of sadness and felt compelled to give her a handmade quilt to cover her in love whenever she felt weary and lonely. Everyone involved felt a divine hand had been gently pushing them to this finish.  From start to finish – coming up with the design to sewing on the binding – making a quilt with perfect fabrics in less than a month is a pretty amazing timeline and they had done it with very much less than perfect materials.

Upon hearing the story of the quilt for Debbie, I could not wait for the retreat in February, 2014 to see Debbie again and hear directly from her about her gift.  We arrived on Wednesday to find she would not be working until Friday.  I so wanted to ask about her scrap quilt and hoped she could bring it to show the group as well.  She was there on Friday, just as expected and we all hugged her and could sense a happiness in her that had been missing from the previous year. She gladly told of her quilt, fighting back a few tears and promised to bring it on Saturday before we had to leave. It was plain to see the comfort and joy this quilt had given her over the last year.

On Saturday, a very busy day in the restaurant of the resort with brunch and other guests arriving, Debbie showed me her quilt and I asked if I could tell the story and take some pictures for this blog. I told her this story would fit perfectly with my theme of using up scraps this year. She said yes, and later I found out, she was just as excited to be asked to be “on the Internet” – no one had ever asked her that! Her boss graciously gave her a few minutes to let us take a few photos and a few more tears welled up before she had to return to the other guests and we had to begin packing up to leave.

As I write this, tears threatened to reappear and with a big silly grin on my face, I am once again reminded of the simple act of doing something for someone else with no expectation of anything in return.  This quilt, with its humble beginnings by an unknown maker of poorly made quilt blocks with old, ugly fabrics that came into my possession, my decision to let go of those fabrics because I had no readily apparent use for them, the gift of the fellow quilters to see the potential of the pieces and assemble them with giving hearts and present it to a woman with an equally serving heart that seemed to sad, is a testament to the healing powers of a quilt made with love.  This quilt made with scraps of fabrics helped to wrap a woman, who may have been feeling she was barely holding the scraps of her life together, in the warmth of people who cared that she was doing so.

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Top L-R: Olivia Bussey, Jane Coleman, Joyce Cofer and me with Debbie Turner wrapped up in her quilt.

With this story, I hope you can see the magic that can come from a tub of scraps and that even if you don’t make anything from those bits and pieces, please  let them go to someone else who might see them in a much different light.  Those scraps don’t give anyone comfort and warmth while they remain hidden away in a box or tub in the back of a closet.  Use them up or give them away…make a quilt and gift it to someone…happy endings are very much needed every day!

“When life gives you scraps, make a quilt!”

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