Quilted: Laura’s sunflowers
Some of you may recognize this pattern. It is a variation on Bonnie Hunter’s 2015 mystery. It was pieced by Laura Koppenhoefer, a woman I know from church who I’ve spent more than a few Saturdays making baptismal quilts with.
I normally don’t quilt for others, but I made an exception for Laura. She has been bravely fighting a rare form of cancer for years. She has written a book about living with hope throughout her diagnoses and treatment and 100 percent of the proceeds from the book benefit sarcoma research, so that others may have the cure she will not receive. You can check out her book by clicking here.
An allover quilting design was recommended for the original design. But Laura added the black sashing which really set the center block apart, so I suggested doing stitch-in-the-ditch around all the sashing and treating each part of the quilt separately. Laura trusted my recommendation and together we chose a sunflower quilting design for the center of the large blocks. The bright flower has become a kind of symbol of hope for Laura throughout her cancer fight, so it was a very appropriate choice not just for the bright colors in the quilt, but also to symbolize her life as she made it.
This was my first quilt I longarmed for someone else. So naturally I was nervous. I consider myself to be an intermediate longarm quilter, but there are some mistakes that I typically let slide on my own quilts, that I never would if I were doing it for someone else.
To ease the pressure, I decided to use Golden Threads Quilting Paper to create the sunflower design. The paper has the consistency of tissue paper, but is made to tear away easily. I traced the sunflower design out 25 times, once for each block of the quilt. Then I pinned each design to the center of the block and started stitching.
The great thing about Golden Threads Quilting Paper is you don’t actually mark the quilt. That means you don’t have to worry about marks not going away, or going away and then coming back later. And, best of all, if you’re not exactly on the lines, nobody will ever know because you’re going to tear the lines away. That is of course, except for all of you who are seeing how far off the lines I was.
I certainly wasn’t on the lines every time, but to me that is part of the beauty of free motion quilting. If you want a design that is going to be perfect every time, go buy a bed in a bag from a box store. If you want a design that shows artistry, skill and mimics the flowers in nature, which aren’t perfect either, then free motion quilting is the way to go.
While the quilt was on the longarm Laura’s condition worsened and it became clear that this was going to be her final quilt. So I arranged to have women who know and love her to watch my daughter in the evenings so I could finish the quilt as soon as possible. Last Saturday I pulled the quilt off the longarm, spent all night and most of the next morning hiding threads and sewing binding to the front of the quilt by machine, and then I was joined by members of the quilting group at church to stitch the binding down by hand. Together we finished binding a queen sized quilt in less than two hours so Laura could have the quilt she had so been looking forward to receiving.
I heard from our pastor, who presented the quilt to Laura, that she seemed to have saved all her energy that day for the moment the quilt arrived, and that she fell asleep smiling that evening after receiving it.
To me the story of Laura’s quilt is so much more than picking thread and a design. It is a story of a brave woman who has kept a positive outlook throughout a long and difficult battle with cancer, a faith that continues to support her throughout a difficult journey and the many people who love her and did what they could, from watching a toddler to picking up a needle and thread, to bring her comfort. Laura’s quilt is a story of strength, faith and love. Quite a story for a collection of fabric and thread.