Monday, February 8, 2010

Alzheimer's Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope

Last week I cleared away the dregs of projects and layered my next one for quilting. I volunteered to quilt one of the many quilts made up of strips of purple fabrics with names of those with Alzheimer's disease.

These quilts will all hang as part of the next traveling exhibit entitled "Alzheimer's Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope." You can read about this at and see the style of these quilts. Perhaps you signed a strip of fabric on the reverse, faded side, in honor or memory of someone, and perhaps it is in the quilt I received.

As I unfolded the quilt top, long and narrow, about as long as I am tall, the impact of the long string of names, all in different handwriting, struck me so hard. Lovely names, strong names, whimsical fun names, but all with the common thread of Alzheimer's. Behind each name I knew the terrible story, the suffering from this disease each person had.

Somewhere in one of these quilts out there to be quilted is my mother's name, Erma Hinterberg, that my sister signed when she attended the MN quilt show in Duluth last year. When the exhibit is finished and on tour I will look for it.

Some of the names were bold and strong, some one name only, some mentioned a relationship like Mom or sister. Seeing these names hit me so hard I knew I could not proceed that day, it was just too emotional, and I had to step away until the names became familiar friends.

I layered that quilt, did some stitch in the ditch between each signature rectangle, and then decided rather than an allover quilting design I would treat each name as its own little quilt, and try to do a motif on each to honor each name, and to reflect what I was imagining that person might like.

Melvin and Milton have strong straight lines of quilting. Viola is on a solid lilac fabric, first name only, and she has a pretty feathered vine. Louise, Lu Hamilton - Grandmother, and Bunny. Clamshells and bubbles, Diane-shiko or simple wavy lines, I varied the motifs, and loved seeing the names become little quilts before my eyes.

Below, three of the rectangles I signed and sewed on to the long strip of names, one for my husband's Aunt Rita, one for my uncle Milt Woolson, and one for a friend's mother.

I used silk thread rather than a heavier one which probably would have worked better on these fabrics, but I didn't want to obscure the names. The quilting takes back seat to the names.

I now will ship this to yet another volunteer for another volunteer to bind, sew on the label and sleeve, and add it to the growing number of quilts exactly like mine that will comprise the exhibit. They will all be quilted by different people, in different threads and styles. I feel like these names are now "my people." I have spent hours with them. I know they will be seen by many over the four years of travel they will have. I hope they raise awareness and funds for research to treat and eventually cure or prevent this disease.

Please visit Ami Simms' site, to read what is going on and for more information.

After the next snowstorm I will gently fold and pack this quilt up with the label for it, with my own signature as the quilter. It will be part of history now, and I hope it can help enlighten the world.

Keep quilting, you never know when your skills may be needed.


Robbie said...

Diane, I too quilted one of the panels and it truely is emotional...just knowing a 'name' is associated with this devastating disease. It's a small part we can do but better than doing nothing.

Barb said...

You are doing a wonderful thing!!

Diane Gaudynski said...

Thanks, and Robbie, so glad to hear you did one too and felt that way. I wasn't prepared for the shock of seeing the names. This will be a powerful exhibit.

SewCalGal said...

Thanks for making a difference and increasing awareness.


Babette said...

This is such a good cause, a terrible disease. My grandmother and my grandfather had it a little bit. But the most terrible part for them is the periode they recognise they have the disease. Further the familys who have to be strong, while their beloved is getting worse....

♥Duff said...

I love the way you took the time to make each name an individual mini-quilt. Thank you for posting your work on this blog for us to see!

dungeonquilter said...

You brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for posting. I love how you did each name separately. Truly a work of love.