Monday, February 11, 2013

Remembering Mom--"Glimpses of Alice" vest

Me and Mom, baking cookies! (Christmas 2003)
Last week, amidst all the flurry of activity making Cindy's Comforting Words quilt, the seventh anniversary of my mother's passing came and went. That emotional bubble that hovers just under the surface on days like that, whether I consciously realize it or not, has not yet burst. For me it hangs on through February 19, what will be the 17th anniversary of my brother Robert's passing.
My mom, Alice, and brother, Robert, Christmas 1995
My mom had Lewy Body Dementia with rigid Parkinsonism. I was graced with the opportunity to be her personal caregiver for the last 16 months of her life before she passed on Feb. 7, 2006. While it was very difficult seeing my mother go that way, we had many very special moments together. Following her death, I returned to school and finished my BA in 2010, writing my senior thesis on "The Differential Diagnosis of Dementias: A Focus on Lewy Body Dementia." The following summer, I submitted a proposal to present my research at the national conference of the American Association of Service Coordinators at their annual gathering to be held in Orlando, Florida. It was accepted and in July 2011 I presented "Demystifying Dementia for the Non-Clinician" to a room filled with about 60 of my peers from across the country.

About six months before the conference, I entered a quilting challenge at my local quilt shop, Queen B's in Antioch, CA, that came with instructions to include the two fabrics in the packet with whatever others we wanted into some creative project. I chose the fabrics to go with the challenge fabrics and decided to make log cabin blocks. Included in the challenge packet were the darkest purple used in the log cabins and the lightest orchid fairy frost used for the collar. I put the blocks up on my design board and there they sat for what felt like months! I'm sure it was only weeks since there was a deadline looming for the shop challenge.

Creating the log cabin blocks
Playing with layout options
One night I was actually dreaming about those blocks and a thought flashed into my mind to make something to wear rather than a quilt or wall-hanging. A vision of the layout began to manifest and the next morning I went to work right away. I had been collecting patterns for jackets and vests to use in creating wearable art, but hadn't used any of them at that point. I dug out the kimono-type vest and started laying out pattern pieces to see if the blocks I had made would fit in any useable configuration. Amazingly, they fit together like I had planned it intentionally. As the design evolved, I worked with my embroidery machine on creating a continuous design around the collar. I also found the Laurel Burch hummingbird and hearts fabric I had added to my stash and started fussy cutting hearts to applique into the layout. Finally, I began picking out favorite pictures of Mom, each from different decades that were photo transferred to the centers of the hearts.
Photos of Mom were photo transferred to the centers of each appliqued heart

Ultimately it became a stunning kimono-type vest that incorporated log cabin blocks, machine embroidery, applique, photo transfer, and free motion quilting, and took second place in the Queen B Quilting Challenge of 2011.
Vest front and back, details of collar and inside label & heart
As I prepared to give my lecture, when I put on that vest, I felt like I was being hugged and encouraged from beyond by my mom. "Glimpses of Alice" was displayed at the Delta Quilters Guild Show in October 2011 in California, and has since been entered in the Lyon County (Kansas) Fair where it took first place and the sweepstakes (best of class) for garment construction, and the Kansas State Fair where it took first place in the Wearable Art Quilted Garment class. I pull it out of the closet to wear on special occasions or when I feel the need of a hug from Mom.
Liz speaking at the AASC National Conference, 2011, Orlando, FL


  1. What an amazing story - thank you for sharing! And your quilted vest is beautiful, made even more so by the story of its creation.

    1. Thank you so much! I find the stories behind quilts to be so intriguing and love to share when something special inspires one of my own projects. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. A beautiful and inspiring story ... and a beautuful quilted vest. Thanks for sharing ... Pat