Both artistic and utilitarian, a quilt is a thing of beauty and a thing of necessity. Like a handcrafted salad bowl or a homemade mug, a quilt offers form and function in a single product.
Although most of us probably sleep under machine-made quilts from some large retailer, some are lucky enough to sleep snuggled up in a homemade quilt, either handed down through generations or custom-stitched by a friend or family member. Four recent Liberty Bell High School graduates can now count themselves among that lucky latter group.
Tyler Darwood, Dusty Patterson, Bodie Paul and Cody Wottlin will make up the beds in the next chapters of their lives with quilts celebrating their treasured activities: football for Tyler, baseball for Dusty, and cowboys for both Bodie and Cody.
How’d these guys get so fortunate? Well, they benefitted from the pandemic.
In the same way that many people took up binge-watching “Grey’s Anatomy” or experiencing the life-changing magic of tidying up their closets during the pandemic, Liberty Bell High School junior Jadyn Mitchell took up quilting, mentored by her grandmother, Marva Mountjoy, who has been quilting for nearly half a century.
“When Jadyn got ready to register for school last fall, she needed an art credit,” Marva explains. “She asked the school if she could learn to quilt and get an art credit for that, and the school said yes, as long as she documented her learning.”
Jadyn’s first quilting project under her Grammy’s tutelage was intended to be a king-size quilt. “We put up the squares on the design wall,” Marva says, “and Jadyn — well, she’s good at math, and she could immediately see that it was going to be 257 squares, each one comprised of four triangles. So she quickly cut that plan down to a queen-size quilt.”
Once she finished her first quilt, Jadyn was fabric shopping with Marva and saw some baseball-printed fabric that she liked. “Who would you make a quilt for out of that fabric?” Marva asked her. Jadyn thought for a moment then said, “Well, Dusty likes baseball.” A few weeks later, Dusty’s baseball quilt was complete.
After that, Jadyn was off and running. Quilts for Tyler, Cody and Bodie followed, as well as a king-size “walkabout” quilt for her mom for Mother’s Day and a “City Lights” quilt for her friend Hailey Dammann. All told, Jadyn has made seven quilts in the past nine months. She surprised the four graduating boys with their quilts at their graduation party last Saturday.
“She did every part of the quilts, from start to finish,” Marva says. “She learned how to read directions, follow patterns, use all the tools and the sewing machine, sew every part of the quilt blocks, and do the actual quilting on the long arm quilting machine.” She even learned to use Marva’s treadle sewing machine. Jadyn also kept receipts and tracked expenses, and now has a greater understanding of a quilt’s cost — especially a handmade one.
Marva says that she and her husband, Jim, have been so lucky to spend time with Jadyn and her younger brother, rising sophomore Kyler Mitchell, during the pandemic as part of their schooling. “It’s been a silver lining of COVID,” Marva says. “Having those kids here and working on sewing, cooking and woodworking with them. It has been a very special time, doing these projects together.”