How a Franciscan Quilts Beauty for Others

Paul Keggington

October 27, 2010

Feeling like she has quilted all her life, Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Carol Juckem shares about her eight year hobby that includes making quilts for family and the Linus Project. 

Quilting is a fun talent to share.  Though I feel like I have been quilting all my life, it actually has only been about eight years.It all began when someone dropped off stacks of material at our convent in Two Rivers, WI .  They explained that their mother had died, and she was a quilter.  She had collected so much material that they didn’t know what to do with it.

Franciscan Sister Carol Juckem quilts for others

Franciscan Sister Carol Juckem enjoys quilting for family and Project Linus.

Being Franciscans we gladly accepted their donation and shared it with anyone who could use it.  I took some of the pieces and decided to try making a small quilt.  I had seen others make quilts and had tied of a few of them myself, but I had never done any piecing or stitching of designs on a quilt.

Since I love doing research, I took out shelves (well, almost) of quilting books and began reading.  Totally overwhelmed, I decided to keep it simple.  Since I knew how to sew, I cut 4” squares of material and sewed them together into rows.  Not wanting to tackle too much at once, I found some quilted material among the stacks and used it for both the batting and the back.  I was so delighted with my 200 block quilt that I hand-quilted (my version of hand-quilting) little butterflies and big flowers throughout the quilt. That did it!  I decided that making quilts was definitely my favorite hobby.  I still have that first quilt.  It keeps me warm and reminds me that humble beginnings do grow and eventually blossom.

Since then I have made a quilt for each member of my family (I’m the oldest of eight). The quilts range from a small lap quilts to king-size bed ones. I also began taking part in a summer group for our Sisters that made quilts for the Linus Project, quilts for children in the hospital. Some of my Franciscan family, as well as my friends, have also gotten quilts made by me. Even though many of those receiving a quilt purchased the materials, others received free quilts in which  I used left over scraps of material and batting.

Each quilt is really a gift from my heart and hands.  I can not make a quilt without putting at least a part of myself into it.  I especially like to create my own design to fit the person’s interests and color preferences.  My one sister really loves lighthouses and the Bible.  I made a huge lighthouse in the middle of that quilt (3 feet high) with two little lighthouses on each corner of the bottom. I also used the Bible quotation on her quilt from Psalm 27- “The Lord is my Light…”

What does quilting mean to me? First of all, I love to create beauty.  Whether it is writing songs, planting flowers or quilting, beauty always delights my heart. (Guess that’s part of my Franciscan spirit – I enjoy God’s many gifts of beauty in nature, people and Jesus, God’s beautiful gift of love.)

Color and designs especially intrigue me.  Each quilt is like a puzzle that I put together.  Unlike a jigsaw puzzle, this creation can be changed and formed as challenges arise in the making of it.  Mistakes are more often woven into the design than taken out.  The most wonderful part is to be surprised by the outcome of a finished quilt.  Wow!  I find that most of the time it looks better than I had anticipated.

I guess a quilt is like life in miniature.  God uses our gifts and talents, as well as our short comings to build His Kingdom on earth.  Really! Some days I feel like I’m all blunders. Then God let’s me see a glimpse of the beauty He is creating in spite of my mistakes. Wow! It gives me the strength to keep on keeping on.

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Are there any fellow quilters out there who thrive on creating beauty too? I’d love to hear from you.  May your life be filled with the grace to use dark and light happenings, the knots and the stitches, to come closer to the Creator who is Beauty Himself. God bless you!

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