Sunshine Beyond…Remembering Judy

June 11, 2012 at 11:21 am 4 comments

Beyond Beginners pieced by Judy Lawlor, quilted by Kim Graham: twin sized.

When we moved to Nanaimo, a chance post on RCTQ [the newsgroup rec.crafts.textiles.quilting] brought a great group of quilters into my life. For the last decade, most Tuesday afternoons found us gathered in someone’s sewing room to share ideas, laughs and bits of our fabric stashes. Two of our small group were “product oriented”: Dot and Ann focused on finishing projects, most often as gifts for family and friends. The other pair of us, Judy and I were “process oriented” – we loved the interplay of colour and pattern, had a dozen [or more] quilts in the works at any given time, and constantly flitted from one idea to another, inspired by a beautiful piece of fabric or an intriguing new technique.

Road trips quickly revealed this dichotomy: Ann and Dot usually had a specific project in mind – Ann wanted something to match a fabric she’s bought on-line; Dot was uncertain about her choices and looked to the group for help pulling fabrics. Judy and I would head straight to the sale bin in search of the elusive unusual print or striking tone-on-tone. Most often we both reached for an interesting fabric other quilters passed over: “Shall we split it?” Judy said. “I shouldn’t be buying fabric, but…” I would respond, as I reached for my portion. “Oh, buy the bolt,” Judy urged if  I dithered about another find. “You can always use it as a backing.” That’s how I ended up with a stash that’s threatening to oust the china from the cabinet in the dining room.

A retired school teacher, Judy rose at dawn each day and went to her sewing room to work on quilts: her huge collection of scraps and donated fabrics was put to good use in charity quilts destined for Esperanza.  Judy’s own quilts often were set aside in favour of a gift or a charity project: she also donated quilts to be raffled or auctioned for Old English Sheepdog organizations in honour of her beloved show dogs. But, even so, Judy’s distinctive flair for rich colour combinations meant she had some spectacular quilt tops and finished quilts for her own home.

For the past few years, Judy made the trip to the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas. Together with our friend Sandy, she registered in classes with world-class teachers: we knew we’d hear about her adventures and see her latest Works-in-Progess when she returned carrying new books, the latest gadgets and yards of gorgeous fabric. As Judy was leaving for 2011’s show, I was getting ready to go to Hawaii for a couple of weeks. The day before she left, we teased each other about our empty suitcases for treasures we’d bring home: I promised her the gaudiest Hawaiian print I could find.

I never saw Judy again.

While in Houston, Sandy took Judy to hospital where she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Within weeks, after surgery, medivac to Victoria, BC and unsuccessful treatment, Judy died in December, 2011. She left behind her husband Gordie, her beloved sheepdogs, and rooms full of fabric and works-in-progress. She also leaves a large gap in our little quilt group. Who will challenge me to use that oddball fabric I found? Who will tell me “Buy the bolt” now?

Quilting this quilt was a real challenge: Judy rushed to finish the top for me to use as a store sample for the Beyond Beginners class. Her borders didn’t lie totally flat, and a couple of the blocks were a little wonky: my novice longarm skills were really pushed as I did my best to ease in the extra fullness. The uniquely Judy combination of bright colours, a wild print and the interesting uneven stripe help to camouflage my errors. Isn’t that a wonderful metaphor for friendship? We cover over each others flaws to make something beautiful together.

In this particularly dull and rainy spring here on Vancouver Island, it’s a treasured reminder of our friend’s bright personality. I’m trusting she has indeed gone through the Valley of the Shadows and into the forever sunshine.

I miss you, Judy.

God bless


The class handouts including instructions for Beyond Beginners in various sizes ranging from wallhanging to queen is available as a free download here

Entry filed under: Kim's Design Wall, The Word in Patchwork. Tags: , , , , , , , .

Beyond Beginners: free quilt pattern From my mailbox: Tennessee

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sartenada  |  June 11, 2012 at 9:04 pm


  • 2. Dottie N.  |  June 12, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    Beautiful tribute to your friend.

  • 3. Kathy T.  |  June 12, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    What precious memories you have of your good friend. They will soothe your heart.

  • 4. Ann  |  June 12, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    What a wonderful personal story. Thank you for sharing your amazing friendship. I wanted to say your story touched me on many levels. First, in the summer of 1984 I was a 15 year old on a sailboat from Sitka, Alaska to San Francisco when we pulled into Naniamo for a few days of after waiting out a horrible fog bank for several days in an inlet north of you. Secondly, I currently live in Fort Worth, Texas and was unable to make the Houston show last year. Now i wish I would have. Lastly, you are right about friendships… I have many that span the North American west cost from Anchorage to Los Angeles and all points in between from travels, my friends moving around or I moving from place to place. We definitely cover each others flaws to make something beautiful together. Thank you.


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June 2012

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