We have another free week! This time, rather than writing about a group or people I’m going to tell you about an individual who’s touched my life. About two years ago, while I was working on a book for the Stitching Post Series (which includes The Calico Heart and The Friendship Star Quilt), a friend sent me a video of a blind quilter in Texas named Diane Rose. I was touched by this video – as a quilter I depend on my sense of sight constantly as I choose the fabric for a project, cut it and piece it together. I couldn’t imagine how this lady managed to create over 900 quilts. How did she do it? Take a moment to watch the video and you’ll see what I mean.
After watching the video, the storyteller in me came up with a plot about one of the quilters in my fictional quilt group suddenly going blind. I wanted to find out how this character would be able to go on quilting, so I contacted Diane through her website. I asked her how she would feel about being a character in a book, and wondered if she would share with me her experience of learning to quilt without being able to see. She responded immediately and asked me to call her. I had several conversations with her, and in the process I discovered that one area she needed help was in reaching other people through social media. I offered to assist her with her with that and over time I discovered a remarkably strong woman whose talents run far beyond her abilities with a thread and needle.
Last summer I finally got the opportunity to meet Diane face to face when a tour director hired her to be the featured speaker on a week-long quilt garden tour through Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. One of the stops was in Shipshewana, Indiana – only a two hour drive from my home in Michigan! I asked if I could join the bus tour for one day and was granted permission to do so. I had a fabulous time not only because of the beautiful gardens we saw, not to mention the fascinating shops we visited, but because I was able to observe first hand how incredible a person Diane truly is. She lives alone, supporting herself by selling her quilts and other hand-sewn gift items and through speaking engagements, sharing messages of encouragement, empowerment, and her unshakable faith. I watched, listened, and took pictures as she spoke confidently to an auditorium full of guests in the Davis Mercantile. She shared her story, and gained more admirers with every word. I was amazed at her attention to detail as she she packed up her tub of gift items, remembering the number of each product and the prices, and knowing to the penny how much money should be in her cash pouch.
In the evening, the tour members gathered in the hotel breakfast room where she gave a demonstration of how she does her machine sewing. Since she had flown up to Wisconsin for the tour she had asked me to bring my sewing machine, and I set it up for her. She showed us some of the tools she uses to adapt a machine so that she is able to thread it herself and sew straight seams, and in no time she created a lovely pillowcase!
In the evening as we prepared for bed, she went to her suitcase and took out her clothing for the next day, never faltering as she set out her dress and coordinating jewelry and accessories. Her cell phone was charged up, her voicemail messages heard and responded to. I wondered if I would be as independent as she is with the same challenges.
In the morning we said our good-byes, but promised we’d see each other again as soon as possible. And only a few months later we had another chance to meet! Some friends of hers in the Detroit area invited her to spend her birthday week with them, and were able to make it happen. I immediately arranged for her to speak at my church. I invited the ladies from my quilt guild and put an ad in the local paper. To my surprise, the word got out and almost fifty ladies came to hear her story! Many brought gifts of fabric and contributed cash, and two ladies from a local fabric store donated fabric and other quilting supplies. There was so much fabric that we packed it up and shipped it to her home.
I know you would love to meet Diane and hear her story. She’s a real people person and is always looking for opportunities to speak. If you know of a speaking opportunity, she’d love to talk to you! You can contact her directly though her website, which she has updated often to show her completed projects as well as her sewing needs. You can also find out more about her and her travels, her adventures, and her needs on her Facebook page. Oh, and if you happen to know of of someone in the Waco, Texas area who has a good used washing machine, hers recently died and she needs one!