Volunteer Spotlight: Making a Memory Quilt for Mom

Walk with me down the halls of Living Threads, listen to the murmur of the voices of the women sewing in the Mary and Martha rooms. We won’t be able to hear what they are saying, but our hearts will hear the friendliness in their voices. We’ll hear these ladies are not just sewers—they’re “family”, lifting each other up in both joys and sorrows. Let’s go inside and meet Kathy Kempema, a volunteer sewer who’s going to share part of her story with us.

Kathy showcasing some of the blocks from her mom’s quilt

Imagine being invited to a meeting at the home of a woman that you don’t know very well and who doesn’t want to share what the meeting’s about until you arrive. When you get there, you’re joined by 6 other women and invited to prayerfully consider becoming part of a ministry that God impressed upon this woman’s heart. That’s what happened when Jill, the Director of Living Threads, invited Kathy to her home. Kathy embraced Jill’s calling and became one of the first volunteers at Living Threads.

Kathy met Jill when she started going to Jill’s church. They didn’t really know each other very well before deepening their friendship through Living Threads. Kathy was a quilter and planned to make a quilt in her husband Ken’s memory so she knew exactly what a memory quilt was when Jill shared God’s calling on her life. Wow. It’s amazing how God made His plan come together. Not only was Kathy a perfect fit for Living Threads, but Living Threads was a perfect fit for Kathy, providing “family” to enrich Kathy’s life and give purpose to her days when she retired.

Kathy has made many quilts over the years, but, I think one of the sweetest ones will be the one that she is working on right now. It’s a quilt in memory of her mom, Lucille Mary Kositzky-Johnston.

Kathy’s mom and dad on their wedding day.

Lucille was an accomplished sewer all her life. Kathy particularly remembers a yellow ball gown that she made to attend a military ball with her father. Another memory is of her family going to FAO Schwarz, where her mom saw animal sleeping bags. Lucille came back home, created patterns and made animal sleeping bags for her five children—all on her 1938 Singer Featherweight! Although her mom sewed a lot, her quilting was limited to smaller quilts. She enjoyed making these for her grandkids and the new babies of friends.  Lucille got to see what Living Threads was all about when Kathy was caring for her after a fall. Kathy took her along to help with sewing during a quilt session with Jill and Marge DeYoung, one of our board members. Lucille was immediately welcomed into the Living Threads “family” and especially enjoyed getting to know Jill.

There’s a really cute story behind some of the clothing Kathy is using for her mom’s quilt. As many of us do, she and her mom were going through her clothes to see what would go in the keep pile and what would go in the give away pile. Her mom handed her 2 dresses and said, “Here, you’ll want to keep these”. “Well, why?” Kathy asked. “You’re going to need them for my quilt!” mom said. So, Kathy kept those dresses, and several other pants, blouses, etc. that would make good quilt fabrics.

One of mom’s dresses saved for her quilt

Because of her mom’s affection for Jill and her support of Living Threads, Kathy knew she wanted to make her mom’s quilt as a Living Threads project. Kathy is looking forward to making a donation in her mom’s memory to the children in Kibera just as all the clients do. I’m excited that she is because that means you can see some photos of a memory quilt in process.

Clothing becomes stars! Note how she used the embroidered flowers from mom’s blouse.
In this example you can see how jacket fabric was incorporated into the star.
Another example of strategically using clothing in the quilt block.

Kathy’s been blessing Living Threads with her sewing skills for almost 9 years! When I asked her what keeps her coming back she said: “we all work together for a common purpose, coming to Living Threads brings structure to my day, and the other volunteers”. In other words, family!

Quilt blocks on the design wall. Mom’s clothing turning into a beautiful memory quilt!

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