One of the most compelling Q.S.O.S. sub-projects is the ‘Alzheimer’s : Forgetting Piece by Piece QSOS‘. It’s comprised of interviews with quiltmakers featured in the touring quilt exhibit of the same name, curated by Ami Simms. This week and next weeks’s Q.S.O.S. Spotlight will feature two quiltmakers whose mothers were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and the quilts they created to help celebrate, memorialize, mourn and support those affected by the disease.

Gay Ousley’s quilt, ‘She’s Come Undone’ began with verbs:

“My mother had Alzheimer’s disease and at that time we were struggling and sort of at the end of her life, and I began to look back on the things that she had enjoyed. My parents had a wonderful life. They traveled all over the world. They were very active in their community, in their church, they liked to socialize, they had a big network of friends. My mother enjoyed golf and she was in two bridge clubs; all that was taken away when she got Alzheimer’s. I began to think about this, and since she was an English major in college, words were important to her. I decided that I would use words, verbs that would tell the story of what she could no longer do… I cut letters out for these words and fused them down to the background fabric and then I stitched them inside the letters so the edges would fray as the trip went on its journey, because this Alzheimer’s just frays everybody and everything that it comes into contact with.”

Linda Cooper’s quilt combines a tribute to her mother and grandmother’s love of gardening with the biological science of Alzheimer’s:

“My quilt is rather understated, it is a little subtle, it doesn’t hit you in the face like some of the other quilts do with the horror of the disease. Both my grandmother and my mother were wonderful gardeners and they took great pleasure in getting outside the house and doing something and making something grow. They lived in Ohio and they enjoyed it when the weather finally got good and they could go out and make things grow so I used the daylily. I used a technique that I learned from Phil Beaver. He is from Indiana and he does fabric painting. I used that for the background and I put daylilies on it. I appliquéd first around the daylilies with variegated thread so they didn’t look too abrupt and the edges are raw and some of the stems were a little wacky and they sort of look like the flowers would have grown outside. The background of the painting has some bright spots and some dim spots. The flower inside, it is more of the memory of my mother and grandmother, and in the border I used–I’m a biologist. I trained at Purdue as a neurophysiologist and so I used the brain plaques, the amyloid plaques that they see in Alzheimer’s and I beaded the nerve cells and once in a while there would be a normal nerve cell and then I would stitch in a sort of convoluted one and put some  beads in there, so that is the biological tie of the disease.”

You can read more quilt stories, including more stories from the ‘Alzheimer’s: Forgetting Piece by Piece QSOS‘ sub-project on the Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories page on the Quilt Alliance website.


Posted by Emma Parker
Project Manager,  Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories