Baby, it’s cold outside! So, to counteract the chills of winter, I have upon my bed a single gorgeous quilt – Letha Steward, however, has 45. FORTY-FIVE! Mind you, these quilts aren’t all to keep her warm; she’s created each and every one of them to comfort others. Furthermore, 45 is merely the number of adult, queen-sized quilts that she brought for her quilt show and recent sale at Woodson’s American Legion. She’s 87 and has been making them most all of her life – specifically starting in 1949, she says. The quilts she still owns were laid upon a bed in her spare bedroom at her home in Woodson. “I didn’t realize I had as many until I got them out and started un-stacking them,” Steward joked.
Steward started quilting years ago after sharing with her mother that her hips were bothering her, so she asked her mother what she could do. Her mother replied simply, “Quilt a quilt.” So, that is precisely what she did. “She’d done needlework all her life,” says Steward about her mother, “Back in them days, they had quilting parties. They were an all-day event and we cooked a meal together.” Steward also delivered newspapers at one point in her life, so she says that she got into the habit of getting up at 2 or 3 in the morning. She simply continued the routine and would awake to start quilting and work until 8 or 9 at night. “I love to do it. A quilt, if you take care of them – they’ll last a long time,” adds Steward.
Quilting is a therapy for Steward. In warmer weather, she still mows lawns. She noted that it’s a riding mower, but it still impressed me. Although she enjoys being outside, at this time of year – it’s all about some quilting. Despite the sudden cold snap and snowfall that kept many inside that day, Steward sold several of her adult quilts at her December show in Woodson. She makes baby quilts and embroidered jackets, as well. “I’ve made about every kind, with different patterns, colors and bunches of material. I like them all,” notes Steward. After seeing and feeling (one can’t help but to touch them) the lovely variety at her show, she impressed me with her clear talent and fancy of quilting. She had quilts with a range of patterns, including fun names like monkey wrench, drunkard’s path, wind mill, broken star, and log cabin. The theme on her array of quilts varied from John Deere to floral – or green frogs to a red and white quilt with hand-stitched cardinals on either end of ILLINOIS sewn on in large, block letters (one of my favorites).
Steward wants people to know that her quilts are still for sale. She recounted a story that she heard at church the Sunday before. It was the tale of a man that held on to too many things and in the end he realized “he had a walk-in closet plum full of clothes.” Like this man, Steward says, “I’m not getting any younger, so I decided I better start cleaning out.” For any inquiries about purchasing a quilt, please call Letha Steward at (217) 673-5631. Quilts are comfort for me. My Aunt Marcy in New Hampshire is a quilter like Letha Steward and I am in awe of this talent that they each hold and respect their devotion to this craft, so I leave you with a quote; “Anyone who works on a quilt, who devotes her time, energy, creativity, and passion to that art, learns to value the work of her hands. And as any quilter will tell you, a quilter’s quilting friends are some of the dearest, most generous and most supportive people she knows.” – Jennifer Chiaverini, American Quilter and Author.