Celebrating a life through quilting

One never knows when inspiration is going to strike. And one never knows what will spark that inspiration.  Today’s unexpected spark was a exhibition of quilts by Solveig Wells.  This was a special display of quilts; it was organized by her family as a celebration of the life of their wife and mother – and quilter par excellence, who sadly passed away in March of this year.  Her husband Dave Wells and his family have my heartfelt sympathy for their loss and also profound thanks for sharing Solveig’s wonderful talent with the public.

I knew that Solveig Wells was a talented sewer, and I sort of knew that she was a quilter.  I even knew she was artistic.  But I wasn’t prepared for her remarkable use of colour, shapes, and also rhythm.  The Wells family has assembled many of the 100 quilts she completed, which have been beautifully hung on the two-story-high walls of a bright local auditorium.  Utterly captivating.  The samples I include below don’t really do them justice, especially since you can’t see the details of the fabrics or the designs of the machine quilting that adds an additional layer of inventiveness, but I hope they at least provide some feeling for the legacy Solveig has left.  If you enjoy these, I encourage you to check out the online gallery created by her family, at http://www.solveigsquilts.com.

Gillepsie - 1978

Gillepsie – 1978


Grandmother's Fan 1 - 1991

Grandmother’s Fan 1 – 1991

Landscape - 2011

Landscape – 2011

In a New York Year or Three - 2012

In a New York Year or Three – 2012

Gecko Gathering - 2012

Gecko Gathering – 2012


Jewel Box 3 - 2013

Jewel Box 3 – 2013


For the past 15 years, Dave Wells has spent 6 months teaching at the University of Southern Missipssippi, in Marine Sciences, and 6 months back here at the University of New Brunswick (I know, he officially retired from UNB 15 years ago, but that’s a professor for you!).  His wife, Solveig, belonged to quilting guilds in both places, and was especially active in Mississippi.  After Hurricane Katrina hit their area with such horrific results, she was inspired to create 55 quilts using a significant amount of recovered storm-damaged fabric.  An amazing concept with more wonderful results, these quilts are known as the Katrina Recovery Quilts.  This collection can be viewed at http://www.katrinarecoveryquilts.org/.

While talking to Dave at the exhibition I learned that the family is donating a large portion of Solveig’s vast collection of fabric to an organization I hadn’t heard of before.  I thought I’d pass along this finding for any of you out there who love quilting and have run out of family and friends who want another quilt.  This organization, called Victoria’s Quilts, operates in the U.S. and Canada.  Victoria’s Quilts was started by a quilter named Victoria who, as a cancer patient, found that she was always cold when she was getting her chemo treatments.  Her own efforts to provide quilts to cancer centers for their patients during chemo treatments mushroomed into nation-wide efforts.  If you are interested in getting involved, more information is available at Victoria’s Quilts Canada and Victoria’s Quilts USA.

Many of us are attracted to quilting because it ties us to the past.  We cherish the history it represents, even if that may be a bit misguided (I’m sure that most pioneer women were only too glad to be able to just buy a blanket when that innovation finally hit their neck of the woods).  We are also attracted by the several creative aspects of deciding on the design and colour combinations for each new project.  And quilting provides its adherents with the challenge of honing our sewing skills.  But there aren’t many who push the art form to the creative edge, as Solveig Wells has done so well.  She leaves such beautiful, expressive work.  Feel free to share it with other quilters.

Photo credits: www.solveigsquilts.com

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21 Responses to Celebrating a life through quilting

  1. jane tims says:

    Hi Jane. Beautiful quilts. I love the Grandmother’s Fan and her interpretation of the various patterns. Quilts are a very evocative art-form. I followed the making of a Flower Garden quilt during WW II in my Aunt’s diaries – most interesting when a community or an individual creates such a legacy! Jane

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Yes, quilts are special that way in that they speak for us so intimately. They can present as art or as attractive comfort, but either way they seem to remind us of continuity through community and history, even when that message isn’t really accurate. You’re right, they are evocative. Thank you for evoking that thought!

  2. dweinberg415 says:

    Beautiful, great, and inspiring. I needed this today! Thank you.

  3. Unfortunately, yesterday I was reading this with the ‘phone and, while it’s great for reading posts I hate using it to comment. Those onscreen keys are just such small targets for my clumsy old fingers.
    Your post brought me back to the mats in Red Island my ancestral home. Back there all the mats were hooked and essentially everything was done by hand.
    Except for the jute, of course. I came from wherever it could be found. Sacks mostly.
    We had our own sheep and my grandmother made her own wool. She also dyed it.
    The mats were everywhere and were quite beautiful. Some resembled your “Jewel Box” but the colours were always darker.
    Thankfully we had enough sense to take some of them along with us when we resettled to the mainland in the mid sixties. I still have a few of them safely stored away in my house in Southern Harbour…which, itself, has been dormant for the past ten years. Maybe with retirement…

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Wow. Your early years sound like a “real” version of a nearby historic village we visited recently, called King’s Landing. Our grandchildren were visiting and during a stop in one of the houses the “lady of the house” had them doing rug hooking from old scraps. I hope you plan on writing about Red Island in your “new life”, which, if I recall correctly is coming up soon.

  4. Francine says:

    What an incredible work of artistry and creativity! I just loved it. I send the link to Troy’s mom. Thanks for sharing Jane.

  5. alesiablogs says:

    My father’s mother enjoyed quilting. In fact I have a framed piece of her work that I cherish. Every time I look at it, I am reminded of a kinder and gentler time that was my grandparents’ legacy to me. Thank you for sharing. Alesia

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks for your comments, Alesia. This is a good example of the ties quilts provide to our past. But I bet you can find many quilt shows in your area. There are kinder, gentler times to be found in many corners when we go looking, especially in quilting groups!

  6. Hitting ‘like’ for now. Need to think–pictures are too powerful 🙂 Quilting is a part of my family heritage too.
    Comment tomorrow evening.

  7. DM says:

    I don’t quilt (yet) but am deeply drawn to them for multiple reasons. thanks for taking the time to post. Good to hear from you. DM

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks for commenting, DM. I’m looking forward to seeing a picture of your first quilt project posted!

      • DM says:

        actually, I have made a quilt 🙂 A barn quilt. and not your run of the mill typical geometric designed one either. it is a 6 ft by 6 ft quilt with outline of the state of Iowa in the center surrounded by several native wild flowers..all hand painted and pretty realistic I might add.. does that count?

        • Jane Fritz says:

          That counts in spades! I first learned of barn quilts from another blogger who runs a family farm in the hills of Virginia. I wish I’d known about barn quilts when we had barns, many years ago. Your design sounds terrific, DM.

  8. Heyjude says:

    Stunning quilts as you say ‘pushing the art form to a creative edge’. I particularly like Grandmother’s Fan and the New York one, but they are ALL extraordinarily beautiful. I did a little quilting a long time ago when I lived in South Africa and we had no TV. Nothing like these of course, but I understand the creativity of choosing the fabrics and designing the pattern. Makes me want to start up again!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Hi Jude. It’s interesting how many people have a little quilting in their background. These amazing quilts are definitely in a category of their own. But the medium is terrific for allowing us to get some satisfying results from more modest creative efforts. I took it up more recently after trying it briefly in my 20s. It’s really fun to see a project take shape!

  9. jennypellett says:

    These are BEAUTIFUL! A real and unusual art form, I love them, especially Landscape 2011. And what a wonderful thing to be a part of, creating these quilts for chemo patients. I’m sending this link to a couple of quilters here in the UK who I know will be interested. Thanks for sharing, Jane.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I’m glad you like them as well, Jenny. Landscape is my favourite, too; I could have stood in front of it all day. It’s great news that you will pass along the concept of Victoria’s Quilts to UK quilters. That concept definitely appealed to me.

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