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Column #77

Quilting with AMD

Pat Cooper poses with her prize-winning quilt. Photo by Sue Kersey
Pat Cooper poses with her prize-winning quilt. Photo by Sue Kersey

Pat Cooper's Broken Star at the Burnet County Fair. Photo by Sue Kersey
Pat Cooper's Broken Star at the Burnet County Fair. Photo by Sue Kersey

When Pat Cooper of Briggs, Texas (a tiny community in Central Texas) took home a blue ribbon at the Burnet County Fair for her hand-pieced and hand-quilted king-sized Broken Star quilt, everyone who saw the quilt was impressed with its beauty.

Had fairgoers known that Pat Cooper is legally blind, they would have been impressed even more. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in both eyes has robbed the 78-year-old East Texas native of much of her vision.

According to Wikipedia, “AMD is a medical condition that usually affects older adults and results in a loss of vision in the center of the visual field (the macula) because of damage to the retina. It is a major cause of blindness and visual impairment in older adults. Macular degeneration can make it difficult or impossible to read or recognize faces, although enough peripheral vision remains to allow other activities of daily life.”

Pat had known that something was going wrong with her sight for some time. Then one night about six years ago, she was watching the evening news and suddenly realized that “the newscaster was wearing two pairs of glasses and his face looked blurry. I knew that wasn’t right!” she said. Eye doctors confirmed her fear and let her know that the situation would not improve—in fact, they told her it would get worse.

“When I found out my sight was going, I thought to myself, ‘Oh my gosh! What am I going to do with all those unfinished projects?’” she laughes. “I knew I had to get busy while I could still see a little bit or I’d never get them all done.”

Pat had started the Broken Star before she lost her vision, but she had set it aside to work on other things, a situation familiar to most quilters. With the encouragement of friends and family, she took up work again on the quilt, making use of the ever-diminishing sight available to her.

“My living room looks like one big visual aid. There are all sorts of lights and magnifying glasses everywhere,” Pat explains, in answer to the question as to how she was able to work on the quilt. “And of course my workmanship is not what it used to be. My stitches aren’t even anymore—some are long and some are short.”

Pat’s stitches were certainly even enough for the judges at the Fair. The blue ribbon was awarded solely on the basis of merit.

No stranger to recognition for her handwork skills, in earlier years Pat won awards at the statewide level when she and her family lived in Louisiana before retiring to Texas. She grew up crocheting and embroidering, but she didn’t start quilting until she was married and she decided to make quilts for her children. She fell in love with the artform. “I just dove into it!” she says.

It would be understandable, based on her physical disability, if Pat had decided to give up quilting. That’s not the way she operates, however. “I’m one of those people who likes to be doing something,” she said. “I believe that you just have to make the best of what life throws at you.”

Her first-place ribbon is proof that Pat Cooper is doing just that!


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Archived blogs:

Column 149: Rosie’s Redwork
Column 148: The Quilt of Belonging
Column 147: Kanthas—The Quilts of Bangladesh
Column 146: Patterns
Column 145: Suzy on Carolyn Mazloomi's Groundbreaking Quilt Exhibit
Column 144: Texas Community Marks Juneteenth Sesquicentennial with History Quilts
Column 143: Maya Embroidered Patchwork
Column 142: Huipil Patchwork Quilts
Column 141: Tom Korn’s Military Medal Quilts
Column 140: The Return of Double Knits!
Column 139: Passage Quilts
Column 138: Home of the Brave Quilts
Column 137: The Story of Fabric Yo-Yos
Column 136: Christmas in July
Column 135: Trifles
Column 134: Deaf Initiatives—Communicating Through Quilts
Column 133: My Betty Boop Quilt
Column 132: Maura Grace Ambrose
Column 131: All You Need Is Love
Column 130: Chicken Linens
Column 129: The Quilted Chuppah
Column 128: Patchwork Around the World: Yoruba Dance Costumes
Column 127: The Bowers Co-Op Quilts
Column 126: Fon Appliqué and Haitian Voodoo Flags
Column 125: The Quilt Garden at The North Carolina Arboretum
Column 124: Harriet Powers and Handful’s Mauma
Column 123: Quilters de Mexico
Column 122: An Appliquéd Surprise
Column 121: Matisse’s Fabric Stash
Column 120: Soogan—The Cowboy’s Quilt
Column 119: The Ron Swanson Quilt
Column 118: HClarkdale, Georgia—A Thread of History
Column 117: How WWI Changed the Color of Quilts in the United States
Column 116: Wagga—The Bushman’s Quilt
Column 115: All in the Family
Column 114: The Alabama State Quilt
Column 113: Balloon Quilts of Albuquerque
Column 112: The Family That Quilts Together, Stays Together
Column 111: Two Rivers, Three Sisters
Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
Column 109: Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery

See other archived columns here

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