A Bounty of Quilts
PHOTO CREDIT TO ALEX LABRY
A quick scan of shelves lining a wall in Cathryn “Cat” Duggan’s home in the small Central Texas community of McDade reveals what appears to be a lifetime supply of Bounty® paper towels.
The visitor might at first wonder whether Cat has more than the usual number of messes to clean up with the “quicker picker upper™” until Cat explains that she uses Bounty sheets to paper-piece strip quilt blocks—thousands of them.
Over the past few years, Cat has made over 3,000 lap quilts for nursing homes, hospitals, Hospice Services, cancer centers, wounded soldiers, veterans, foster kids, and sick children at the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. The story of how Cat became one of Proctor & Gamble’s biggest fans begins with barber shears.
Before she retired, Cat ran a barbershop from her home one day a week, and the rest of time she would travel to area nursing homes to cut hair. Cat was saddened and disturbed when she noticed female residents wearing dresses and sitting in their wheelchairs sometimes with towels covering their legs and sometimes not even that to protect their modesty.
Cat had grown up doing all sorts of needlework, and she decided to use her skills to help those women. She started out crocheting lap robes, but then a visit to her hometown of Olive Branch, Mississippi (a suburb of Memphis, Tennessee) to see her sister changed all that.
Cat’s sister is a member of the Olive Branch Faith Quilt Club, and Cat attended a meeting with her (and later joined the group herself). It was there that Cat met “Ms. Martha”—another member, who introduced Cat to string piecing using Bounty paper towels.
Cat quickly realized that the durable paper towel could serve not only as a foundation for the strip block, but when left attached to the fabric it could also serve as a thin batting for the quilt. The paper is washable and provides a perfect weight for a lap quilt.
After learning the technique, Cat gave up crocheting lap robes and switched exclusively to piecing lap quilts. Relying on donations of thread, fabric (nurses often give her their colorful old scrubs), and even a donated sewing machine—she purchases the Bounty herself— Cat churns out quilt blocks by the pile.
She then sews them together, three blocks across and two blocks down to make the top of the lap quilt. She cuts a back, pins it to the top, tacks the layers together, and binds the whole by bringing the back around to the top and stitching it down.
Each time she reaches 1,000 quilts, she gives that thousandth one to someone who has been instrumental to her effort. For example, the first thousandth quilt went to Ms. Martha at the Olive Branch Faith Quilt Club.
One might well wonder what motivates Cat to spend much of every waking hour, year after year, on this project, for which she receives no compensation—everything she makes is given away.
“A few years back I was in a bad car wreck and I spent 31 days in intensive care. I feel like I was given a second chance and I want to give back. I have always felt like we don’t give our seniors and our vets the respect they deserve, and I want to do something for them,” said Cat.
“Plus,” she adds with a grin and a twinkle in her eye, “it keeps me out of the beer joints!”
If you would like to donate supplies to Cat, you can mail them to her at 134 Bastrop Street, McDade, TX 78650.
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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
Column 92: The Ballerina Quilter
Column 91: Grandmother's Flower Garden Comes Alive at Texas Quilt Museum
Column 90: Leitmotif for a Lifelong Love Affair
Column 89: Quilting in The Bahamas
Column 88: Joan of Arc: A Quilter's Inspiration
Column 87: Home Demonstration Clubs and Quilting
Column 86: Linzi Upton and the Quilted Yurt
Column 85: A Bounty of Quilts
Column 84: Desert Trader
Column 83: Quilts and the Women’s Liberation Movement
Column 82: Replicating the Past: Reproduction Fabrics for Today’s Quilts
Column 81: Why So Many Quilt Shops in Bozeman, Montana?
Column 80: Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum
Column 79: 54 Tons of Quilt
Column 78: Ollie Steele Burden’s Quilt Blocks
Column 77: Quilting with AMD
Column 76: Maverick Quilts and Cowgirls
Column 75: The Modern Quilt Guild—Cyberculture Quilting Ramps Up
Column 74: The Membership Quilt—Czech Quilting in Texas
Column 73: Maximum Security Quilts
Column 72: Author: Terri Thayer
Column 71: The Christmas Quilt
Column 70: New Mexico Centennial Quilt
Column 69: Scrub Quilts
Column 68: “Think Pink” Quilt Raises Funds for Rare Cancer Research
Column 67: Righting Old Wrongs.
Column 66: 100 Years, 100 Quilts - More on the Arizona Centennial.
Column 65: Arizona Centennial Quilt Project
Column 64: Capt. John Files Tom’s Family Tree
Column 63: The Fat Quarters
Column 62: Quilt Fiction Author: Clare O’Donohue
Column 61: Louisiana Bicentennial Quilt
Column 60: The Camo Quilt Project.
Column 59: Thread Wit
Column 58: Ralli Quilts
Column 57: Preschool Quilters
Column 56: The Story Quilt
Column 55: Red and Green Quilts
Column 54: On the Trail
Column 53: Quilt Trail Gathering
Column 52: True Confessions: First Quilt
Column 51: Quilted Pages
Column 50: Doll Quilts
Column 49: More Than a Quilt Shop
Column 48: Las Colchas of the Texas-Mexico Border
Column 47: Literary Gifts
Column 46: A Different Way of Seeing
Column 45: Sampling
Column 44: Hen and Chicks
Column 43: A Star Studied Event
Column 42: Shoo Fly Pattern
Column 41: Awareness Quilts
Column 40: Tivaevae
Column 39: UnOILed UnspOILed Coast Quilt Project
Column 38: Katrina Recovery Quilts
Column 37: Quilted Vermont
Column 36: The Labyrinth Quilt—A Meditative Endeavor
See other archived columns here