Monday, December 19, 2011

A Lap Quilt for Uncle Bill

My 80-year-old Uncle Bill (Carl Quist) is now confined to a wheelchair, suffering from a Parkinson's-like degenerative disease.  I  always admired his handsome young sailor pics in my baby book. 

Earlier this month he was inducted into the South Dakota Department of Transportation's Hall of Fame.  He spent his entire legal career working for DOT, securing legal title to the land and rights of way for both Interstate 90 and Interstate 29, which span the width and length of the state, and many other legal issues involving bridges and highways .  He was always active in the State Bar of South Dakota, and received a 50-year service award.  He was president of the Sixth Circuit Bar Association for decades. 

He was the first to sail a sailboat on Lake Oahe,  a fiberglass Flying Scot, and he taught me and my cousins to sail.  We learned quickly that "stand by to come about" meant "Duck!!"  Uncle Bill was a great  outdoorsman.  He loved to hunt and fish, and made annual visits to visit my Uncle Bob in Alaska until his health deteriorated to the point where travel was no longer an option. 

He was also the rock we all leaned on in our family.  My father died of a heart attack when I was 14.  Uncle Bill always looked out for my mom.  (The Winnebago Tribe has a word for the role he played – dega.  Roughly translated, it means "the big guy who looks out for me."   A dega can be a big brother, an uncle, a grandfather, a cousin or a neighbor.)  He remembered the birthdays of all his nieces and nephews, and later, his grand-nieces and grand-nephews.  He attended all our graduations, and always sent birthday cards and Christmas cards with generous cash gifts—a tradition that continues to this day.  He had no children of his own, but like Mr. French in the old TV series Family Affair, underneath a gruff exterior was a very kind heart.  He was the family historian and archivist until my cousin Bill (his namesake) took over those duties a few years ago. 

I'm finishing this lap quilt for his Christmas present this year.  The photo above shows  the work in progress before final pressing and basting.  I'm sure he will appreciate the pheasant in the center of the star (South Dakota's state bird).  My cousin Jeannie, a CNA who provides in-home care for him, warned me that he wouldn't want anything too big or too warm. Most of the fabrics are flannel, so I am planning to use a batik or cotton backing fabric and a thin layer of flannel as the batting.  The quilt will measure 45" square, but he is over six feet tall, so there's a lot of leg and lap to cover, even sitting in a wheel chair. 

The design is adapted from the pattern Dawn's Quilt from Beth Garretson's book, No-Sweat Flannel Quilts: Fast and Fun Designs, published by That Patchwork Place in 2004.  The quilt may not arrive by Christmas, but it will arrive within the 12 days of Christmas grace period, before the eleven lords start leaping!

I need to sign off and keep sewing….


LeAnn aka pasqueflower


  1. This is a wonderful post :) Your uncle is going to love this! What a thoughtful gift :)

  2. What a beautiful tribute to your dega. I'm sure he's going to cherish your quilt!

  3. Beautiful, I think it's wonderful that you are honoring him this way :)

  4. I so enjoyed reading about your uncle, sounds like a wonderful person. The lap quilt will be a beautiful and useful gift,

  5. How lucky you are to have such a wonderful uncle, LeAnn! I enjoyed reading his story, and the lap quilt is a lovely and personal gift that he will surely cherish.

  6. What a sweet gift! He will love it I'm sure:)