By Kellie Wachter
About this time last year I was knee deep in Stella Maude. It all began when my friend Anne and I agreed to be the programs co-chairs for our local quilt guild. One of the projects we hit upon was designing a quilt inspired one of our members’ quirky great aunts named Stella Maude. She was a no nonsense git-r–done kind of woman you would expect to come out of depression era Kentucky. We liked that Stella Maude plowed her own fields, painted just the front of her house her favorite shade of turquoise, cut holes in her shoes to accommodate her bunions and that she stuck to her religious convictions even when it cost her a marriage. He divorced her when she gave up playing music and going to dances ‘because ever since she got the religion she weren’t no fun anymore.” In short, she was her own woman and confidently so, the perfect role model for those of us who wanted to look beyond pop culture for our exemplars. So it was decided, we would design a quilt, draft a pattern and offer it up to for sale.
To say we did not know what we did not know is an understatement. Had we even a glimmer of an idea of how in over our heads we were, we would have never started. But with Stella Maude as both our role model and inspiration we charged in headlong. Designing the quilt was the easy part, drafting the patterns and writing clear concise instructions was considerably less so. But page-by-page and block-by-block our labor of love started to come together. We created our own art for the book, figured out a way to incorporate pictures and ephemera of Stella Maude into the design and came up with creative work arounds to get us past the obstacles created by our own ignorance of technology and software. At one point I found myself filing down pieces of kitty kibble so that that they would lay flat in my scanner, anything for our dear Stella Maude.
What Stella Maude gave us in return was to remind us of the ultimate self-sufficiency; that we ourselves are sufficient. A lesson that Anne and I both needed to learn. As stay at home military wives we knew how to cope on our own, but not out there… out in the real world. Armed with Stella’s fearlessness we ventured into uncharted territory, and laid claim to our own little piece of the world. No longer “Just stay at home moms”, we are now quilt designers too!
We did complete the book, self-published as it is, and it is for sale at People, Places and Quilts in Summerville, SC. In the grand scheme of things our little quilt book is inconsequential, but for us personally, the lessons learned from Stella Maude were seismic. They have turned our worlds upside down and reminded us that we are creative, capable, bold, and entirely sufficient. We hope very much that those who see our book and make our quilt come away with some of the same realizations- and to see that the extraordinary is all around us hiding in plain sight disguised as ordinary.