Quilting is more than a stitch in time for Edith Lessie. It’s a bond that ties her to generations of her family.
At age 95, Lessie is dedicated to turning her passion into giving. The Carmel Senior Living resident donates her handmade quilts to charitable causes. She has made 50 quilts in 2020, donating them to the homeless and hospitals.
“The reason I’m doing it is because it activates my mind,” she said. “I’m still active enough to be able to do it. The Lord gave me some eyesight to do it still. I enjoy doing something for someone else. When we were on (pandemic) lockdown, it was a good thing for me to have something to do. My quilts aren’t king or queen sized, because I can’t stretch my arms, but I make a good-sized quilt. They’re well-made and warm. They’ll give someone some comfort.”
Lessie, who has been quilting for 65 years, taught her granddaughters, Kimberly Donaldson and Jennifer Green, how to quilt 25 years ago. She also has taught many nieces and great-grandchildren.
“If we don’t pass it on, it’s going to be a lost art,” Lessie said. “I’m glad my grandchildren took an interest in quilting, and I’m pleased with the progress they have made and the beautiful work they do.”
Inspired by Lessie, Carmel residents Donaldson and Green have created Generations Quilting Studio, which is based out of a room above Green’s garage.
“We got our love for quilting from learning from our grandmother,” Green said.
Green’s mother-in-law, Judy Saylor, works in the quilting studio.
“The quilting brings everyone together. That’s what I love most about it,” Donaldson said. “My cousin moved to the United States from Canada and gives us something to come together for. Before the pandemic, every Saturday everyone brought their project, and everybody helps each other out.”
Lessie moved to the United States from Canada in 1947 but still has family there. Lessie’s sister, Ethel, is 107 years old and lives in a nursing home in Vancouver.
Works of art
Green said she views quilting as an art form.
“I hope our customers see it the same way,” she said. “Some people are so talented. You have no idea the things they can do. I love seeing everyone’s take on life and their colors. I love the creativity.”
Green said Generations Quilting Studio has more than 2,500 quilt patterns and that the studio’s long-arm quilting machine is computerized.
“If they want snowflakes, Christmas trees, roses, fishing, hunting, they can choose their pattern,” she said. “Then the long-arm stitches out that pattern across their entire quilt, edge to edge.”
The sisters learned to sew as children as their mother Sharyn Lessie, who died in 2012, had a sewing business.
“I started sewing at 8 years old,” Green said.
Green has performed long-arm quilting for two years.
“We feel like what sets us apart is that we work really close with our customers to make their thread color,” Green said. “We have a relationship with our clients, trying to give really personal service for them.”
Donaldson said it’s satisfying when customers share a picture when they give the quilt as a gift.
“We get to be a part of their experience of creating and then handing off to someone else,” Donaldson said. “We’ll get a picture of their husband in a chair with the quilt and he loves it. It’s nice to be part of people’s lives.”
Lessie belonged to several quilting guilds when she lived near Crown Point.
“She was a historian for a quilting club there,” Green said.
Lessie’s husband, Jack, died in 2004, but she continued to take care of a 12-bedroom home in Thayer until two years ago when the sisters persuaded her to move to Carmel Senior Living. The home, which sold in January, was once the Hotel Fogli on the Kankakee River.
For more, visit generationsquiltingstudio.com.