Quilting with AMD
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
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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Column 111: Two Rivers, Three Sisters
Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
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Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
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Column 57: Preschool Quilters
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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
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