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 117: How WWI Changed the Color of Quilts in the United States
Column 116: Wagga—The Bushman’s Quilt
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Column 112: The Family That Quilts Together, Stays Together
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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
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Column 89: Quilting in The Bahamas
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Column 82: Replicating the Past: Reproduction Fabrics for Today’s Quilts
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Column 80: Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum
Column 79: 54 Tons of Quilt
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Column 77: Quilting with AMD
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Column 75: The Modern Quilt Guild—Cyberculture Quilting Ramps Up
Column 74: The Membership Quilt—Czech Quilting in Texas
Column 73: Maximum Security Quilts
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Column 65: Arizona Centennial Quilt Project
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Column 58: Ralli Quilts
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Column 53: Quilt Trail Gathering
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