A Bounty of Quilts
PHOTO CREDIT TO ALEX LABRY
A quick scan of shelves lining a wall in Cathryn “Cat” Duggan’s home in the small Central Texas community of McDade reveals what appears to be a lifetime supply of Bounty® paper towels.
The visitor might at first wonder whether Cat has more than the usual number of messes to clean up with the “quicker picker upper™” until Cat explains that she uses Bounty sheets to paper-piece strip quilt blocks—thousands of them.
Over the past few years, Cat has made over 3,000 lap quilts for nursing homes, hospitals, Hospice Services, cancer centers, wounded soldiers, veterans, foster kids, and sick children at the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. The story of how Cat became one of Proctor & Gamble’s biggest fans begins with barber shears.
Before she retired, Cat ran a barbershop from her home one day a week, and the rest of time she would travel to area nursing homes to cut hair. Cat was saddened and disturbed when she noticed female residents wearing dresses and sitting in their wheelchairs sometimes with towels covering their legs and sometimes not even that to protect their modesty.
Cat had grown up doing all sorts of needlework, and she decided to use her skills to help those women. She started out crocheting lap robes, but then a visit to her hometown of Olive Branch, Mississippi (a suburb of Memphis, Tennessee) to see her sister changed all that.
Cat’s sister is a member of the Olive Branch Faith Quilt Club, and Cat attended a meeting with her (and later joined the group herself). It was there that Cat met “Ms. Martha”—another member, who introduced Cat to string piecing using Bounty paper towels.
Cat quickly realized that the durable paper towel could serve not only as a foundation for the strip block, but when left attached to the fabric it could also serve as a thin batting for the quilt. The paper is washable and provides a perfect weight for a lap quilt.
After learning the technique, Cat gave up crocheting lap robes and switched exclusively to piecing lap quilts. Relying on donations of thread, fabric (nurses often give her their colorful old scrubs), and even a donated sewing machine—she purchases the Bounty herself— Cat churns out quilt blocks by the pile.
She then sews them together, three blocks across and two blocks down to make the top of the lap quilt. She cuts a back, pins it to the top, tacks the layers together, and binds the whole by bringing the back around to the top and stitching it down.
Each time she reaches 1,000 quilts, she gives that thousandth one to someone who has been instrumental to her effort. For example, the first thousandth quilt went to Ms. Martha at the Olive Branch Faith Quilt Club.
One might well wonder what motivates Cat to spend much of every waking hour, year after year, on this project, for which she receives no compensation—everything she makes is given away.
“A few years back I was in a bad car wreck and I spent 31 days in intensive care. I feel like I was given a second chance and I want to give back. I have always felt like we don’t give our seniors and our vets the respect they deserve, and I want to do something for them,” said Cat.
“Plus,” she adds with a grin and a twinkle in her eye, “it keeps me out of the beer joints!”
If you would like to donate supplies to Cat, you can mail them to her at 134 Bastrop Street, McDade, TX 78650.
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Column 149: Rosie’s Redwork
Column 148: The Quilt of Belonging
Column 147: Kanthas—The Quilts of Bangladesh
Column 146: Patterns
Column 145: Suzy on Carolyn Mazloomi's Groundbreaking Quilt Exhibit
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Column 140: The Return of Double Knits!
Column 139: Passage Quilts
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Column 131: All You Need Is Love
Column 130: Chicken Linens
Column 129: The Quilted Chuppah
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Column 127: The Bowers Co-Op Quilts
Column 126: Fon Appliqué and Haitian Voodoo Flags
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Column 112: The Family That Quilts Together, Stays Together
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Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
Column 109: Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
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Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
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Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery
See other archived columns here