Grandchildren, great-grandchildren keep local woman quilting

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pictures of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren sit of the shelf behind Ollie Lee as she quilts Wednesday afternoon at her Ridgecrest house. It’s the children who inspired her to pick up the hobby and who keep her motivated to continue it today.

The faces of 79-year-old Ollie Lee’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren watch her from the walls as she works throughout the day and sometimes late into the evening, hand-stitching each part of the half-made quilt on her lap.

Although her mother quilted, Lee did not start quilting until 1992 when she learned the skill from a neighbor. After some trial and error, she finished her first queen-size quilt, one featuring a stars inside blocks pattern, by the end of the year.

Lee stitches a border around the completed front of a quilt design with repeating diamond shapes for one of her great-step-grandchildren, 4-year-old Maddie Claire.

As she continued, Lee would put a tag with the date on each quilt and documented every one in a quilting logbook. She has made 75 quilts since that first one, and just started No. 76, her seventh quilt this year, last week.

Email newsletter signup

Her latest quilt is for her 4-year-old great-step-grandchild, Maddie Claire.

“I’ve never tried to sell anything that I’ve made,” Lee said. “I just quilt for my family.”

As Lee’s family keeps growing, she keeps quilting. Each of her children, grandchildren and “a whole bunch of great grandchildren” have at least one quilt, if not more.

“Each one of my girls have three or four quilts each,” she said. “The pink one was the first one I made for my first great granddaughter, and she is 15.”

After her husband Lane Ray died a few years ago, Lee took a few years off from the hobby. The birth of her great-grandson Jacob inspired her to start quilting again last December.

A new quilt means trying out a new design. After her first, Lee has tried designs including applique flowers and a postage stamp filled with one-inch by one-inch squares to the eight-point star and the Irish chain.

Lee just completed a double pinwheel and has started a twin-size trip around the world, which repeats a diamond shape of different colors.

Lee received a first-place ribbon in a Georgia county fair for one of her eight-point star design quilts.

Every quilt takes Lee approximately one month. One block of the design takes one hour.

She takes time most days to break out the needle and thread.

“It’s just relaxing,” Lee said. “I sit here some nights, and I turn the TV off and turn to quilting.”

Of Lee’s three daughters, her youngest, Sharon Wolfe, has picked up her quilting hobby.

“I need to learn,” Cathy Nugent, Lee’s daughter said laughing. “She always sewed all of our clothes.”

After her husband died a few years ago, baking, cooking, canning, sewing, crocheting and mowing the lawn also keep Ollie busying.

Picking up pecans in the fall takes her away from quilting, but she always goes back to her favorite activity.

“Some nights I won’t even look up at the clock until it’s 11 p.m.,” Lee said.

Lee wants to keep up the tradition of her mother’s skills, and that shows in each stitch she makes.

She also wants to pass on something to her growing family, a piece of her they can keep with them.

“I think they will remember me by it,” Lee said.

“People nowadays don’t really use quilts, but I think they enjoy them.”

Ollie Lee, 79, has completed 75 quilts since she started the hobby 20 years ago. Each quilt was hand-stitched for a member of her growing family.