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Helen Kelley Patchworks

Quiltmaker, Teacher, Lecturer, Designer, Author, Judge

Loose Threads

March 28, 2009 – Last year, I asked Mom (Helen) if she had any regrets. She said

I have no real regrets yet. But I worry about the regrets that I might have later: a great quilt idea that I never try; a good friend that I neglect to call until too late; an opportunity that I think will wait for me, but doesn’t.

Perhaps I should take a moment right now, to nip a future regret in the bud. Or, perhaps there will be a better time tomorrow. Today is already full of things I need to care for.

Life is always full of those loose threads.

Helen’s Life Lessons

flowers-1-31February 28, 2009 – These words are from Helen’s presentation during her induction into the Quilter’s Hall of Fame, July 2008.  We thought you might enjoy them.

These are the life lessons you and quilting have taught me:

Love your craft. Be proud of tiny stitches. Respect tradition. But learn something new, try something hard, make a new tradition. Then pass it on the next generation.

See things with different eyes. Look for the small treasures. Find the happiness and solace in your work.

Share your passion. Quilt with a friend, or friends, or many friends. Be generous with your time, your advice, your praise, your ideas, your fabric. There is joy in giving something from your heart. It comes back to you many-fold.

The quilt your are working on is never your last quilt.  But some projects seem to go on forever.  Know when enough is enough.  Don’t obsess over the stuff that doesn’t matter.

Tell your story.  Embellish it a little. 

Always Have fun.   And keep the magic in your life.

Again, From Helen’s Family

February 20, 2009 – Mom always told us that strangers were only friends she hadn’t had a chance to meet yet.  So many of you  have generously shared your thoughts and wishes with us over the last months.  Each message has touched our hearts.  We are reminded that Mom’s legacy is not only words and stitches, but also a world of friends, known and not-yet-known, a lifetime of people to be discovered.

Thanks to each and every one of you.  We will try to give back, with more of her quilts and, from time to time, words from Helen’s notes. 

If you have any special requests, please let us know.  We continue to watch Helen’s email.

Sincerely,  Helen’s daughters (and Bill)

From Helen’s Family…

By now you might know that we lost Helen on Monday, September 1.

She will be deeply missed. It is difficult to find words to put to this occasion; she would have done that for us. Over the next weeks, we will sort through the scraps and threads of her notes to share any wisdom or smiles that she left. For now, I think this is what she would say:

Helen will miss us as much as we will miss her. But, she is off on a grand new adventure. She loved an adventure. It was a chance to meet friends, imagine new quilts, and, always, the start of another good story to bring back to us.

Thank you all for your kindness and support. Please take a moment to share your thoughts with us on Helen’s guestbook , her email , or with her obituary guestbook . We (and she) would be pleased and honored to hear from you.


AngstOctober 5, 2007 – Today it was time to think about 3 new lines for this journal but as I sat down to ponder, I discovered that the ears on my Indian’s face on this quilt are so far apart that his head doesn’t fit on his neck. Instead of writing 3 new lines, I’m undoing a week’s worth of work. Two weeks ago, I had a message from a quilter who talked about my “angst”. Well, I am dripping with “angst”. There is “angst” all over my workroom. Today, “angst” Tomorrow, 3 new lines.

I Had a Dream

September 28, 2007 – I had a dream. Like Old Pharaoh, but I didn’t have Joseph to interpret it for me. No lean cows and no fat cows in my dream; just a Hiawatha. I’ve been wrestling with this Indian for my quilt, not knowing where to begin, and last night I dreamed how to make him. I had all the fabric and the pins and the scissors and I sewed him from his head to his toes and today and I doing it, just like I did in the dream. It’s working, and I didn’t even need Joseph! Last night I had a dream!

Jumping In

September 23, 2007 – I did it! I jumped off the dock into the cold waters of Lake Gitchie Gummi for my Hiawatha quilt. I have gathered all the watery and beachy fabrics together and laid them out on the floor and played with them. They tantalized me. They scared me. I want so badly to get it right and I wonder about the beautiful possibilities and the fact that I might goof it up. Finally, I gave myself a push and leapt in and it seems to be working out. But it took courage.


wheel.jpg  September 16, 2007 – I have my rotary cutter and my cutting board out.  I have been cutting fabric swatches for color wheels  This is such a strange phenomenon…..to lay these colors in a hodge podge and then take each out, one at a time and watch it transmute.  Each color becomes something else depending on what I place it beside.  My blues turn purple and sometimes green.  My reds get oranger and oranger.  It’s a lovely game and it doesn’t matter one bit that there is no pot of gold at the end of my rainbow.

Noah Must Wait

September 10, 2007 – I have finished the Chippewa beadwork pattern borders on this quilt that I am working on. It is obvious that there is no vestige of old Noah and his ark that this started out to be. Now, it is 100% Hiawatha and his canoe, and my ideas about it are happening and changing daily. Noah will have to wait for my next quilt.

A Fresh New Box of Crayons

crayons2.jpgSeptember 2, 2007 – My daughter, Helen, tells me she has always remembered the wonderful promise of a fresh new box of crayons as she returned to school in the fall.  Well, it’s fall.  We’ve been through the drought and baking temperatures of summer and now, here we are. I have a wonderful idea in my head for a quilt.  It has all of that exciting promise of a new box of crayons.

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