Patches From the Past
Scraps of Fabric, Sewing & Quilting History

A Century of Quilts
from the book "Heavenly Patchwork: Quilt Stories Stitched With Love"

~ as told by 101 year old Maude Chenoweth Leaman ~


God Sustains Maude through Tragedy and Loss

During the 1960s, Maude suffered a series of major losses. Her widowed mother was the first. A few years later, she said good-by to her beloved Clarence. That same year, Maude was devastated when she received news that her oldest son Gordon had been killed in a plane crash.

The pain she experienced seemed unbearable. "Though my family and church were tremendously comforting and supportive, it was only the healing balm of God's love that sustained me as I repeatedly gave Him my grief. There was a hole in my heart the size of the Grand Canyon. The Lord eventually gave me a pinhole of light in my dark valley. He led me through the sorrow and restored my strength and joy. I never blamed God for my heartaches. I know God is good. It is Satan who comes to kill and destroy.

crazy quilt

"When I occasionally feel down, I ask Jesus to show me some way to extend His light of love to others by sharing His loving kindness to those even needier than I am. During those dark times, I've also turned to piecing and quilting and dressing my dolls for consolation. It's helpful to get my mind off myself and create beauty to share with others.

"I've also lost five brothers and sisters, but God has always been faithful to comfort and heal my broken heart and bind up all the wounds as He rocks me, wrapped in His quilt of love.

Maud the Torch Bearer at Age 98

On a hot, sunny day in 2002, Maude walked down to the end of the block to watch the cross-country Summer Olympic Torchbearers hand off their torches to the next partners in the historic relay. Children jumped up and down with excitement as they screamed out, "They're coming, they're coming."

They stopped right in front of Maude for the historic picture-taking ceremony. The young torchbearer shocked everyone by handing the lit torch to Maude instead of his partner. After asking her age, the runner gave Maude a big sweaty bear hug and an Olympic flag to add to her collection of firsts.

Maude has always been a torchbearer, reflecting the light of Jesus' love and giving sacrificially of herself through service and quilts. Since 1922, she's made over 100 quilts and given almost every one away to appreciative family, friends and neighbors. She's gifted 200 patchwork pillows and bags to mastectomy patients. Each stitch of each beautiful quilt is a labor of love and creativity -- a legacy of a woman of great faith who has poured out her life as a drink offering to God in service to others.

a patriotic eagle quilt

Since Maude retired from her full-time job as seamstress at a department store at the age of 74 in 1978, she's kicking up her heels and enjoying the time of her life. She joined a doll club and made a Friendship quilt signed by each member that was featured in a doll book. Her drawers overflow with blue ribbons for her dolls and quilts; and her scrapbooks bulge with pictures and stories of all the quilts she's created.

One of her favorites is the Butterfly quilt fashioned from blocks she embroidered and painted with crayons in the 1930's, which she finished after retiring. Then there's the blue and white Burgoyne Surrounded quilt Maude made from scraps from Kerr's department store uniforms. She won a blue ribbon for her Drunkard's Path quilt.

People were always giving Maud quilt blocks to finish. One time the St. Luke's Church choir director found some State Flower blocks in his mom's estate. There were three state blocks missing, so he searched the Internet and presented Maude with the missing state blocks for Christmas. Since he was retiring, she finished the quilt and gave it to him as a going-away present.

"My current passion is making my Fun quilts or I Spy quilts which I laid awake one night fashioning in my mind," Maude enthusiastically explained. "I love to personalize them. I've made one with different sports cars in each block for my grandson, and toys and teddy bears for baby quilts, and roses for the women. I surprised my granddaughter with a quilt at her wedding shower. She and her mom both burst into tears of joy. That's what makes it all worth the time and effort," Maude added, a little bleary-eyed herself.

Maude's Centennial Celebration

It'sFebruary 5, 2004, a day after Maude's 100th Birthday Bash.

I'm exhausted. There must have been well over 100 people here, Maude mused. I'm worn out from all the festivities and the crowds. I need something to calm me down.

Maude did what she always does when she needs to relax. She took out the bright, cheery pictorial blocks she had cut for her Fun quilt and began piecing them together.

Maude with her quilt

As she fed the fabric through the sewing machine, her mind went back to the Christmas in 1910 when Papa surprised Mama with a shiny new-fangled treadle sewing machine. He had built up credit for months at the general store in town by bringing in eggs, corn, cream and a butchered cow. "Now Cora and Maude can stitch our clothes, bedding and mattresses much faster than by hand." her father had explained.

Maude was the oldest girl and Mama's extra right hand, always by her side helping with everything. After her younger sister was born, Mama's doctor prohibited her from using that treadle sewing machine because of the phlebitis in her legs. This presented a big problem since Maude was too small at six years old to even reach the pedal to take over the sewing. Papa came up with the perfect solution. Mama could instruct and supervise. Maude could stand on her tiptoes and guide the material through the machine. And Earl, her older brother, could squat down and work the treadle with his hands. Talk about family togetherness!

United they conquered the chore, and bonded in the process.

Sewing and quilts had played a major role in Maude's family even before she was born. Maude's great grandmother, Mary McElwain Chenoweth, appliquéd a red and green Eagle quilt top in 1860 for her son who fought in the Civil War. It was a family heirloom which traveled in a covered wagon in 1889 to Hinton, Oklahoma. Maude's mother and her two sisters-in-law quilted the top in 1900 and inscribed in the quilting "Presented to Benjamin Franklin Chenoweth by his mother 1860."

Quilts seem to have always formed the backdrop for her fulfilling Oklahoma life. Maude never forgot that icy cold water as the Methodist minister from Hinton baptized her in the stream in the canyon when she was 12. Mama dried her off and bundled her up in a warm quilt until she quit shivering. Afterwards, the little church family celebrated with a picnic spread out on quilts as the children frollicked and played in the lush meadow.

For years, Maude's mother entered quilts in the Oklahoma State Fair. Maude, too, had many blue ribbons to her credit. It would be impossible to count the number of quilts Maude had made for her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren over the years. Even nieces and nephews were blessed. When Maude's sister-in-law, Mildred Chenoweth, set out to create a Grandmother's Fan legacy quilt for her own granddaughter, Kristin Chenoweth, Maude contributed the perfect pink ruffle for the border of the project.

Now, as Maude guided her new blocks through her sewing machine, she felt calm and recharged. That first treadle sewing machine was only the beginning of a lifetime of stitching in love for her family.

"What is your secret for a successful life," Maude was recently asked.

"Life has given me lots of pieces of sorrow and hard work, but I always was determined to keep on smiling through the tears, and loving and helping as Jesus did," Maude replied. "Like my Mama always said, "When life gives you scraps, make quilts!"

That's a pretty good recipe for success.

"Rejoice in the Lord always...Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4,6

© 2004 Maude Chenoweth Leaman (do not reproduce this article without permission from the author)

Published with permission from "Heavenly Patchwork: Quilt Stories Stitched With Love"
Look here to find sample stories.

Find Maude's story and many others in
Heavenly Patchwork: Quilt Stories Stitched With Love

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