Personalized Quilts Warm Hearts at Our House

By Molly Todd

Molly holds one of the quilts with a young artist who created the centerpiece.
Molly with a young artist who has a piece advocating for young people to read.

In about March 2018, I was asked to attend a “quilt guild” meeting with a friend I had recently met.  I have sewn all my life but knew nothing of quilting and thought I had no interest.  I mistakenly believed quilting to be all about making a bedspread.  But, in an effort to honor my friend’s request, I agreed to go.  I was absolutely enthralled with the “pictures made out of fabric” that I saw at that meeting.  I knew this was something I must do.  I bought a new sewing machine in May of 2018 and took off like a racehorse out of the gates.

My first quilts were a series of nursery rhyme scenes from my own original drawings.  I hoped to sell them but figured I could give them to my grandchildren if they didn’t sell.  Much to my surprise, when I showed them to the owner of a local children’s book store, she bought them all and asked me to make a few more.  She hung them above the bookshelves in her store and they fit perfectly and look great.  Then she asked me if I would make a quilt from a watercolor picture that her son had made for her.  She wanted this quilt to be bigger so children could snuggle in it on the reading couch in the back of her store. I first spoke with the artist to ask permission because I want children to know that they have ownership of things that they create.  I make a big deal out of this with every quilt I make.  When I completed this quilt, which depicts a mouse saying “Please read”, I knew I had found a calling.  This process combines my passion for children’s original artwork with my lifelong love of fabrics.

The children’s bookstore asked me to put business cards on their counter and I began to receive calls for quilts.  One day I met a woman who asked me about my quilting.  I will never forget her question to me after we had spoken just a few minutes.  She said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if you could use your talent to honor children who have died?”  She told me that she had just lost her great nephew two weeks prior and that she had some of his last pieces of artwork.   I was quite taken aback and told her I would think about that.  My husband and I decided that we really did not need the money that a quilt business brings in, so……I contacted my new friend and said that, yes, I would make that quilt as a gift to her great nephew’s mother.   At that point I began telling each family that there was a catch to this gift.  When I brought them their quilt, they would need to refer me to another family that I could sew for.  Not necessarily a family who had experienced loss but a family whose child was experiencing illness.  This worked well but extremely slowly.  I knew I could do much more.  I mentioned this to a friend and she told me to contact the Ronald McDonald House so I did.  It was a great decision because now I have access to many families that I can honor with a quilt.

I figure it takes me about 20 hours to make most of the quilts which measure about 3’ x 4’.  This includes time for fabric shopping and a lot of staring at the original artwork.  The most fun part of the process is deciding how to approach the project because the medium used makes different approaches necessary.

I make sure each family receives their quilt within a couple weeks.  I have delivered nine quilts to Ronald McDonald families so far.

Marta and her father Gustavo hold the quilt Molly made for them before leaving our Ronald McDonald House to return home to Spain.

My very favorite comment was made by a father from Spain.  He and his wife bring their two daughters to Columbus every three months for treatments.  He pointed at the quilt I had made the girls and he said, “This is great reminder………of you………of here………of all”.  That’s about when I lost it and I cried all the way home in the car.  I think I would like those words printed on a plaque or something.

I do it because I love to do it.  I love to get inside a child’s head as I analyze what they drew first and what later, or how they used the marker or paint brush.  I love the honesty and the freedom and the charm of children’s artwork.  I love to work with fabrics.

The culture of quilting seems to me to be about two things really: comfort and legacy.  I hope that families find physical comfort snuggled under a quilt I have made.  And I label each piece carefully so that when it’s found in a box, many generations from now, it will also serve as a legacy for the child that inspired it. I get more pleasure than I can describe from looking at children’s artwork and trying to recreate it.  I am beyond honored to be a part of their stories.

I plan to continue to make these quilts indefinitely, as long as I am financially able.  I use only quality materials and they are not inexpensive.  It is my paying customers that allow me to continue to make gifts.  As long as I can rustle up a few paying customers, I will make quilts for the families of Ronald McDonald House.

I have always been a person who goes after what they want; who makes things happen; that type of person.  In my retirement years, I have been overcome with the feeling that it’s time to stop that; to just relax and see what comes to me.  This new approach to life is working miraculously for me.  Not one aspect of my quilt making has been my own idea.  Each step has occurred because someone asked me to do something or encouraged me to do something.  Two years ago I could not have imagined that I would be doing the things that I’m doing today and I’ve never been happier.  As I said earlier, I am beyond honored to be a part of the Ronald McDonald House and the families that I sew for.  Sincere thanks to all of you.