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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Pandemic project: North Spokane resident finishes decades-old quilt

Quilting during quarantine: Laurienne Newell took advantage of the pandemic to get down to business on a project that had been in the works for many years – since the mid-1980s. Here, she sits in front of the completed quilt with her pet cat, Pepper, at her home in north Spokane on Monday.  (Libby Kamrowski/ THE SPOKESMAN-R)
Quilting during quarantine: Laurienne Newell took advantage of the pandemic to get down to business on a project that had been in the works for many years – since the mid-1980s. Here, she sits in front of the completed quilt with her pet cat, Pepper, at her home in north Spokane on Monday. (Libby Kamrowski/ THE SPOKESMAN-R)
By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

The queen-size quilt was faded and fraying.

Twenty-five years ago, Laurienne Newell had stitched the sampler quilt for her bed, and after years of constant use, it was really showing its age.

“Someday,” she thought, “I’m going to have to remake it.”

But there were always other projects for she and her husband to tackle, or a trip to take, or grandchildren to visit.

Then came the coronavirus. Suddenly, Newell had all the time she needed to rework the red-bordered quilt.

“I’d put if off for years because it’s such a big undertaking,” she said. “But with the shutdown we had more time than we needed.”

There were no trips to take. She couldn’t browse through stacks of books at the library, and she and her husband couldn’t do their regular lap-swims at Spokane Community College. So, she cleared off their large dining room table and got to work.

“About a third of the original squares were savable, so I rescued and reused those,” Newell said.

The self-taught quilter had learned to sew in middle school home economics class.

“As the oldest of six, I got all the clothes I wanted by sewing them myself,” she said.

Many years ago, when she moved to their home on North Monroe Street, she took up quilting as a way to decorate the house.

Newell was equal to the task of remaking her red, white and blue quilt, and the experienced seamstress hadn’t underestimated what a big project it would be.

“I worked on it six hours a day, three to four days a week, from April till the first of August,” she said. “I was so happy when it was done!”

She was able to salvage the red and white gingham checked border, and sewed new squares, including an American flag block, to replace the ones too worn to reuse.

About halfway through the project, she started running out of fabric, and was thankful to discover most of the area fabric stores were open.

Log cabin, fan squares and clamshell blocks mingle together with pinwheel and flying geese squares to create the brightly colored bed covering.

More importantly, Newell found reason to be thankful in the midst of the shutdown.

“If not for COVID, I’d probably only be halfway through with the quilt,” she said.

And she likely won’t have to redo it again.

She smiled.

“This will last till I’m 100,” she said.

Cindy Hval can be reached at dchval@juno.com.

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