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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  K-12 education

Pandemic projects: ‘I Spy’-themed quilt made as learning tool for grandson and reminder of grandmother’s love

By Cindy Hval The Spokesman-Review

It’s a long way from Spokane to Dallas, but Lolita Sutton is hoping her only grandson will feel her love across the miles.

Just in case he needs a reminder, Sutton stitched him a colorful I Spy-themed quilt.

“I saw the I Spy pattern in a quilting magazine before Caleb was ever born,” she said.

Caleb’s birth four years ago was a happy surprise.

“My son and his wife have a 17-year-old daughter, and she was my one and only grandchild,” Sutton said.

“Then one day my son, Seth, said, ‘Want to hear a funny story? We’re going to have a baby.’ ”

She chuckled at the memory.

“They were in shock, and I was thrilled to death!”

Sutton said Caleb is an active, energetic boy with some speech delays. The family lives in a townhome in downtown Dallas, and during the pandemic there haven’t been many places for him to get his wiggles out.

“His mama is my hero,” Sutton said. “He’s like electricity, he’s just wired.”

She said his mom, Nelly, had joined “Mother’s Day Out,” a program that offers children play time and socialization while their mothers get a much-needed break.

Due to COVID-19, however, the program was suspended.

Sutton thought the I Spy quilt might be a fun way for Caleb and his parents to enjoy some quiet time, plus identifying the objects and saying them aloud is a good way to develop language skills.

“It took me a long time to gather the fabric and cut it into 3-inch squares,” she said. “The challenge was to find fabric appropriate for a little one.”

She’d learned to sew as a child, and her sewing machine has always been an important fixture in her life.

“When I was married, I told my husband if our house caught fire he was to save the kids, the cats and the sewing machine, in that order,” Sutton said.

She didn’t take up quilting, however, until she retired from teaching and moved from Texas to Spokane in 2003.

After taking a class with a friend, she began making smaller items like wall hangings and baby quilts.

The blanket she made for Caleb came together quickly once she had all the fabric she needed.

The colorful quilt features characters her grandson will recognize like Santa and Tinkerbell, and also things he loves like basketballs, footballs and ice cream cones.

She also included a Washington State University Cougar logo, a nod to her alma mater, and a Texas Longhorn, from her son and daughter-in-law’s university.

Sutton said the idea is for her grandson’s parents to play a simple I Spy game with him using the quilt.

“They can say, ‘I spy a football. Can you find the football?’ And then Caleb can find it and repeat the word,” she said.

When the quilt was finished, she sent it to Dallas and was delighted when her son sent a video of Caleb opening the package.

“The first thing he found was Thomas the Tank Engine,” Sutton said.

She hasn’t seen Caleb in person since Christmas 2019, but recently, she FaceTimed with the family.

“I was tickled pink when we were able to find the Longhorn, and, of course, the Cougar,” she said.

The red-trimmed quilt is backed with fabric featuring lots of happy faces and a special note from its maker.

Beneath a joyous bear appliqué, Sutton had stitched, “I Spy Caleb. I love you beary much. Grammy, 2020.”

And that expresses her deepest wish.

“I wanted him to have it to let him know how much his Grammy loves him,” she said. “I don’t get to tell him that very much in person.”

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