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Gum Branch woman puts her life in quilts

POSTED: October 25, 2011 5:30 a.m.
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Dewayne Stewart works on a quilt in her home. She will display 50 quilts Wednesday at Celebration Castle in Long County.

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If you’re familiar with the terms bias, bearding and batting, you may be awed by one Liberty County resident’s display of about 50 handmade quilts this week.
From 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday, quilter Dewayne Stewart will unfurl quilts she has crafted and some she has inherited at Celebration Castle on Elim Church Road in Long County.
“It’s some of the most beautiful work, and I think it could compete with any Amish quilt I’ve ever seen,” friend Chris Mobley said.
After years of being awed by Stewart’s craftsmanship, Mobley and some mutual friends convinced her to hold the showing.
“My love for quilting began as a child when my mother would carry me to my great-grandma’s house to a quilting bee,” Stewart said. She recalls playing with other children while the quilters worked, often finishing a quilt in the span of a day.
Stewart pieced her first work, made from printed chicken feed sacks in the bow-tie pattern, with the help of a family staffer in 1951, just after she married her husband, William E. Stewart.
The Stewarts moved to Liberty County in 1961 when William was stationed at Fort Stewart, she said.
Since his death in April 2009, Stewart has made between eight and 10 quilts per year, up from the five or six she previously made.
“When other people are just sitting, watching TV and doing nothing, I’m quilting and watching TV,” she said.
“People say, ‘Where did you keep them all?’ and I’m wondering, too,” she said about the number of quilts she has made. Now, she has two beds that are covered in stacks of quilts, which boast an assortment of colors and patterns.
She even had a sewing shop in Hinesville for a time, she said. In 1983, she and fellow parishioners at Faith Baptist Church worked together to create a quilt for their pastor and his wife, Bill and Norma Barnett.
“I designed the patterns, and the ladies of the church each made a block,” she said. Later, the women would form a quilting group where they met once per week in the church social hall and quilted together.
“This was about the time I realized that quilting is addictive, and I was getting hooked,” she said. “I would get so excited about each new pattern; I couldn’t wait to get started on it.”
Though her love began long ago, Stewart said she still becomes as excited today — especially to see the finished product.
Stewart recalled one occasion when she was visiting Unicoi State Park in North Georgia and a quilt in a gift shop caught her eye.
“I told my husband that quilt looked just like one I had quilted for a lady in Savannah,” she said. “The more I looked at it, the more certain I became that it was my work.”
Stewart inspected the quilt and found her initials and the date in the corner of the quilt.
She approached the manager, explained that the quilt was hers and offered to make quilts for sale in the shop.
After Stewart made sample quilts with the double wedding ring and Georgia patterns for the manager to approve, she began sending the woman quilts on a regular basis.
“Through the years, I sent her more than 100 quilts,” she said. Money from the quilts sold at Unicoi paid for her son’s college expenses.  
The 78-year-old Alabama native, who has made more than 250 quilts as gifts and for sale, said she “can never sit idle” and will continue to keep making quilts as long as she is able.
“My eyesight is failing, and arthritis is very bad in my hands,” she said. “But just as long as I can see to make a stitch, I’ll keep on quilting.”

 

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