Sewing treasures: Columbus woman’s creation to be part of exhibit at New England Quilt Museum

Dozens upon dozens of Lois Griffith’s creations rest in the hidden darkness of a bedroom armoire, while many people are unaware that she has tirelessly and creatively sewn for more than 40 years.

Mostly, she has reaped the love and appreciation of relatives and others she sometimes has gifted her quilts to over time. Yet, if prodded sufficiently, she will acknowledge that her efforts are more than labors of love.

“I feel like I’m painting with fabric,” Griffith said.

An 80-inch-by-80-inch work recently was shown in all its artistic glory on her Four Seasons apartment living room wall soon will be included as one of only 15 pieces selected nationwide by a curator for an exhibit at the New England Quilt Museum near Boston, Massachusetts. The facility in Lowell, Massachusetts, is the only institute in the Northeast solely dedicated to the art and craft of quilting, and is the second-oldest quilt museum in the United States, according to online sources, and attracts some 6,000 visitors annually.

The display will stretch from July 19 through October.

The 81-year-old Griffith faced a project even tougher than quilting: defeating breast cancer — twice in the 15-month span of creating the work. Yet, given her fear of boasting, she is hardly a strong self-promoter. She never before has created a quilt that will gain such a public, and perhaps semi-national audience, given that the museum attracts out-of-town visitors. Husband Bill, a retired American Baptist pastor, pitched the idea to local media for one simple reason.

“I’m very proud of her,” he said, sitting on the living room couch in front of her piece. “She’ll always be my personal woman of the year.”

For her part, his understated wife calls the attention “a really nice honor.” Clearly, the woman who helped launch the popular Columbus Star Quilters some 40 years ago normally has allowed her work to speak for itself.

The effort was inspired in February 2019 when Griffith joined in on one of national quilter and author Barbara Brackman’s Block of the Month projects of quilt patterns on Brackman’s popular online blog. Brackman chose applique blocks which had appeared on quilts made for hospitals during the Civil War. She named the collection “Hospital Sketches,” taken from the title of a Louisa May Alcott book.

Each quilter was free to choose his or her own color palette and applique technique. Griffith chose a color scheme from the late 1800s — red, green and cheddar. She selected a cream, cotton blend for her background.

And when she was finished, a quilt appraiser affixed the value at a price tag she never thought possible. A demure Griffith politely declined to specifically detail that, also, lest she seem to be bragging.

“But it’s kind of scary,” she said, “to think of sending it off.”

She will travel to the museum next month to see it in its new, temporary home. While Griffith loves quilting, she loves one thing linked to the pastime even more. At the risk of a painful pun, you could call it superb backing. Or maybe being blanketed with love.

“One of the most wonderful parts of my quilting life are all the wonderful friends I’ve made — women who have really surrounded me with their love and been there for me when I really needed them,” she said, referring especially to recent illness. “I realize that there a lot of women who don’t have that.”