Healing Quilts in Medicine

Art Quilts Making a Difference in the Lives of Patients and their Families



This gallery is of the 37 quilts created for Walter Reed Army Medical Center. These were delivered in 2006.

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Photo by Sue Benner

Sue Benner, Dallas, Texas
Minor Fugue V

Fugue,n. – a polyphonic composition based upon one, two, or more themes that are enunciated by several voices or parts in turn, and subjected to contrapuntal treatment.
Theme and variation came to mind as I assembled these shapes, and the idea of the fugue form took shape.  This is a smaller work in this series, thus the title, "MINOR FUGUE."

The music of J. S. Bach has been a force throughout my life.  I love organ, harpsichord, piano, symphony, and choral music.  (I also like musicals, but that is another story.)  Growing up in a Lutheran school and church meant that Bach's music was a constant presence -- beautiful, ordered, and sturdy. 
MINOR FUGUE V is a fanciful work, composed of dyed and painted silks in garden hues.  I combined these wildly colored silks with "found" fabrics of the 1960's.  The flower power cut-outs are the remains from other quilt series.
(Definition from the Random House Dictionary of the English Language)

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Christine Bradford, Washington, DC
Mayapple in Bloom

I have a high regard for art quilters; they have an opportunity to inspire and introduce exciting, new techniques.  When I received a call from Judy House to participate in the Healing Quilts in Medicine Project, I was delighted.  While researching the May Apple, there was always the prospect of learning new uses for the plant.  I hope the viewer sees not only the beauty of the May Apple, but also sees its use as a cancer fighting plant.

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Jocelyn Breeland, Fairfax, VA
Helenium Autumnale

Art quilts have really been a revelation to me.  In the 15 years I've been quilting, I have always insisted that quilts are for beds, not walls.  Then I stumbled into one of Judy's art quilt classes and I haven't been the same since.  Judy encouraged me to try new things and to begin projects even though I have no idea how they'll turn out.  When she asked me to participate in this project, I couldn't say no.  This flower was made in colors I rarely use, using a method I'd never tried before.  Thank you, Judy.

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Susan Brown, Durham, NC
Cloth of Gold

I've long been intrigued by patterns in nature, especially those on certain sea shells such as the patterns on the cone snail. These patterns develop as the result of chemical interactions at the growing edge of the shell. This is one example of the incredible beauty to be found in nature and science. And in the case of the cone snail, there is yet another level of fascination. These snails live in warm waters and excrete a "conotoxin" which paralyzes their fish victims; this has now been developed into a medication used for pain relief.

Cone snail shells have a variety of patterns. One of the more commonly found shells is called "conus textile", and sometimes "cloth of gold".

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Judith C. Busby, Clifton, VA
Indigofera Tinctoria
When I looked up and saw his eyes, he smiled.  His eyes smiled.  Mr. Machek, my art professor at Albion College, said, "It's okay.  Everyone can be an artist if he or she wants to─just reach into your heart and give yourself the freedom to create."  Since that day, I've continued to create with confidence and enthusiasm!
My quilt is dedicated to my mother, Nancy Barbara Grace Cole Weltchek, and to her godchild, Nancy Amerio, who died from leukemia so many years ago.  Leukemia patients may now be helped with the medicine from Indigofera tinctoria depicted in my quilt.

Photo by Elizabeth Byrom

Elizabeth Byrom, Chapel Hill, NC
Sweet Tater Posies for Judy

This quilt is for my beautiful friend Judy, who taught me the important things I need to know about quilting and friendship.

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Norma Colman, Burke, VA
Under the Canopy

Under the Canopy was conceived from a memory of picking wild flowers in May as a child.  I was always fascinated at the idea that the leaves of the mayapple could be a wondrous umbrella.  The piece evolved to be about the partnership between plants and people in chemotherapy.  The chemicals of plants, the support of loved ones, and daily hope create a new path to explore.

Photo by Lisa Ellis

Linda Cooper, Burke, VA
Extreme Makeover

Sea slugs are among the most beautiful underwater creatures.  Unfortunately, the sea slug, Elysia rufescens, which is being used in cancer research, doesn't win any glamour awards.  Elysia looks like a ground slug in desert camouflage with twin ruffles down its back.
My daughter and I had fun inventing other names for this quilt:
Keep On Slugging
No Longer Slugly
Cinderella and Her Slugly Stepsisters
Slugly is in the Eye of the Beholder
Slug Fest
Perhaps you can come up with more titles.

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Donna Marcinkowski DeSoto, Fairfax, VA
And Dance by the Light of the Moon

But how are we to dance, we whose lives are forever changed by the shadow of cancer?  Dance we must:
"Life is made of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement.  Show up.  Listen.  Try to laugh.  Look at the view."  --Anna Quindlen
"Home interprets heaven.  Home is heaven for beginners."  --Charles Parkhurst 
God bless Judy House who is Home, teaching an army of angels to sew and make heaven even more beautiful with their art quilts.

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Annabel Ebersole, Reston, VA
Periwinkle Garden Dreams

I am honored that Judy House asked me to participate in this wonderful project. She has been an excellent teacher and guided my growth as a quilt artist. Starting 21 years ago as a pupil of Leslie Pfeifer's, this has been an exciting journey. Over the years I have made quilts for my family and for Project Linus, the Girl Scouts (here and overseas), school fundraisers and other charities. Quilting brings people together and adds color and warmth to many lives.

This quilt is meant to give a restful view to explore and" melt into" as people are engaged in this crusade against cancer.

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Lisa Ellis, Fairfax, VA
Mutterkraut Collage

When I saw this image of Mutterkraut at the first meeting of the Healing Quilters, I knew this was the plant I would use. The image conjured up happy times of daisy fields and children picking wild flowers to make bouquets for their moms. I wanted to create something cheerful that would provide a brief respite from the worry and boredom that comes from sitting in a sterile hospital waiting for tests and results.

When I received the invitation from Judy to participate, I was thrilled. What an honor to be in this incredible group of quilters. I have been deeply touched by all the artist's creations. These quilters share a special bond --- a love for Judy and her dream for the patients at Walter Reed.

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Paula Golden, Woodbridge, VA
Garlic: for Body and Soul

Allium sativum intrigues me with its many layers… peel away the papery skin and one finds a tender clove that arouses the senses.  Its aromatic smell allows one to anticipate the delicious flavor of a meal, the crunch of crispy garlic tingles the tongue.  Garlic is life within itself as a clove of garlic is the bulb from which the next generation grows. It also offers the ability to boost the human body's immune response, has antibacterial, anti-fungal and antioxidant properties. Ingestion of garlic has been shown to slightly improve blood pressure and reduce cholesterol.  From delicious meals with family and friends that give us joy in our lives to its potential in fighting cancer, garlic is one of nature's gifts.

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Sandi Goldman, Oakton, VA
Encouraging Words
I chose the Madagascar Periwinkle plant used in two drugs vincablastine and vincacristine to treat certain types of leukemia as the background canvas of my quilt. The words are the focal point to inspire and challenge the patients, families, friends and staff of Walter Reed Hospital to do what ever is necessary to fight a horrible disease.         
I was privileged to study with Judy House, the founder of the healing quilts in medicine project, for almost four years. Through this experience my work has grown immensely and I was able to produce this piece which reflects my passion for the project and quilting. I am thankful to have been part of a project that produced so many amazing and inspiring art quilts for the Walter Reed Hospital.

Photo by Lisa Ellis

Kathy Gray, Manassas, VA
Purple Meadow Rue
My composition gives homage to two aspects of Healing Quilts in Medicine: the beauty of nature and science. In the foreground is the plant, Thalictrum dasycarpum ─ Purple Meadow Rue ─ from which is made Thalicarpine (Thaliblastine) whose molecular composition is shown in the background. The beauty of the plant gives us joy from its simple existence. But through science, a beautiful plant can help us heal.

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Lesly-Claire Greenberg, Fairfax, VA

When my long time friend Judy House contacted me to ask if I would make a quilt for her Walter Reed project I was touched. Here she was, once again, in a battle for her life and was thinking of me. My only regret is that she never saw my quilt.
I chose heliotrope after looking at various plants included on "the list" used to battle cancer. I was taken by the star that resided in the center of the blossoms. I drew the blossom with only the most important lines. Inspired by Ruth McDowell's flowers I put it into a pentagon. I rendered it in a style of drawing that I've done since the 60's, straight lines disjointed and angular. I constructed this quilt in a combination of traditional and foundation piecing.
It was a pleasant surprise to learn that both my special friend Judy Spahn and quilt teacher Ruth McDowell also chose heliotrope.

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Judy House

A dear friend of mine who lost her battle with Ovarian Cancer said, "Cancer equals WAITING". You are either waiting for doctors appointments, tests, results of those tests, treatments, and results of treatments. This is stressful time for the patient, their family members and friends. I would therefore like to provide them with something pleasant to look at and reflect on during those often-difficult moments.

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Cheryl Deene Hurd, Washington, DC
Phyllanthus Floribundus
I am passionate about fabric; the interaction of color, design, and the tactile nature of fabric make it my favorite medium to work with.  As an avid quilt maker, I get immense enjoyment trapping pieces of fabric within a structured grid characteristic of my geometric quilts.  The process of creating beautiful, successful quilts is through inspiration, exploration and experimentation.  Being invited to participate in this project and working with Judy House in the Quilt Art Study Group has given me an artistic vocabulary to tell my story. 
This piece is an original whole-cloth watercolor painting on cotton fabric. Embellished with free motion quilting with variegated and monofilament threads.
My craft is fiber art.  My medium is fabric.  My tools are unlimited.

Photo by Lisa Ellis

Finis Hurd, Washington, DC
Rosy Periwinkle
I have sewn since I was a child under my mother's tutelage: garment sewer, turned quilter, turned FIBER ARTIST. A quilting fanatic, not limited to cotton fabrics and incorporating crafts. A non-traditionalist, most of my work turns out as purses, bags and small wall hangings.
This is Canatharanthus roseus or rosy periwinkle. Construction: appliqué, zigzag & straight stitches. Embellishments: beads and variegated threads stitched in free motion. Each petal of the 3-dimensional flower is backed with pink metallic cotton and shadowed with purple metallic cotton.
Honored to be selected for this project. I am thankful to her and my fellow classmates.

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Bunnie Jordan, Vienna, VA
Rosy Periwinkle
There is something comforting about quilts.  Even those too small for the bed can have a soothing appeal.  It is my hope that the art quilts in this exhibit offer some comfort or at least some brief distraction to the viewers who find themselves waiting here.  As a nurse who has worked in oncology and a mother whose son was SUCCESSFULLY treated with Vincristine, I was delighted to have the opportunity to interpret the rosy periwinkle and hope it is seen as a sign of hope and joy in its flower form and its chemo form.

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Nancy Karst, Springfield, VA
Healing Hands

Hands fascinate me. They come in many shapes and sizes.  Their structures are intricate, delicate, and spiritual.  With a small movement of a hand, we can give, take, strike, or soothe.  In my quilt I have chosen giving hands offering special plants that give us medicines to fight disease:  Vinca rosea;  Pacific yew; Heliotropium indicum; wild yams; and green tea.  In recent weeks the cancer-curative powers of green tea have been questioned.  I suggest that a pot of green tea shared with a dear friend is good medicine indeed.  

Mary Leakey, San Juan Bautista, CA
Castor Bean

I made this quilt because my friend and quilt camp roommate, Judy House, asked me to.  

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Kay Lettau, Annandale, VA
Sweet Potato

Thank you to my dear friend Judy House for inviting me to participate in the Healing Quilts in Medicine project.  The sweet potato is in the morning glory family, and grows in Hawaii.  On visits, I have become impressed with the quilting style from the islands.   My hope is that the patients at Walter Reed Medical Center who have been stationed in Hawaii during their active careers may find special interest and memories in this interpretation.   My quilted piece shows the potato, the leaves and the morning glory blossoms.

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Carolyn Lynch, Annandale, VA
I'm Chiquita Banana

I love to put a little humor in my quilts.  A good laugh helps to lighten up life's serious moments.  In the 1950's, one of the advertising world's most famous jingles was created.  It begins with, "I'm Chiquita Banana and I've come to say, bananas have to ripen in a certain way."  Several quilting friends and I have enjoyed many a laugh about the candle salad made famous in the Betty Crocker's Cookbook for Boys and Girls, first published in 1957.  This provided the inspiration for my quilt.

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Ruth McDowell, Winchester, MA
Heliotropium Indicum

The inspiration for most of my art quilts is a love of nature.  In adapting nature to the quilting medium, I try to distill the essence of the subject, leaving out much more than I put in, to uncover the spirit.  Each nature quilt begins with an intense exploration of the natural subject matter before the decisions are made about which aspects to select for the quilt image.
Judy House and I shared a love for printed fabric. Her quilts always had a loose and playful air and an elegant feeling for design. This combines our style – Ruth McDowell piecing and Judy House raw edge appliqué.

Photo by Patricia McLaughlin

Patricia McLaughlin, West Sussex, UK
Judy's Wish

I discovered 'Quilts' in 1991 and amazingly found hitherto unknown skills. Starting a project with plain white fabric, hand dye and paint to create a medium to mould and stitch into pictorial appliqué has become my greatest joy.
The countryside and beauty of this planet is my constant source of inspiration and therefore to be part of the project "Healing Plants in Medicine" was a truly wonderful great honour.
Being myself a breast cancer survivor, I, like so many others, have spent hours in austere surroundings waiting for treatment. Completion of Judy House's project will provide peace and joy for many patients undergoing treatment.
I therefore humbly offer my quilt named 'Judy's Wish'.

Photo by Lisa Ellis

Carole Nicholas, Vienna VA
Under Sea Gardens

I was inspired by a visit to the underwater observatory nestled in Harrison's Cove, beneath Pembroke Glacier in Fiordland National Park, New Zealand. There, ten meters below sea level, plants and animals grow in their natural environment, but on large metal trays, next to the steep rock walls and can be viewed undisturbed. Sunlight filters down through the water into the Milford Deep to reveal graceful and exotic life forms. I included actual mollusk shells, as well as photo images of coral, sponges and sea slugs (specifically Elysia rufescens and Dolabella auricularia), all subjects in cancer studies. How wonderful it would be if marine flora and fauna were found to be beneficial in cancer treatment. Then it would be possible to "cultivate" them in this manner.

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Mary Pace, Arlington, VA
In Memory of Judy

The design I created focuses on the hummingbird flower (Bouvardia ternifolia) from which a drug is extracted to be used as a cure for cancer.  An individual entering Walter Reed Hospital's oncology department now has more hope that a cure for cancer may be found.  My quilt is a pathway of hope and a message of caring and love.   

Photo by Reynola Pakusich

Reynola Pakusich, Bellingham, WA
Seashells of Hope

Seashells used in research for a cure for cancer were photocopied onto fabric and appliquéd to pieced background blocks.  Do you see how the color flows and how the circles relate to each other?  Can you see the seashells in the circles?  Just as research results seem illusive and difficult to foresee, so these fabric circles of shells may be subtle in their attempt to share joy and hope.


Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Leslie Pfeifer, Fairfax, VA
Chemo Hat Trick

When Judy House and I talked about this project, we discussed the importance of humor when faced with a struggle of any kind. Judy agreed that laughter is good medicine and her sense of humor never left her. She loved chickens and often snuggled under a chicken quilt of blocks made by some of her many friends. That is where the idea for this silly quilt came from. When I showed her my quilt, Judy "got it" immediately and smiled "out loud" and that is how I will always remember my remarkable friend and artist.

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Gayle Ropp, Arlington, VA
Happy Tree

I participated in this project because of my friend, Judy House.  She was the catalyst to get us all together for this cause.  I was truly inspired by Judy's strength, determination, and spirit to continue on her journey to help find a cure for cancer.
Judy asked that our quilts be "happy."  I tend to create traditionally, so my quilt is an actual appliqué adaptation of the Camptotheca acuminata (happy tree) plant.  I appliquéd it to a bright fabric with another two fabrics for borders.  My expertise is in the quilting stitch so I have added quite a bit of hand quilting. 
This has been a happy and sad experience.  It has been wonderful to be included with this group of talented quilters and artists, but sad for the occasion itself.  Though Judy lost her battle, I hope I can capture just a small amount of her spirit.  Judy will continue to live on in this project and she will be thought of often.  I hope these quilts hanging at Walter Reed Oncology Infusion Center and Ward will help with the waiting process for all the patients.     

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Carla Schardt, Reston, VA
Castor Bean

Healing Quilts in Medicine has given me the opportunity to share my love of quilting and my interest in things botanical. The castor bean with its giant leaves and unique flower stalk presented an interesting challenge both in color and technique. How to construct the flower?
Crochet them with pink fuzzy yarn. Touches of ink enhance the green of the leaves. I hope this work gives the viewers a few moments of respite at a trying time in their lives.

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Judy Spahn, Yellville, AR
Heliotropium Indicum

Friendship is forever, regardless of distance.  This quilt project was a wonderful opportunity to honor a friend and her fight against cancer. And others may benefit as well, for every stitch is made with love.  Making the "Healing Quilt" was therapy for me, since I could not be near my friend during her battle with this disease.

Judy House's courage inspired me to use new free motion machine appliqué techniques, leaving my comfort zone of hand-pieced geometric designs.  Each of our lives influences others; fortunate are those, like Judy, who have done so in such a positive and courageous manner.

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Cyndi Souder, Annandale, VA

I felt honored when Judy House called to ask if I would be interested in participating in the Healing Quilts in Medicine project.  I leapt at the chance to work with this group of artists in such an important and compassionate undertaking.  

On so many levels, cancer is all about waiting.  In the past few years, I've spent too much time in hospitals, medical offices, infusion centers, and all the other places where cancer patients and their loved ones go.  As part of this project, I hope to make the path a little easier for those who follow. 

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Elizabeth Palmer-Spilker, Westerville, OH
F.R.O.G. (Fully Relying On God)

I firmly believe that everything we need for life on this planet has been provided to us by our Creator and that we should take care of what we've been given.  Poison-dart frogs are one of many examples of organisms provided to us to study and learn from, and to benefit humanity.  They are amazing and beautiful creatures.   I was honored to participate in this project as I lost both my parents to cancer.   Many thanks go to Devon Graham, President and Scientific Director of Project Amazonas (www.projectamazonas.com) for sharing his inspiring pictures of poison-dart frogs. 

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Del Thomas Placentia, CA
Woad (Isatis tinctoria)  

I chose this plant to be the image on my quilt because indigo blue is one of Judy House's favorite colors.  Woad is a dye plant used for thousands of years in Northern Europe.  Although the flowers are yellow, when the plant is used as a natural dye the dye color is a blue very much like indigo.  Woad can be found along roadsides and in fallow fields through the Western USA, although it is not a native and is listed as a noxious weed in many states.  It would be ironic if a plant that is considered an agricultural pest should prove to be a treatment for cancer.   

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Winifred Wallace, Silver Spring, MD
Castor Bean

When Judy House asked me to participate in the "Healing Quilts in Medicine" project, I was elated to be able to contribute to this wonderful endeavor.  As well, it was also an opportunity for me to honor
the memory of 10 members of my family that have either died from cancer or are cancer survivors.  I hope that when patients and visitors of the Oncology Infusion Center and Ward view my quilted "Castor Bean" hanging, it will soften the hospital environment and ease the monotonous and sometimes boring time while waiting for treatment.

Photo by ThirdEyePhotog.com

Mary Colleen Flaherty Wright,
Alexandria, VA
A Glorious Day

I learned to sew at my mother's knee.  I love to sew!  I have tried other forms of artistic expression but keep returning to sewing.  The use of embellishments and free expression using many techniques have enabled me to expand the range of my art pieces. 
My mini-quilt is a broad vision of life here on earth and how very beautiful every detail of our life with nature is.  The earth feeds and nourishes all of us not only in food and beauty, but also sustains us with the surprises all the plants bring to us for food, color, smells and the medicines that are hidden inside.
Every stitch ─ a prayer
Every color ─ a hug
Every bead ─ a thought of love
Every thread ─ a day of beauty