Quilting with a Purpose

Clara Wainwright’s Buddha’s Delight, a quilt over 7 feet by 6 feet, hangs in the Atrium of Youville House, a donation from the Art Connection. For years people have admired this work of art and commented on its beauty. Little did we know when we hung  the piece, that Clara would be leading residents and staff in a quilting project intended to hang in  the Memory Support Community planned for Youville Place in Lexington. The gift of love is in progress, building a special bond between participants and making Wednesday afternoons at Youville House particularly special.

At the first meeting, the group discussed  Alzheimer’s Disease. Did anyone have  the diagnosis? Who had experienced the disease through family and friends? Clara and her friend Kyra Montagu made lists. What objects might be meaningful to people with Alzheimer’s Disease? What could people continue to enjoy doing as their memories became more impaired?  The process began with scissors and fabric. Clara patiently coaxed, cajoled and began the creative process.

The second session introduced working as a team to create a mandala; a geometric figure representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism. Such a symbol in a dream, represents the dreamer's search for completeness. This exercise was repeated and the group continued to explore shapes, color, texture and the special process of working with each other.  The result was a colorful mandala. In  the center was a beautiful golden circle. Alzheimer’s patients have deep spiritual roots that remain with them to the very end. Stars, moon, light, fire, tree, planets, emerging life, celestial beings, plants, animals, and creation were all words to which we had originally matched fabric. We were starting to make sense of something that we barely grasped but now felt a part of.

Clara goes from person to person commenting, encouraging: "That necklace is wonderful. Did you ever see a prettier face? The eyes are revealing. Peg said that she had no artistic talent and no imagination but look at this- what a character she made!"

In remembering the husband with Alzheimer’s Disease, one resident spoke about a dedicated doctor, a great family man, a conservationist who would write letters to save whales, a man with a sense of humor, sparkling eyes, full of laughter. Her eyes sparkle as she laughs, looking at the bow tie she fashioned out of cloth.


The first phase of the project is complete. We grew as a group. We learned skills that we never knew we could have. We became freer in our attempts to create. We laughed. We shared. We talked. We bonded. Clara and Kyra, you molded a motley group into a sophisticated group of artists, crafters and imaginative people. All with great fun!