Kennewick woman wrapped in mother's quilt

By Loretto J. Hulse, Tri-City HeraldDecember 26, 2011 

Her mother may be gone but each night Gayle Franzen of Kennewick sleeps enfolded in her mother's love.

Nola Ellis, a talented textile artist, was making a quilt for her daughter when she died Oct. 10 at the age of 72. Since she wasn't able to complete the blanket, her quilting group decided to do it for her -- in time for Christmas.

"She had been sewing on it that morning and went to bed at her usual time, and died in her sleep," Franzen said.

Ellis was a founding member of the Wednesday Embroidery Club at Discount Vac & Sew in Kennewick. Co-founder Ellen Cornely of Kennewick knew how much Ellis wanted to finish the quilt for her daughter for Christmas.

"Before Nola passed, I knew she was not feeling well. In fact, she offered to pay me $100 if I'd finish the quilt. I told her to keep at it and that I'd help if she needed it. When she passed away, I told Gayle I would finish the quilt so that she would have it," Cornely said.

Cornely took it home and worked on it for several days, then took it to the store and enlisted help from five other members of the machine embroidery club.

Bobbie Jay, owner of the store, completed the embroidering of the last 16 blocks on her large machine. Cornely cut them out and then organized a quilting work party. One helper never even met Ellis; another was her sister, Valley Hoskins of Kennewick.

The quilt measures about 12 feet by 13 feet. It's huge, larger than a regular king-size quilt, Cornely said.

The quilt -- a pattern called latte for its cream and gold colors -- began as a sewing class project three or four years ago.

Cornely and Ellis both attended. Cornely's project is hanging at Discount Vac & Sew. Ellis turned hers into a twin size quilt for herself.

"Then she decided it was too pretty, she'd never use it on that bed and took it apart," Franzen said.

That was sometime last year.

Ellis had started to make her daughter a quilt, but when it was nearly completed, decided there was so much embroidery thread on it and it was becoming too heavy, so she turned it into a coverlet.

When Franzen saw the latte squares, she asked if she could have that quilt instead. Ellis agreed and began working, almost day and night, on the quilt.

Ellis had mapped out the patterns for each block and the overall look of the finished quilt on her computer, so after she died, Cornely and the other club members had a guide to work from.

"I didn't inherit her talent, any of it. Besides machine embroidery and sewing, she also knitted and crocheted and did woodworking. If the ladies had not undertaken finishing the bedspread for mom, it would have just sat there. I would not have a clue what to do," Franzen said.

Seeing her mother's last quilt on her bed is "overwhelming, that's the best way to describe it," Franzen said.

"It's so beautiful, and the ladies ... the love they had for mom is why they finished it. They did it for her. They don't know me. They did it strictly in memory of mom," she said.

The quilt was completed the week before Christmas and delivered to Franzen, who immediately put it on her bed.

"It's quite a masterpiece. I reaped the rewards of her talent," Franzen said.

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