One of Nolynn Sutherland’s jobs at the Lake Norman YMCA in Cornelius was to coordinate the OWLS Program.
“OWLS” stands for “older, wiser, living stronger.” Sutherland said OWLS “serves older adults, aimed at ages 55-plus. It’s an outreach to the community for seniors to participate in a social, spiritual, physical program of exercise.”
Recently, Sutherland moved on. She’s gone to Louisiana State University to earn a master’s degree in kinesthesiology.
One of the OWLS participants, Terri Feehan, had a great idea to say goodbye and thank Sutherland for all she’d done. Feehan collected 81 signatures of OWLS participants and made a quilt for Sutherland.
“I know people who have done signature quilts before, like for weddings,” Feehan said. “It just seemed right. Besides, it’s what I like to do.”
Feehan said, “When I started out, I thought it was only going to be a small lap quilt. It ended up being 70 by 40 (inches). Turned out pretty big.”
Feehan handed out 2-by-3-inch rectangles of fabric, “like muslin, and I put freezer paper on the back to make it easier to sign.
“I had Sharpie pens, and we were trying to sneak in and sign without Nolynn seeing. Some people helped and went to other facilities that had OWLS programs to get signatures.”
“When I got the rectangles back, I figured out how to do it. I’d seen a pattern, and I designed from it,” Feehan said.
She batiked the fabric, using a pattern of alternating light and dark batik.
When she made the quilt, Feehan said, “I kept putting them (the rectangles) on, and I kept getting more. It ended up being 9 by 9 rectangles. I eventually ran out of time and had to get it done. Some people procrastinated (and didn’t returned the signed rectangles). But it was all in good fun.”
Feehan’s finishing touch is labeling her quilts. She insists that “everything has to have a label,” she said. “Put a special label on the quilt that said I made it.”
Feehan presented the quilt at a party at the YMCA. An inscription addressed to Sutherland read, “Thank YOU for all the fun times, Your stories, the laughter. And all while you were keeping us in shape! Enjoy your new adventure!”
Feehan lives in Huntersville, in Gilead Ridge. “I just turned 70,” she said. “I made my first quilt in 1992. Have no idea how many quilts I’ve made.”
She started quilting because her grandmother used to make quilts.
“That was way back,” Feehan said. “She died when I was 8, and (I) have one of her quilts.”
Feehan lived in Baltimore and became part of the Baltimore Appliqué Society, an organization that preserves antique quilts and promotes the art of appliqué.
“I learned to make replicas of historical quilts,” Feehan said. “I learned from those wonderful experienced teachers.”