Lake Norman & Mooresville

Stitches and patterns preserve memories

Rebecca Verrier-Watt gently swept her hand across a small quilt laid out in a bedroom in her Harrisburg home.

It's an art quilt, she said, pointing out the mountain scene with painted fabric, beading and nearly 3,000 Swarovski crystals. It took almost a month to finish.

"It's in memory of my son," she explained.

For Verrier-Watt, 53, quilting isn't just a hobby; it's an outlet.

The quilt, which she named "A Journey to the Other Side," is based on a dream she had after her son's death.

"I felt very compelled to do it," she said.

Her quilt will be on display at the Splash of Color Quilt Show Friday and Saturday at the Cabarrus Arena and Events Center.

Hosted by the Cabarrus Quilters Guild, the event will feature about 200 professionally judged quilts and nearly 50 vendors.

The quilts were judged in various categories divided by size and technique, such as mixed quilts, pieced quilts and art quilts.

Verrier-Watt, a member of the guild who is helping to organize the event, will have nearly 20 quilts on display.

Verrier-Watt and her mother, Pat Cevaal, call themselves "quilt-aholics."

What was once a sunroom in her home has become Verrier-Watt's quilting studio, with several cabinets full of thread and other supplies, as well as a long-arm quilting machine with a small computer, which can stitch a large quilt on its own.

One cabinet holds stacks of patterns. There are more than 1,000, said Verrier-Watt, thumbing through a pile.

"It's not any cheaper than a drug habit, but it's healthier," she said, laughing.

Between fabric, thread, patterns, machines and other supplies, quilting can be an expensive hobby, she said.

But they try not to think - or talk - about how much money they spend on quilting, said Verrier-Watt.

"We don't want our husbands to know," said Cevaal.

Verrier-Watt, 53, began quilting when she moved from Florida to North Carolina in 1997. Her mother told her she needed to take up a hobby because she wouldn't know anyone in the area. She suggested quilting and bought her an instructional book.

Cevaal had already begun quilting after her sister introduced her to the craft.

"It's a family affair," said Cevaal.

Once her daughter got started, she was hooked.

Now the former bank operations officer who once owned her own printing business is practically a full-time quilter.

Verrier-Watt joined the Cabarrus Quilters Guild in 1999. The guild has about 80 members - both men and women - who range in age and skill level.

The group meets once a month to host speakers and workshops and help members improve their craft and share ideas.

In a year's time, Verrier-Watt creates about two quilts for shows and another 10-15 quilts that she sells or gives as gifts.

Verrier-Watt said her quilting has improved significantly since she joined the guild, but it was the fellowship she found in the group that helped her through perhaps the most tragic time of her life.

Her quilting friends were there for her when her son, Jason Verrier, died in a motorcycle accident about two years ago. He was 30 years old.

Verrier-Watt is working on another quilt in memory of her son.

When finished, the quilt will be centered on an image of Jason holding his son, Damien.

It's a photo quilt, explained Verrier-Watt. The quilter selects a photo and uses tracing paper to trace an outline of the shades of color in the photo. Then fabrics are selected according to the shades and pieced together to form the image.

Verrier-Watt traced the photo and put it to fabric, but she wasn't satisfied with the outcome. She tried again. And again.

"That looks like Jason," said Cevaal, examining her daughter's third attempt.

She's being fussy, admits Verrier-Watt, because it's Jason.

Once she's satisfied, she'll add a butterfly to the image, although it wasn't in the original photograph.

Butterflies have become an important element of her work thanks to Jason, she explained.

After his death, Verrier-Watt, Cevaal and Jason's wife were in the backyard talking when a butterfly landed over Verrier-Watt's heart and refused to budge. She scooped it up and set it on a leaf. Minutes later, the butterfly landed on Jason's wife. Later, it came again while Cevaal was on the back deck.

Since then, butterflies have taken on a symbolic meaning for the family.

"We like to think it's a message from Jason," said Verrier-Watt.