Shirley Green has been sewing for most of her life.
Green’s mother taught her how to sew when she was 10 years old. Green said she believes her mother was a genius.
“I used to hear people say that my mother was beyond her years,” Green said. “My mom died at age 47, and she did more in those 47 years than I’ve done in a lifetime.”
Although she has been teaching and sewing for most of her life, Green said, at 77 she has no pain in her hands and no needle sticks in her fingers.
“I love to create things. There is nothing more soothing to me than to hear the click of a sewing machine,” she said.
Before moving to Charlotte in 2005, Green lived in Arlington, Va., for 40 years. She and her husband, Archie, raised three daughters and identical-twin boys. Her husband served 20 years in the Army, and the couple lived in Germany for three years.
Green has always loved to travel. During their years together, Green made clothes for the entire family. On several occasions she made leisure suits for her husband and matching suits for herself.
Archie died In 1998. After winning two bouts with breast cancer in five years, Green made some big decisions. Seven years after Archie’s death, Green decided she wanted to downsize and move.
Green said she was sold on Charlotte after seeing a home-and-garden show on television that featured beautiful flowers, a football team and a basketball team.
Green loves gardening and sports, so in 2005 she told family and friends, “That’s a no-brainer. I’m moving to Charlotte.”
After the move, her new garage was filled with fabric, from years of collecting and saving it for future projects.
Shortly after settling in, Green joined Little Rock AME Zion Church. “I knew I belonged there when I saw so many people wearing beautiful hats,” said Green, who immediately got involved in the church’s many activities.
One of the first things she did was produce a play about hats, called “Crowns for the Queen.” She had written it years earlier.
Green also serves on the cultural arts ministry and is a deaconess.
Three years ago, Green started a quilting ministry at the church. She said quilting has been in her family for generations.
The ministry has donated items to several organizations in Charlotte. In the beginning, the quilters made pillow quilts for hospice patients at Presbyterian Hospital. They later made lap quilts for hospice patients to enjoy in their homes. They also made items called “fidget aprons” for people with Alzheimer’s disease. The aprons can be decorated with a variety of things.
“We also made a ‘memory quilt’ for the dialysis center on Tryon Street,” Green said. That quilt included names of deceased patients and the names of members of the quilting ministry.
The ministry currently is making baby quilts for Hemby Children’s Hospital.
Quilting ministry member Marva Saunders said, “Learning to make quilts this way was completely new to me. My parents used to make quilts on a bed frame … with hand-stitching.”
Members of the ministry also are learning how to create a yo-yo quilt – another example of how Green is sharing lessons learned from her mother. Green has a yo-yo vest made by her mother, an example of what she calls “wearable art.”
Dwayne Walker, pastor of Little Rock AME Zion, said, “Shirley Green came to me with several ideas celebrating seniors, including the quilting ministry.”
Walker said he is grateful for Green’s work and her leadership of the quilting ministry.
“She is a blessing to our congregation,” he said. “She hit the ground running with a warm spirit and a gracious personality.”
In 2010, Green faced another major life challenge: A large tumor was removed from her brain. She returned home from the hospital in four days.
Green said the nurses and doctors thought her recovery was a miracle.
During her recovery, she said, she received plenty of support from her family and church. She also had a lot of conversations with God, she said.
In one, she said: “God, I don’t know what it is I should be doing … and I’m willing to do whatever.”
After healing from the brain tumor, Green said, “I feel better than I have in 40 years.”
Green and the other members of the quilting ministry continually work on new projects.
“We always make something to give back to the community,” she said. Next on her list of ideas is to make bags to put on wheelchairs to hold personal items.
Green still loves to travel. She belongs to the Charlotte chapter of the Pinochle Bugs Social and Civic Club, and she still enjoys writing and hopes to work on another play.
Much of the fabric in Green’s garage has been used in the quilting ministry.
“I still furnish fabric out of my garage,” she said. “God must have known I was going to move to Charlotte and allow me to give back.”