Barbara Bell is on a mission. Bell has a quilt ministry, and her goal is to make 500 quilts by the end of the summer to be given to those who need to be wrapped in the special love and warmth that they offer.
Her love of quilting began when she decided that she wanted to make some for her grandchildren. She is completely self-taught.
“I never took a quilting class,” said Bell. “I just checked out books at the library and started experimenting. I learned applique and embroidery, too.”
She ended up buying herself a fancy programmable machine, which she learned to program, and she has never looked back.
“The quilts made for my grandchildren each took about 300 hours,” added Bell. “I made the animals for one of them out of little pieces of fabric from patterns that I created, and then did the applique and embroidery to finish them off.”
She still continues to make quilts for family, and has made two for great-grandchildren that have yet to be born. One of the quilts has a safari/zoo theme with delicate details like a lion’s tail.
Every quilt has a story, often with a touch of humor. One of her blankets features books and famous characters from different books, including Waldo peeking out from behind one of the books.
Bell has completed 479 quilts, giving them to cancer wards, children’s hospitals, and premie units.
What started with one person has grown. When Bell moved here from Columbus, Georgia to be closer to family after her husband’s death, she brought her project with her, including 30 boxes of donated fabric.
“I had to hire one of those ‘Silver Services’ that help seniors pack,“ said Bell, “to box up all of the fabric and supplies. I am trying to use up all of the smaller pieces to make the new quilts, but I do have to buy the larger pieces for backing.”
When Bell joined First United Methodist Church in Murfreesboro, she started again. Now she has a group that meets every Friday to help put the quilts together.
“We talk and have lots of fun,” said Bell. “You don’t have to be able to sew to join our group. There are lots of non-sewing tasks to get the quilts done. Each of these quilts that I give away takes a minimum of 40 hours.”
Currently, her adult quilts are being donated to Tennessee Oncology and her children’s quilts are going to the Domestic Violence Center.
“I like to make ‘I Spy’ quilts for the kids,” said Bell. “Each of the quilts has a little game attached to it where the new owner has to look for certain things pictured in the quilt. I figure kids that have gone through all that would enjoy them.”
For anyone interested in joining the ministry or donate fabric, call Barbara Bell at 615-617-0342. You can’t help but be swept away by the pure joy that exudes from her when she talks about and works on her quilts.
“If it wasn’t for the quilt ministry,” said Bell, “the grieving process after my husband’s death would have been much longer. It gives me a reason to get up and make something for someone who is worse off than I am. If I can’t sleep, I get up and sew. I’ll keep it up as long as I can.”