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Stanfield Quilts: Love in Every Stitch posted: 7/21/2005
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Category: General Method: All Series: In The News
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Catherine Clark Stanfield stitches on her quilts six days a week. Because of her faith, she chooses to attend church, read and visit with family on Sunday. Laura Rains/Staff

By LAURA RAINS Staff Writer
Reprinted with permission from The Ledger Independent, Maysville, KY

Wednesday, July 6, 2005
Orangeburg, Kentucky

The fingers on Catherine Clark Stanfield's right hand are gnarled from arthritis and years of hard work.

Known as Clark to her friends, she's not ashamed and doesn't try to hide her twisted fingers.

In her 87 years, the left hand has seen plenty of work, too. But to her children and grandchildren, the right hand is a visible remembrance of the many, many quilts she has made in love.

Stanfield has made 19 already this year. And 20 more have been pieced, waiting for its turn on her quilting rack.

She won't even attempt a guess at how many she's made in her lifetime.

Stanfield learned the patience and skill it takes to make a quilt by hand at her mother's knee.

Growing up along Cabin Creek in Lewis County, she watched her mother, Anna Lee Cracraft, make quilts. She has vivid memories of quilting parties where her mother, aunts and other women in the community would come together to work on a single quilt.

"Making a quilt was different in those days," she said. "You couldn't go out and buy a certain color of fabric to make a quilt. Everyone used what they had on hand."

She also said people used the quilts they made then, while today people are more likely to hang them on quilt racks to decorate their home, or to tuck them away into chests for safekeeping.

She didn't quilt much as a young wife and mother because she says there wasn't time.

"I helped my husband on the farm and raised my sons," she said. "I made a lot of their clothes."

Quilting came later, after her three sons, Tommy, Buford, who died 23 years ago, and Terry grew up and left home.

Her husband, Richard, died two years ago. Quilting has helped her deal with the loneliness.

At her home near Orangeburg, Stanfield works on quilts six days a week, but never, ever on Sunday. Sundays are for attending church, reading, and maybe working a few word search puzzles.

"No stitching on Sunday," she said.

The homes of her family are filled with Double Wedding Ring, Dresden Plate, Broken Dish, Log Cabin, Cathedral Window, Yo Yo and Double Irish Chain quilts she made. But their favorites are special quilts she created for them.

Buford's wife, Jeanne, is proud to have 30 or more quilts made by her mother-in-law. One of her favorites is the quilt she made with a square for each of Jeanne and Buford's eight children and 17 grandchildren.

When Stanfield's granddaughter, Bridget Stanfield Lykins, had trouble letting go of the baby clothes her sons, Bravin and Stoney, had outgrown, she had the perfect solution -- she incorporated them into a quilt.

"I have many favorites, but the one Mamaw made using Bravin's and Stoney's infant clothes is my favorite of all of them," said Lykins. "Now I have a treasured keepsake. I know there is love in every stitch she makes."

Even the men in the family appreciate Stanfield's talent, and the time and patience it takes to make a quilt.

Grandson Craig Stanfield, an auctioneer, says that many times those attending his auctions have been surprised by his knowledge of quilts.

"I can tell the crowd that a certain quilt is a Double Wedding Ring, Dresden Plate, Log Cabin or a Bear Patch to name just a few," he said. "I have had people come up to me and ask how I know so many quilt patterns."

Especially he says since quilting is something traditionally handed down to the female gender, he is proud to answer: "Because my Mamaw quilts and because I wanted to know."

"She has ingrained in me an appreciation and knowledge of the various designs, and particularly the older, more 'traditional' patterns," he said.

Another grandson, Matt Stanfield, loves his grandmother's quilts because of the memories they bring to mind.

"Many times the fabric tells a story," said Matt.

His quilt square in the family quilt is made from the same fabric his grandmother used to make a pillow and blanket for him when he was a little boy.

Clark Stanfield has also been known to make up her own pattern, like the hummingbird quilt she made and the one she stitched to commemorate her 50th wedding anniversary.

When the Stanfields celebrated that milestone in their lives, she says they received many beautiful cards. But she remembers two cards they received that were identical, one from friend Ruby Dryden. She made up her own pattern for the quilt, using different pictures from the card.

Her family is also proud that many times she has chosen to use her quilting talent to help others. Whether it be to the local fire department, the Orangeburg Lion's Club or the Cullen A. Stanfield Memorial and Scholarship Fund, which honors her great-grandson who was killed in 2004, she is always willing to help out.

"I love to make quilts," she said. "When I have the opportunity to give them away, I feel like it's a gift from me. It helps them, but it also helps me."

Faith has always played a very important role in her life. She and her late husband are long time members and servants at Olivet Methodist Church. She has also given a quilt to every pastor the church has had since she has worshipped there, and many of its members.

Reading the Bible is something she does every night before falling asleep.

Another granddaughter, Christie Stanfield Henson of Alexandria, wrote a poem as a tribute to her grandmother, called "The Beautiful Quilt." But she says the way her grandmother lives her life everyday is her true legacy.

"I remember whenever I would visit Mamaw's house as a child, I would always be in awe of the feeling there," said Christie. "Everyone was welcomed with open arms, and friends were family."

Craig says her sons, daughters-in-law, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are blest to have such a role model.

"She has invoked a sense of pride and caring, and has encouraged all of us to be productive and supportive members of the communities in which we live."

Sometimes it's hard for Stanfield to keep a thimble on her wrinkled, twisted fingers, but she has no intention of stopping her stitching.

"I don't feel old," she said. "And my fingers don't really hurt. For being almost 88, I'm in good health. And that's good because I have a lot more quilts I want to make."

Contact Laura Rains at or at 564-9091, ext. 275
2005 Laura Rains and the Ledger Independent, Maysville, KY
Reprinted with permission from The Ledger Independent, Maysville, KY
Ledger Independent
P.O. Box 518
Maysville, KY 41056

The Beautiful Quilt
By Christie Stanfield Henson

Dedicated to Catherine Clark Stanfield, my beautiful grandmother

She'd work her fingers in and out
And sewed each perfect stitch
And though she lived a simple life
Her faith made her seem rich.

A helping hand to strangers
Relief to those in need
She "sewed" God's love throughout the world
By planting Christ-like seeds.

She never spoke a harmful word
But always had a smile
A loving wife, devoted friend
Her charm would most beguile.

An Irish Chain, a Broken Dish
A Double Wedding Ring,
A Dutch Girl, loved but awfully worn,
Will all her praises sing.

A bright Lone Star, a new Birdhouse
A Cathedral Window glows,
Jacob's Ladder, a Dutch Boy,
Her handiwork each shows.

For none can match the heritage
My Mamaw's made for me.

By her example I have found
How life's supposed to be.

She gave me many precious gifts
To have in joy and strife.
But the best was not the quilts she stitched
But how she pieced her life.

Reprinted with permission from The Ledger Independent, Maysville, KY

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