Colleen’s Comfort Quilts: Knot Plain, Just Fancy

Since our children were little babes in blankets, Colleen and I have been friends. Our friendship, knitted together by similar values, compatible tastes, and love of beauty, has flexed with her moves from Florida to Maryland to Texas to California and back again.

Collie with Quilt

Like her quilts, experiences in our lives have at times matched the dark, nubby patches, the smooth, satiny ones, all stitched together by the happy binding of love.

Soon I’ll be taking her latest creation as a gift to my dear Aunt Ruthie’s 95th birthday celebration in her new residence at Landis Homes near Lititz, Pennsylvania.  Ever the artist, Aunt Ruthie has  painted in oils, designed her gardens as colorful collages, and sewn her own clothes in quaint combinations. She’ll love the quilt!

Dark, nubby patches mimic doggy fur of Ruthie's beloved Schnauzer Fritzie
Dark, nubby patches mimic doggy fur of Ruthie’s beloved Schnauzer Fritzie

Last weekend I caught up with Colleen and asked her a few questions. Please listen in!

1. What are touch quilts?

A touch quilt has various textures that are intended to provide a calming effect and soothe jangled nerves as they are stroked.  A touch quilt may be used while sitting in a favorite rocker or recliner, wheelchair, at naptime, in a waiting room or hospital bed and are similar in theory to the security blanket used by many small children.  They are loved by elders and children alike and have been found to be especially useful for those who are blind or have dementia.

2. How did you get started making them?

In 2005, my church started a Prayer Quilt ministry where I learned to make lap-size quilts;  I loved the idea and process and have been making them ever since.  In 2010, a women’s group I belonged to asked if anyone knew how to make touch quilts, which were  to be donated to the local Elder Day Stay.  I did a little research and found them to be very similar to the prayer quilts I already knew how to make, except for the fabrics used.  I made about 16 Touch Quilts over the next two years and got wonderful feedback from the excited recipients.

Gold, satin petals attached only at center
Gold, satin petals attached only at center

3. What types of fabrics do you use?

I look for pleasing colors in a variety of soft fabrics such as satin, corduroy, minky, flannel, fleece, fuzzy, furry, and more. I like to have some satin and fuzzy in every quilt and prefer satin bindings on all of them.

Sizes? (Dimensions of quilts)

I have made lap size (42 x 42), which is the most common size for all ages, nap size (42 x 54), and wheelchair size (36 x 36), which is intended to fit comfortably between the wheels without getting snagged.

4. Where do you get your inspiration for the designs and color combinations?

I try to include at least one fabric with a pattern and select complementary colors based on that. I start out designing on the computer and then put the cut fabric on my quilting “wall” to ensure the design fits the fabrics selected.  When I’m using a new design or a fabric with a new pattern, I often spend quite a bit of time rearranging the fabric blocks on the wall before I find a combination that feels and looks right.  It’s a creative process that can take hours and occasionally, days.

5. Who benefits from your quilts? To what organizations have you donated them?

I donate quilts to the Trinity United Methodist Church, Elder Day Stay, and various individuals.


Quilts by Colleen: Touchable Chic

Questions or comments about Colleen’s quilts? Reply below please!

Children’s book: The Boy and the Quilt by Mennonite author, Shirley Kurtz:


17 thoughts on “Colleen’s Comfort Quilts: Knot Plain, Just Fancy

  1. I never heard the term “touch quilt” before, but I was touched by this post and by this ministry. A comfort to the old, and an education to the young.

    Think what good writing would come out of an encounter with a touch quilt! Touch may be one of the least-used of the senses in ordinary writing.

    This is no ordinary woman. Thanks for sharing Colleen, Aunt Ruth, and these gorgeous quilts with us. And give Aunt Ruth a hug from your readers.


    1. I will!

      When you visit your mother at Landis Homes, you can see my Aunt Ruthie’s quilt “in person” after October 4 when we have the gala celebration of her 95th. Bossler’s Church people will be there for all the hoop-la! She will get hugs, you can count on it. I believe you are enroute to the Lititz area today for a different kind of celebration tomorrow, a culmination really of many years of effort. (Your book should arrive any day now in my mailbox–yippeee!)


  2. Quilts are such an amazing gift to give. I have a couple that my grandmother made for me, and I can’t look at them but think of her. I think equal amounts of memory and thread go into the making of one.


  3. Loved the way you wove your words with Colleen’s threads to give us another dimension of the often forgotten sense of touch. Thank you for bringing it with you yesterday and let me “touch” it. I’m seriously thinking about having her do one for me in red, white and black. Perfect for a Georgia Bulldog fan! Thank you for the time you spend enriching our lives each week with your BLOG.


    1. And thank you for being such a faithful friend and commenter. Colleen may be coming up again in November. I can give you her contact numbers if you want to pursue her making that red and black quilt for you. Yah–Dogs!


  4. Those are truly beautiful keepsakes, as well as useful. My Great Aunt once asked all the men in the Church to bring in their old ties. She put a box at the back of the Church and kept it there for a year. She made a gorgeous Dresden Plate styled quilt from all of the old silk ties. It was so colorful and unique.


  5. What? Marian, did you go to that link? Loss forgiveness, restoration, and the Face of Christ?? Very strange.

    But thank you. I’m happy you found the book.

    A whole new concept–these quilts of Colleen’s–lovely.

    I want to see the Dresden Plate one, all the silk ties.


  6. sknicholls, I’m sorry I can’t donate any of my ties for a future quilt. Most Sundays I literally wear memories around my neck.

    When I first ran my fingers over the touchable quilt that Colleen made I thought of the phrase from the “revised” nursery rhyme Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear…


  7. My 98 year old Grandmother is still quilting – she taught me how. In fact, my wedding quilt was made by 4 generations on both sides of my family so it’s really special. I have always considered texture in the pattern of the fabric, but not the fabric so I’ll have to tell Nana about it. I also have a friend who works with blind students and her Mom is a quilter too – so will pass this idea on there as well. What a wonderful gift!


  8. I’ve never heard of touch quilts before but I can certainly appreciate how they could be a comfort to the recipients! I’m looking forward to getting back to quilting once I retire. My fabric stash beckons!


    1. You’re in a time of transition: retiring, selling house, and then moving. Quilts: All in due time!
      By the way, poking around on your website, I discovered you’re a treasure of info for would-be writers, the latest one– unlocking the mystery of the ISBN. I have many mentors on my journey as a writer, you among them.

      Thanks for stopping by, Linda.


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