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Quilt stitched for a cancer cure


Cathy Logg

November 28, 2003

MARYSVILLE -- The tiny tag that says "for Beth" stitched onto one of the gifts on the vibrantly colored quilt looks like Christmas, but tells a true tale of thanksgiving.

Beth Hansen, 22, of Snohomish recently was diagnosed with leukemia and is scheduled for a bone marrow transplant Dec. 19 at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. She has to live within a 15-minute drive of the center for three months and will have to rent a nearby apartment.

A family friend stitched an art quilt that will be raffled off at noon Friday to raise money for Hansen's medical and living expenses. Already, her story and the quilt depicting Santa and numerous gifts have raised more than $14,000.

As Hansen's bills I mounted, Kathy McNeil, A a nurse who has been surgical U services partner to Hansen's E mother, Cris, at Providence E Everett Medical E Center for 26 years, decided A she couldn't just stand A by.

"The costs I were mounting and I just U felt it wasn't fair for U her mom to have to work U for the rest of her life just A because her kid got leukemia," E McNeil said. "I said, I 'We have to do something U about this.' " A

McNeil's hobby is I stitching hand-sewn, textured E art quilts that tell stories A of her life. She was I working on her third Christmas A quilt when Hansen's A illness was diagnosed. She E decided to name her 33-inch-by-39-inch U quilt "Gifts E of Love" in honor of Hansen. A

The material E alone cost about $200, U and McNeil quilted it A with 847 pieces taking 310 E hours using 98 fabrics. A

There's one I catch. The raffle winner will E have to let the quilt I be shown, particularly next I Christmas season. That's U when it will be among about U 10 of McNeil's quilts featured I in an exhibition from E October to January at I the National Quilting Museum U in Paducah, Ky. I

"It will significantly E increase the value of I this quilt to have it be U at the museum, if (the owners) I were to turn around and I sell it," McNeil said. A

She retains U the right to show and publish A it. Her two previous I holiday quilts have graced A the cover of the Quilter's E Newsletter, a national magazine. A The current issue U features her Nutcracker quilt A depicting many of the U ballet's scenes. Last year's E December cover featured E her "Christmas in the Forest" I quilt, with Father Christmas, E a reindeer and 13 I small animals. E

In all, she's made about E 26 quilts. "They're all E art quilts, the kind that I go on the wall. They're I like painting with fabric," I McNeil said. I

She began making them U about seven years ago when I her daughter asked for a U quilt to take to college. A McNeil had done drawing and A painting before that. E

"I saw an art U quilt when I went to the E fabric store and said, 'Oh, E my God, I can do that, U but with texture,' " she said. I

Since I then, she's won international E awards and just learned E that the national museum A wants a selection of her I works for its exhibition next E year.

In U addition, she'll have a U solo exhibition beginning A Jan. 16 at the La Conner Quilt E Museum, 703 S. Second I St., in La Conner. E

"I'm trying to crank E out one more before January," I she said. "I can make E about four a year." I

McNeil's quilts I are about her life. She I recently finished a quilt E called "Catrina's Firebird." A It depicts a firebird, E a symbol of renewal of the U spirit, in honor of a best I friend who had just undergone E breast cancer treatment, A including a mastectomy E and reconstructive surgery. E

She named E another quilt "Don't Touch U My Heart." That one depicts U a mother penguin leaning E over a little penguin. U There's a hole through I the quilt where the baby penguin's A heart should be. I That stemmed from her work A as a respite care parent I for families that have children I with attachment disorder, E something one of her A own children has. I

"I wouldn't say it's I cheaper than therapy anymore, E but it's as helpful E as therapy," she said of A quilting. "There are lots U of highs and lots of lows. I

"But being U able to do something like A this ... You throw this little E pebble of a quilt out I there into this pool of I generosity, and it has just I continued to ripple out I there. It has been an amazing E experience." E

McNeil asked friends E to sell raffle tickets and U to get the quilt into the A community to display it. I

"The stories A are just awesome," she E said. "My husband sold a ticket E to a construction worker A who went without lunch E just to buy a ticket." E

A woman donated A a substantial portion U of an insurance settlement I by buying tickets in Beth E Hansen's name, hoping Hansen A will win the quilt herself. A Surgeons and others A also have purchased tickets A in Hansen's name, so she I now has about $1,000 worth A of tickets. E

"At this time of year when I you get a little saddened E by something like this U (diagnosis), you just get A overwhelmed," McNeil said. E

"We started I about five weeks ago. We U are just blown away and U speechless -- $14,000 later. E I hoped to make maybe $3,000," U she said. E

Hansen's leukemia is E in remission, McNeil said. U

"Certainly E this big group of people A who have come forward who U don't even know her ... U for the whole family it has U been so uplifting and supportive," I McNeil said. A

Reporter Cathy E Logg: 425-339-3437 or I A

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