Quilts are works of art, created from chosen bits and pieces of cloth, both old and new. When something is handmade, it carries the spirit and the passion of the artist.
Ken Rufener of Newton Falls was amazed at his wife, Edna M. Rufener's, talent of creating handmade quilts, which she learned from her mother. He recalled how she would make quilts as gifts for their children and grandchildren.
Edna Rufener died of cancer in 2007. She started many quilts before she died and never got to complete them. Her husband's goal is to get these special quilts completed in her memory. One of these quilts was the Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt.
Marianne Bice, owner of Quilting B’s in Cortland, left, is shown with Ken Rufener of Newton Falls, who contacted the shop about finishing quilts his late wife, Edna, had started. At right is Madeline Gradishar, who completed the Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt shown. Photo by Michael Taylor
"She loved quilting," Rufener said. "She made quilts for our kids and grandkids all the time. The pieces of this quilt were cut by my wife six months before she passed away. I would sit with my wife and cut the pieces, and she would sew them together. I did not know that this quilt would be her last quilt, and she had all the pieces cut out and never finished it."
In October 2012, Rufener contacted Quilting B's in Cortland, owned and operated by Marianne and Jay Bice, to complete the top of the quilt.
Madeline Gradishar, Quilting B's employee, finished the top of the quilt on May 4.
Ken Rufener will be participating in the Newton Falls-Lordstown Relay For Life with the Bridge to a Cure team. The Relay will be held from 6 p.m. June 14 to 6 p.m. June 15 at Newton Falls High School, 907 Milton Blvd., Newton Falls.
"When I first took the quilt up to Quilting B's, all of the flowers in the quilt were separate pieces," Rufener said. "There were a lot of pieces in each flower. Madeline had all the flowers made and then laid them out on the floor and decided what she was going to put in each row."
Marianne Bice was glad to help Rufener with his wife's unfinished quilt.
"I tend to get emotional when husbands come in and bring in these project their wives have started," Bice said. "It makes me happy to know that they take pride in their wives' projects."
Bice said that while the top of the quilt is finished, it can take another six months to a year to complete the hand quilting.
Bice said that the Grandmother's Flower Garden Quilt project was an involved process, but the time and care was worth the labor.
"The Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt consists of one-inch octagons," she said. "The center of the flowers is a one-inch octagon and multiple colors go around this octagon. The quilt is made up of thousands of 1-inch octagons, hand-stitched to each other. It's beautiful and a beautiful memory of Ken's wife," Bice said.
"I think it will make him happy that we finished his wife's dream. I really enjoy doing this for people. The people we do this for are so grateful and they are so happy, and in turn, this makes us happy."
Jay Bice, Marianne Bice's husband and co-owner of Quilting B's, was a design engineer for Delphi for 25 years. Today, Bice enjoys incorporating this same artistic sense and ability to the art of quilting and sewing. Jay Bice will be putting the batting and backing on Rufener's quilt.
"I find the Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt project and quilting very therapeutic and calming," Jay Bice said. "I got to know Ken Rufener really well and you like the man right away. His quilt is done all in the same style as the way his wife started it. Madeline did a wonderful job. It's hard to tell the difference between what Madeline did and what his wife started. It was a pleasure to work on a beautiful quilt like this."
Kathy Harvey, daughter of Ken and Edna Rufener, has many fond memories of her mother's quilt making.
"She was talented, she did it all the time," Harvey said. "She was into quilting for as long as I can remember. I wasn't into quilting, but I just watched her make quilts. I have a few of her quilts at home that she made throughout the years. It's wonderful to see the quilts complete."