After first inspiring her quilting hobby more than 35 years ago, Bonnie Sheppard is now honoring her sister Robin’s memory through quilting and support of the Down Syndrome Association.

“Looking for a new hobby in the winter of 1982, I took a hand-quilting class,” Bonnie said. “The resulting project was an Ohio Star full-size bed quilt all hand sewn.  My little sister loved it and wanted one for her bed. Anything for Robin.”

That first quilt was an orange Friendship Star they hand-tied. Bonnie quilted sporadically through the years, but when she retired from teaching 30 years later, her husband purchased a Gammill for her.

“Before I could get too involved (in quilting), Robin came to live with us,” she said. “Taking care of her became a full-time job. I made Robin a quilt for her new bed with her choice of colors – orange and pinks.”

Robin began her own independent creative projects, knotting fleece blankets and dog toys, many her favorite shades of orange. The sisters donated the projects to the Humane Society and Down Syndrome Association (DSA).

Just two years later, Robin passed away.

“I delved into my quilting and practiced my skills on the longarm,” Bonnie said.

Finding comfort in her quilting, in a short time, a pile of small quilts had accumulated. It only made sense, she said, to continue donating them to the DSA.

“It has been six years now, and my quilts have become an addition to each welcome basket given to newborns and their parents,” she said.

In addition, Bonnie designed and quilted a DSA awareness ribbon that hangs in the organization’s main office, created play mats for the children to use during therapy and play sessions, taggies with ribbons for the infants at the annual luncheon for families with babies born that year, two full-size raffle quilts, and dolls with any leftover flannel.

The quilts that go in the welcome baskets are various sizes; stroller, car seat, baby throws and crib.  Each one has a personal note attached including an explanation of the quilt design that she may have just learned, which have included 3D design, applique, scrappy applique, Hawaiian one-piece designs, art and next, English paper piecing.

Bonnie was recently honored by the DSA for her contributions and asked to speak to families about her experience as a sibling to her sister with Down Syndrome. She said the recognition was unexpected. She simply quilts to share her love for all these beautiful children and their parents.

Robin and her favorite quilt.

Robin with the quilt Bonnie created for her after Robin came to live with her. 

A quilt by Bonnie.

A quilt by Bonnie.

Bonnie and her husband with Robin, center.

Bonnie and her husband with Robin, center.

Quilting with Love

The Gammill Quilting with Love spotlight recognizes some of our amazing quilters who are making a difference in the world with the help of their Gammill machines. Learn more and nominate a quilter at Gammill.com/QuiltingWithLove/