Pattie Sly can't remember when she started quilting. She knows she has just always had a sewing machine.
In sewing, she spreads kindness through quilts that are mostly made for friends and charity auctions.
Sly calls her work "memory quilts" because they are made from fabric that has significant meaning for the person the quilt is made for. Sly started this practice wishing to reach out to various friends who had experienced the death of a loved one. Mostly using T-shirts and sweatshirts, Sly sews remnants of a the deceased's life together to help comfort the overwhelming grief that comes with death.
Her art isn't always inspired by tragedy. The day we met she had just finished a quilt for one of her "dance girls" — a friend of her daughter.
She also received a blue ribbon last summer from the Katie Brooke Quilt Show at the Patton House in Brimfield. The ribbon was for a quilt that honored the 50th anniversary of the black squirrel being introduced in Kent. After scouring the local thrift stores for all the tie-dye T-shirts and peace pins she could find, she had a black squirrel printed on each shirt before she assembled the quilt.
This award-winning quilt has the same format of many of Sly's other memory quilts. Each shirt is cut into a large square and sectioned off in its own window. The border around each window continues around the entire perimeter of the quilt.
In fact, in 2006 Sly taught a six-month workshop to a group of students at Stanton that allowed them to work together and produce a quilt. Each student traced his or her hand and cut it out of fabric, then sewed beads around the edge. These hands were later sewn together in a quilt that still hangs in the office of the middle school.
Sly works on a 14-foot-long arm machine that allows her to "meander" through her projects with incredible ease. Meandering is a way of stitching that allows the artist to stitch across the top of the quilt freely. Inspired in part by fellow quilter Susan Shie, Sly enjoys this technique because it doesn't follow the lines. It's like coloring outside the lines in a coloring book. The artist is free to follow inspiration as it comes. Sly mischievously calls this "not behaving."
Sly, who graduated from Kent State University with a degree in fashion merchandising, is humble about her philanthropic artwork. She seems more excited that sewing is once again the "hip" thing to do. She has noticed a resurgence in sewing and quilting among young people despite the lack of education about this skill in schools. Even her kids help her with some of her work.
She may have a part in this as she works at Peninsula Art Academy teaching quilting, mosaic tiling, tie-dying, batiking and sewing this summer. If you ever find yourself in need of a project during these dog days, look her up.