Category: Founder’s Field Notes

Happy Birthday to The 70273 Project!

If you’re already a part of The 70273 Project Tribe, thank you. If you’re just finding out about us, I hope you’ll poke around a bit  learn a little more, then join us.

For personal reasons, I’ve been mostly dormant the past year, but that’s changing, and you can color me positively zestful. Or positive and zestful, your pick. Over the next few months, I’ll be revealing plans for what awaits us in the next chapter of the project. If you haven’t already, subscribe so you don’t miss a thing ‘cause I think you’re gonna’ like what’s ahead.

This morning I launched a Facebook fundraiser because some adventures in our future require financial support – especially in the area of storage and storage supplies. it’s time for our 850+ quilts (and counting) to slide out from under beds, leap out from closets, gather to accessorize with labels and hanging sleeves (if needed), and pose for their glamour shots. You’ll see all this ‘cause I’m limbering up my fingers (not popping knuckles, though) in preparation of  creating online galleries for each quilt, complete with photos and stories. Thank you for giving what you can and sharing the fundraiser with your friends. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a worldwide village to change the world into a welcoming place for all, whatever their differences and capabilities.

Hostage, The Adventure Begins

Vintage boy’s shorts and shirt, vintage embroidered doilie, two red embroidered circles, all appliqués to the top of a small vintage quilt


Till the day he died of natural causes, my daddy talked about the barrel of that shotgun placed against the back of his neck. It was a feeling he never forgot.

Daddy was five years old when bandits came to the house, intending to kidnap Granddaddy and rob the bank. It was a weekend of horror I can scarce imagine. After spending my entire life gathering the stories, photos, and information, I am at last sitting down to write the book about that event that happened in my family on May 5 and 6, 1933. It is a story  of many stories woven together, and I will tell them all in books and in quilts.

The red circles represent the double barrel shotgun he felt against the back of his neck when, on Saturday morning May 6, 1933, five year old Crawford Jr. (a.k.a. Daddy) forgot that the bad men were in the house and did what he did first thing every morning: ran for the outhouse.

When I decided to tell the story in quilts as well as words, I went straight to my closet and began culling through all the things I’ve rescued and adopted over the course of more years than I can count. Quilts someone made for their babies; baby clothing that caught my fancy; embroidered doilies or dresser protectors or coasters – not sure what you call them. In less than 2 hours, four quilts were pinned together, using only what I have on hand. That is one of my intentions for this year, you know, using only (okay, mostly) what I have on hand. It’s an idea I got from my talented friend Linda Syverson Guild, who doesn’t buy any fabric the first six months of every year, using instead what she already has. I smile as I weave these storied, already well-loved items into my family’s stories. I also smile feeling grateful  that I listened to my Bones and purchased these things, even with that dreaded voice of authority on The Committee of Jeanne booming in the background things like “You don’t need this” or “You have too much stuff already” or “What on earth do you plan to do with that?” (The others who sit on The Committee of Jeanne are saving up for a firing squad.) Score one – a great, big, fat one – for my Bones.


If you’re wondering about The 70273 Project, we’re still here. I’ve been regrouping and hatching plans that I’ll share with you here next week. Thanks for stopping by and trekking through these adventures – all of them – with me.

Eye Treatment #11

A stack of 13 books

I am either deeply rooted in denial or I’m the new poster girl for eternal optimism. In the past week, I checked out these books from our local library.

Another stack of books
And bought these books at the library’s used book sale two days ago,

Yesterday was Eye Treatment #11, and tests showed there was more fluid (bad) but no blood (good).  There was the expected deterioration in vision because it’s been 10 weeks since my last treatment, and there are usually no more than 4 weeks between injections. This time, a first. My eyeball hurt for 48 hours. I couldn’t roll my eyes, move them side to side, or blink without flinching and wincing. All I wanted to do was sleep, and that was impossible because every time my eyes moved, sharp pains woke me up. I don’t know if you’ve tried it or not, but it’s hard to cradle and impossible to immobilize your eyeballs.

It usually takes about a week before the I notice improved vision, and I can’t wait because when I went back last week, the decline was becoming drastic. I turned on all (and I do mean all) the lights in a room and still there wasn’t enough. I wore the same clothes day after day because I couldn’t see well enough to distinguish cut and color. The dreaded black “thumbprint” didn’t come position itself in the center of my sight, but its predecessor, the gray veil, was back and darkening. Everything sported curves and waves, and even the most gigantic fonts could only be seen, but only as smudges. Couldn’t tell numbers from letters.

Two more days till the one week mark is here, though, so my hopefulness swells, and I am deeply, hugely, ginormously thankful for your continued support.

Do I feel stupid or regret lining up all these books to read? Not at all, though I do wonder why the sudden urge to hoard books. Perhaps it’s because my vision was so much improved in November that I grew false confidence. Or maybe it’s determination. I  don’t look for the white flag yet, though. I have waaaaay too many ideas, art quilts to stitch, books to write, books to make, and books to read (of course).

And how ‘bout we make a deal? Any if you find typos here, please remember my wet macular degeneration and treat them as some kind of crossword puzzle on an adventure. Or blame it on auto-spell.

A Single Sheet of Paper

She stops me, this incredible woman and artist I now know as Miki Willa, and tells me a story . . . this story:

“I knew what to do,” says Miki, “because I’ve watched Nancy express herself through pen and paper, though art.”

The Little Paper That Could

These are Vanessa’s marks. These size of the paper is about 3″ x 5″, while the size of the meaning is limitless, unmeasurable.

As Though That Isn’t Amazing In and Of Itself 

In 2014, when Kathy Loomis mentioned that there were still spots available in the Dorothy Caldwell workshop in Louisville. I put my name on a chair. Never one to sit still, I took In Our Own Language 3 along to work on during “down times”. Dorothy saw me stitching and asked me to kick the next day off by talking about In Our Own Language 3..

After the following morning’s impromptu presentation, a woman sitting behind me my now-friend Rosemary Claus-Gray suggested I write a book about my collaboration with Nancy to give other families hope and encouragement to find ways to communicate with their loved ones that don’t involve the spoken word. She even wrote the foreword to nudge me to get started.  Though I haven’t written the first word, I hold Rosemary’s foreward in a safe, special place so I can find it when I do shove all else aside and write this book. It will happen, Rosemary, I promise, Thank you for listening to your intuition and making the suggestion. And thank you, Miki, for changing lives with a single sheet of paper.

Quilts on Display at Sacred Threads 2019

2 women stand beside a quilt of the Buddha

Miki and Jeanne stand in front of Miki’s quilt Meeting the Buddha on the Path (48″ x 34″) on display at Sacred Threads 2019. When arranging ourselves for the photo, Miki placed me so that the Buddha’s hand touched my shoulder because the Buddha’s raised hand is a blessing offered. (And you thought the Buddha was doing “rabbit ears” behind me!) Ever since Miki told me that, I offer a silent blessing when waving to someone.

2 women stand beside a black quilt covered with colorful doodles and a little girl's white pinafore (dress)

Miki and Jeanne stand with Jeanne and Nancy’s quilt, Playground of Her Soul.

Isn’t it astonishing how much goodness happens when we pay attention?


Right this way for more 70273 Project videos.

46 Years and Counting!

man carries woman in wedding dress out of church

Personal computers
Mobile phones
Credit cards
Drive-thru pharmacies
Online shopping
Social media
Digital books
Insulin pumps
Water dispensers in refrigerators
High speed copy machines
Electric scissors
Serger sewing machiens
Uber and Lyft
“Smart” home gizmos

So many things are now part of our everyday lives that didn’t exist 46 years ago when The Engineer (a.k.a. Andy) and I met at the altar and said “Oh hell yes, we will!” So much  has changed. Shoot, even our love has changed since that Tuesday night, 31 July 1973. But there’s one thing that hasn’t changed a bit in 46 years: my gratitude to the Sweet Spirit of Surprise for introducing me to Andy; to my Bones for having the good sense to know a good man from the get-go and being fearless in marrying him 6 months after we met; and to Andy because after this long, with so much water still flowing under the bridge, gratitude and love are quite interwoven and often indistinguishable.

We’re off for a play day now. Thanks for sharing the decades of (mostly) joy with us.

woman and man standing on beach at sunset

(Parts of) our love story in previous anniversary posts:
Love with 42 Years on the Odometer

The “Re” Nobody Tells You About

40 Years Through the OUR Glass

39 Years of Togetherness

Marking Time

36 Years and Counting

woman in red and man in blue stand before a black quilt with marks stitched in off white thread

Bits of Interest

Interviews, sending information, formatting and sending photos, answering questions – as always, life is like a crazy quilt with much going on behind the scenes and filling my days at The 70273 Project, and many things are now coming to fruition . . .

Curated Quilts Magazine

cover of Curated Quilts magazine with words sewn into quilts
Every issue of Curated Quilts is an opportunity to attend a juried exhibit from the comfort of your own home. Each quarterly issue – available in print or digital versions – features a central theme and images of quilts selected for inclusion in the gallery, along with interviews, inspiration, techniques, and patterns. The magazine is printed on heavy stock paper that’s a delight to touch, the page layouts are beautifully designed, and the quilts in the gallery are a delight to behold. It’s more like a coffee table book that you’ll enjoy looking at over and over.
In early April, Amy Ellis, one half of the Curated quilts team, emailed to ask permission to include one of The 70273 Project quilts in issue #8 featuring Well Said quilts. “Specifically, we would like to feature your quilt in our gallery. A quilt from your 70273 Project would make a beautiful addition to our group of quilts curated to feature Well Said quilts,” writes Amy. I’m delighted to tell y’all that Curated Quilts Issue #8 is out, and The 70273 Project Quilt #10 is on page 13! Thank you, Amy and Christine for thinking of The 70273 Project. It’s an honor to be included.
a page in a magazine containing a photo of and an article about Quilt #10 of The 70273 Project. The quilt is a rectangular white quilt covered with pairs of red X's.

Quilts #649 and #650 at AHEAD Conference

two women stand in front of two white quilts covered in pairs of red X's

(L ro R) Tree Kuharich, Jane Brown stand in front of (L to R) Quilts 650 and 649 at the AHEAD Conference in Boston 2019

Thanks to the encouragement of Gladys Loewen and the generous hospitality of the AHEAD – Association on Higher Education and Disabilities – leadership, The 70273 Project (Gladys Lowen, Peggy Thomas, Kevin Thomas, Andy Chambers, and I) hosted a block drive at the AHEAD 2018 conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Members of AHEAD – eople who work to make life on college and university campuses throughout the United States accessible and accommodating for students with disabilities – embraced The 70273 Project, and I continue to be invited to make presentations to group, deliver lectures to classes, make studio visits, and host block drives on campuses near and far. It is a thrill and an honor to talk with faculty and students who study history, art, social work, and disabilities.

Both quilts were on display in the registration area of this year’s AHEAD conference. The 119 blocks made at last year’s conference were divided into bundles for two quilts and sent to Jane Thierfeld Brown, Ed.D. who pieced both tops, channeling her family history as she arranged and stitched, remembered and reflected.
woman stands besides two white quilts covered with pairs of red X's

Tree Kuharich stands beside Quilt #649 on display at the 2019 AHEAD conference in Boston. 53 lives are commemorated in this quilt that was pieced by Jane Brown and quilted by Tree.

The top for Quilt #649 (53 lives commemorated) was sent to Tree Kuharich who volunteered to quilt and finish it with a mere 3 months notice. Tree and her husband drove to Boston to view the quilts and attend one of Jane’s presentations on neurodiversity in higher education.
two white quilts covered in pairs of red X's hang between two women

Jane Brown (L) stands besides The 70273 Project Quilt #650 and Tree Kuharich (R) stands beside Quilt #649.

The top for Quilt #650 (66 lives commemorated) was sent to Gladys Loewen who quilted it using drapery fabric that once belonged to the mother-in-law of Tari Vickery as the backing. Tari hand delivered the repurposed fabric to Gladys this spring and even though she’s not a quilter, she nevertheless enthusiastically helped Gladys baste the quilt.
Thank you to all who were involved in the making of these two quilts, to those who invite me to take The 70273 Project to their campus; to AHEAD for having us host a block drive last year and displayed the quilts this year; to Kim Richards of AHEAD for taking photos, answering questions, and distributing information about the project; and to  Gladys, Jane, Tree, Tari, Peggy, Kevin, Andy, and everyone who made a block in Quilts 649 and 650.

University of Central Missouri

I spoke with Amber Clifford-Napoleone, Ph.D., Director of the McClure Archives and University Museum last week, and she says people continue to stream in to see the more than 100 quilts that are on display at The McClure. Due to the success and positive reception of The 70273 Project exhibit at the University of Central Missouri, the exhibit has been extended to the end of the year. The exhibit is open to visitors from 9 am to 5 pm  Monday through Thursday. Thank you, Dr. Clifford-Napoleone for all you continue to do to share this historical story, and thank you for these striking photos. I look forward to being back on campus this fall to talk to classes and your quilt guild and host a block drive.

Sacred Threads

5 white quilts covered in pairs of red X's hanging on a black background

The 70273 Project Special Exhibit at Sacred Threads 2019. Thank you, Sacred Threads, for including us and for this photo.

The Sacred Threads Exhibit opened last week, and The 70273 Project is honored to have a small Special exhibit amid some of the most amazing and powerful quilts I’ve seen in a long while. I’ll be there this week, so if you’re in the area and can come by, let me know when you’ll be there and we’ll make arrangements to meet. Oh, and my quilt Playground of Her Soul will be there, too! Can’t remember if it’s in the Grief or Joy section. I asked Curator Barbara Hollinger to decide on which side of the fine line she wanted to include it. I also created my eyes in cloth, and that piece is part of the Eye Connections exhibit.
For specific information about the exhibit – like where it’s located, the hours, and registration – visit The 70273 Project Calendar

KC Studio Article

2-page spread of magazine article featuring a quilt from The 70273 Project

KC Studio / July/August 2019 edition

The 70273 Project is the subject of an article on page 26 in the July/August 2019 edition of KC Studio – an online periodical covering the Kansas City art scene. Bryan LeBeau interviewed Amber Clifford-Napoleone, Ph.D., Director of the McClure Archives and Museum on the campus of the University of Central Missouri, he interviewed me, and he visited the exhibit.  Thank you, Bryan, for being so thorough in your research, and thank you KC Studio for including us.

MoFA Stories of Importance Exhibit

Nancy and I are plum tickled to have two pieces juried into the Stories of Importance Exhibit at the Missouri Museum of Fiber Arts.  Playground of Her Soul and In Our Own Language 3 will soon be on their way to Missouri for the exhibit that runs October 31, 2019 to December 13, 2019. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be there for the opening reception and Juror’s Talk from 5 to 7 pm on Thursday, October 31. If you can come, give me something to look forward to by letting me know.

That’s All for Now, Y’all

pair of eyes made of fabric
I had my fourth eye treatment last week (July 10, 2019), and though there’s some improvement, impaired vision continues to slow me down. It’s true that we exceeded our goal of 70,273 commemorations before our third anniversary – Y’all are AMAZING – and it’s also true that  there’s still much happening in The 70273 Project, so stay tuned cause you’ll want to be part of things we’ve got coming up. I just know you will. Here are some of the ways you can stay in the know . . .

Today Eye Show You My I

eyes of gauze sewn on a fabric base of red, green, and blue. red, pink, and white ribbon roses make the eyelashes

1. Time

I recently received a message from a friend replying privately to one of my facebook posts. She (a) expressed surprise that I continue to have issues with my vision, and (b) admonished me to accept it and move on. It occurs to me that perhaps I wasn’t very clear in my posts and in my earlier explanation. Let’s see if this post helps . . .

(a) It’s not so much a question of how rapidly the wet macular progresses as it is how much time it takes the treatments to accumulate. For the rest of my life, I will receive monthly injections in my eye. I was told from the beginning that it will take at least three treatments – maybe more – before I notice any improvement in vision. In fact, that’s the very thing the clinical trial I’m in investigates: how long will this medication retain its effectiveness before needing a boost.

(b) Hit by a car in downtown Atlanta on Friday, back in the office the following Monday. Emergency Caesarean delivery with minimal anesthesia (It was offered, I refused to inhale.), up curling my hair two days later so I didn’t look such a fright. Second Caesarean delivery 14 months later, back at home the next morning to tend my newborn and 14 month old. After my first two eye treatments, we went out to lunch and ran errands on the way home. You get the picture. I am a buck-up-and-carry-on-it-could-be-worse-so-what-are-you-complaining-about kind of girl.

However, two things happened on May 21, 2019 – the day of my second treatment – that shoved me into the pit of despair. The second one was the office visit for my treatment. Usually affable, kind, and efficient to a person, on May 21 everybody got up late or sat in traffic on the way to work or I don’t know what else, but that visit was off the rails in every way it could go off, and I felt the effects mentally, emotionally, and physically. I cried the entire five hours. Instead of leaving the office confident that I can live with this, I left feeling lower than a snake’s belly. That was only 23 days ago, and it is a big thing to adjust to low vision as well as the first time I’ve allowed myself to grieve over something that changes my life. And besides, as we all know: grief doesn’t wear a watch.

2. The World Through My Eyes

image of a right eye stitched on white gauze fabric with ribbon roses as eyelashes, all stitched to a base of strips of red, green, and blue fabric

Closeup of my eye art quilt. The eyeball is made of white gauze, and the iris is a photo (printed on fabric) of what things look like to me now.

This is a closeup of the art quilt I created for the Sacred Threads Eye Contact Exhibit.  This is my artist statement written to explain this odd-looking piece that will be surrounded by unimaginably beautiful eyes.

The world comes to me through veils of gray. I know the red dirt I walk on is red only because it has always been red. Entire forests blend into one great big tree. Everything dies behind splotches of black. Nothing is straight. Trees bend. Telephone poles bend. Road signs bend. “Our windshield is defective,” I tell my husband. Details elude me. I can make our faces, but not features. I see books, but the words are smudges. I can pick up the phone and talk, but I can’t read the numbers to initiate the call.

On April 3, I am diagnosed with wet macular degeneration. On April 9 I am told that I see bad good enough to take part in a clinical trial. On April 17 I have my first treatment. For 2 years and 3 months, I will make the 1 hour and 45 minutes drive to Asheville to the retina specialist once a month for a series of tests lasting 4.5 to 5 hours. The visit begins with the visual acuity test and culminates with an injection in my eye.

Thanks to the visual acuity tests, I now know the word disheartening intimately. as I am unable to read even the largest letters on the top row of the chart. Though I enter the room feeling optimistic an hopeful, I leave in tears with drooping shoulders dragging my spirit behind me.

Much energy is spent on struggle.

I struggle to decipher what I’m looking at; to not be a burden to people who must take me everywhere I need to go; to find upbeat ways to tell both strangers and loved ones of my low vision when requesting the help I need for the simplest things, like finding my way to the gate at the airport then finding my assigned row/seat on the plane.

I eat more cheeseburgers and fries now, finding menus impossible to read.

I struggle to not scold myself or be embarrassed when I – an adult – ask for words of encouragement from those administering the tests at the eye doctor’s office. When they focus more on the procedure the on me, the patient, I remind them that my inner kindergartner responds quite well to words like “good” and “yay” and “you’re doing great.”

When having conversations with myself and others, I struggle to remain positive and to construct sentences containing portals of hope and possibility while not denying my invisible disability.

I read a book of poems that makes me laugh out loud, and while I startle at the sound of my laughter, I remember what I’ve told myself on every trip around the sun: If I can laugh at it, I can live with it. Welcome back, laugher. I’ve missed you.

3. Looking Forward

My new friend Virginia is a font of encouragement, hope, and useful information. Thanks to her example and encouragement, beginning this month, I spend the day before a treatment resting and hydrating and I spend the 2-3 days after the treatment – say it with me – resting and hydrating. Virginia reminded me that my eyes are special and deserve a little TLC.

woman in a blue blouse and a blue hat with a pink flower. she stands in front of a waterfall and trees.

Jeanne in her new Eye Hat on her way to her third eye treatment

I bought myself an Eye Hat then added – wait for it – a dahlia to smile it up a little.

man stands beside a railing overlooking a waterfall

Andy and the Railing He Build Beside our Waterfall

wooden railing to the left of a path leading up the mountain

And as if all that isn’t enough, while I was with our daughter last week, The Engineer made use of downed trees and limbs to build a railing so I can feel safe when walking up to the top of our beloved waterfall.

Oh, and never one to wear the victim role well,  last week I penned and sent an email to the clinical trial manager (I call her my handler), outlining what went wrong last time and begging for help in getting us back to the quality of care I received on my first visit. I made it light hearted, but not so much so that it buried the seriousness of my words. It felt good to be proactive for myself, express what I need, and put myself in the process of scheduling future visits (something that hasn’t happened before now.

4. Third Time’s the Charm

Today is my third eye treatment. Any positive, healing, supportive, encouragement words, energy, prayers, smoke signals will be mutely appreciated.

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Allow me to introduce myself . . .

Hey, Sugar! I'm Jeanne Hewell-Chambers: writer ~ stitcher ~ storyteller ~ one-woman performer ~ creator & founder of The 70273 Project, and I'm mighty glad you're here. Make yourself at home, and if you have any questions, just holler.

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