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It’s ‘time for me to give back’

Woman’s passion for quilting has grown with each passing year

Evelyn Christensen with one of her custom quilts. Photo by Karen Flaten

Evelyn Christensen with one of her custom quilts. Photo by Karen Flaten

When Evelyn Christensen was a young girl, she watched her mother make quilts. Now she makes her own and donates them to the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, where they are sold to help fund the organization’s fight against cancer.

Reminiscing about the way her mother made quilts when she was young, she said, “It wasn’t like the way you make quilts today. Mother used old coats – any kind of fabric – to make the quilts. She was going for the warmth, you see,” said Evelyn, who grew up in “an old log house” on a farm. “Now you go to the fabric store and find all the colors, all the fabrics you love to put together!”

Evelyn smiles as she shares another memory of her mother having the neighbor ladies over to quilt with her. The frame for the quilt would be supported on chairs, and the ladies would sit around the quilt, each sewing a particular area. Not yet old enough to help with the sewing, Evelyn recalled that “as kids, we would just sit under the quilt and play,” fabric draping down over them to make a snug little fort.

Perhaps it is the memories of her mother’s quilting that inspired Evelyn to make quilts. She had always had a passion for sewing. “In school, that was what I was interested in,” she said. “Other kids might like math or other subjects, but I liked sewing and cooking. Home economics – that was what I liked.”

As a young woman, Evelyn went to work in the nearby city of Ottawa during the week, but came home on weekends. “Every weekend I would sew! I’d come home and work on a project,” remembered Evelyn. In those days, it was quite expensive to buy ready-made clothes, and many women made their own clothing. So on the weekends, Evelyn made herself a new outfit to wear – for work or for going out.

Although she loved sewing, Evelyn didn’t really do much quilting until a few years later, after she had become a hairdresser. In between customers, Evelyn would take a break and work on a quilt block. But making one quilt block at a time in between customers was slow and not very satisfying. Evelyn remembered saying to herself, “When I retire, I shall do quilts.”

It was a prophecy that she worked toward, and which has finally made come true. Many years as a career woman have culminated in a retirement period filled with painting (oils, acrylics and pastels are her favorites), making handmade cards and quilting.

Evelyn’s career in the beauty industry started in hairdressing. She then worked as a beauty consultant with Mary Kay for many years. Establishing her own color consulting business, Evelyn took the Seasons method of color analysis to a new level, increasing the number of colors in a palette to 120. She also introduced the use of material rather than a color swatch printed on a card, to display each color. The flexibility of fabric, and the type of thread it is woven from, can make a huge difference in the way the color looks against each person’s skin, Evelyn believes. As an entrepreneur in the field, Evelyn taught others to do color analysis. But Evelyn was not a single woman with only herself to worry about. Married, and with a family, Evelyn maintained both a career and a home throughout much of her career life.

It was a difficult and draining time when she lost her husband of many years to cancer. In order to take a break, Evelyn traveled south to visit friends in Florida, retirees who were not extremely active.

“I told them I hoped they could find me someone to play tennis with,” she remembered. “Well, they called me back and said they had found someone for me to play with. I didn’t know it was a man!” recalled Evelyn.

Evelyn and Vince have been together since 2003. Contributed photo

Evelyn and Vince have been together since 2003. Contributed photo

That was in how she met Vince Christensen. They have been together since 2003. The Christensens divide their time between their lovely Lake Carlos home and another home in Florida, where Evelyn does much of her painting.

It seems that Evelyn has found a way to combine her many interests, using her skills in color analysis and the sewing ability she learned as a young woman to create beautiful quilts of all sizes. The baby quilts are often animal-themed, brightly colored, and with a soft fleece or flannel backing. There are so many options for the larger quilts – colors and fabrics can be based on a person’s favorite colors, or the colors used to decorate a room.

Although Evelyn made quilts before she remarried, it has been since she has been married to Vince that she has really pursued her love of quilting. Once she heard about the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, she felt she truly had a mission. She began making quilts and donating them to the Douglas County Hospital’s Relay for Life to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

“My late husband died of cancer, and many friends have struggled with cancer over the years,” Evelyn explained. “And two of Vince’s brothers died of cancer.”

“Although I lived most of my life in Canada, I am married to an American, and I’ve done more quilting here than anywhere,” continued Evelyn. “So I decided I’d like to contribute to the American Cancer Society and help find a cure for cancer.”

Over the last few years, Evelyn has settled into a pattern of contributing one large quilt, usually a queen-sized quilt, and three small “baby” or “lap” quilts to the Douglas County Hospital’s Relay for Life. “It is time,” Evelyn said, “time for me to give back.”

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