Joyce Evanishen is described by a friend as a “quilter extraordinaire.” She’s not exaggerating.
Step into Evanishen’s Vernon apartment, and you are immediately greeted by her handiwork. Take a few more steps, and it’s like stepping into a quilter’s dream, with bolts of fabric neatly organized, spools of thread and everywhere quilts: colourful quilts covered in fairies or teddy bears, and larger pieces suitable for a bed spread or to decorate the wall of a living room.
Evanishen’s love of quilting goes back to 1997 when her cousin was visiting her from Winnipeg.
“One afternoon I went to work and she went to the quilting store and brought back a pile of stuff and when I got home, she’s made a pattern and that was my first lesson in quilting,” said Evanishen.
Having been a sewer, Evanishen knew her away around a needle and thread, but with her son and daughter grown she no longer had the need to make tiny pairs of pants and dresses.
“So this was a nice substitute. But also, in 1998 I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and had to give up on all of the sports I loved, such as golf, racquetball and skiing. It took me two years to finally accept it, but I love to work with my hands and this helps to keep the RA under control.”
Evanishen, who has lived in Vernon more than 30 years, joined the Vernon Silver Star Quilters Guild eight years ago, and enjoys the camaraderie with others who share her passion for quilting.
One of her first quilts is a colourful piece whose pattern came from a jigsaw puzzle of a painting by Brazilian artist Romero Britto called For the Two of Us.
“I e-mailed the artist and asked if I could do the piece as a quilt, and I was given permission if it was only for personal use, which meant I couldn’t take it to the quilt show I had wanted to,” she said. “Because I could not find the colours, I ended up dyeing individual pieces of fabric — this one took me almost a year to make.”
When it comes to Christmas and birthday gifts, Evanishen always has a quilt on the go, but after finding she had a surplus she began looking into other ways of getting her quilts out to people in need.
“After awhile, you make so much and you have given it to every kid and grandkid and you don’t know what to do with them, so every year I decided to donate a larger quilt to a charity of my choice.”
Her quilts can be seen at Hospice House in Vernon, in government buildings around town, and she has given cozy warm quilts to Quilts of Valour Canada, whose mission is to deliver quilts of comfort for injured Canadian soldiers. One even made its way to Winnipeg for a silent auction fundraiser, which she made in memory of her mother, a breast cancer survivor.
And she is proud of the fact that children in need have been recipients of her quilts, through the Family Resource Centre and Child and Youth Mental Health.
Evanishen’s first baby quilt was made for her granddaughter, who is now 16.
And now babies throughout B.C. are cozy and warm thanks to the tiny, colourful quilts she makes for premature newborns at the neo-natal unit at Kelowna General Hospital.
“They are the most fun and are a specific size as they must fit over the incubator. I was asked by a guild in Kelowna if I could help and I was happy to.
“I try and do 10 or 12 once a year and when I take my little suitcase in, the nurses all have a look at the quilts. The parents love them because the babies get moved around and so the quilt stays with the baby and it’s a familiar thing for parents to see.”
The Vernon Silver Star Quilters meet at 9:30 a.m. on the first and third Thursday of the month at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 5151 Alain Rd., just off Silver Star Road. New members are always welcome. For more information, see www.vssq.org.