The quilt is bright, colorful. It has a dark background with rainbow-hued flowers and plenty of red detailing.
Jennie Blume hand-cut each petal of the appliqué flowers in the center. She says she spent well over 100 hours cutting and putting the quilt together. For each colored petal, she had to switch out the thread in her sewing machine.
And that doesn’t include the work to design this year’s quilt for the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer.
This is the 13th year the foundation has used a quilt by Blume of Fort Wayne to raise money. At first, Blume says, interested parties bid in a live auction for the quilt and then the sale was turned into a silent auction.
Now, the quilt travels and people can buy chances to win it. Based on its schedule, the quilt is en route to The Fashion Mall at Keystone in Indianapolis, where it will be displayed from Thursday through Sunday, before it comes to Fort Wayne in April. It has been in New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois, Massachusetts and North Carolina. It still has to visit Arizona and Texas, as well as Jefferson Pointe and the Vera Bradley Outlet Sale in April.
When the quilt was auctioned, it raised about $5,000 a year, says Catherine Hill, the executive director of the foundation. Last year, as a drawing with $2 tickets, the quilt raised $48,000.
There was exponential growth when we put the quilt on the road, Hill says. Suddenly, thousands more Vera Bradley fans and people who want to support the cause were invited to participate.
Blume started sewing when she was a child, making clothing for her family – and her Barbie dolls – with her mother. Blume grew up in a family of seven and eventually had three boys, who weren’t quite as much fun to sew for, she says. Her husband’s cousin taught Blume to quilt about 20 years ago.
Blume participates in the tennis portion of the Vera Bradley Classic, a women’s golf and tennis tournament, and she helped with the decorations for the event. Vera Bradley fabric is used to decorate, she says, and she had left over fabric one year.
I’ve been quilting for years and decided to make a quilt out of it, and it became a tradition from then on, she says.
Blume first sees the fabric she will use for the quilt the summer before the quilt travels. She spends the season figuring out what to do with the fabric and how to piece the quilt together. In the fall, Blume gives the pattern to friend Paula Reuille of Fort Wayne who machine quilts the fabric. Blume then binds and finishes the quilt, labeling it.
The women’s goal is to have the quilt complete by the holidays. This year’s quilt started traveling Feb. 7, and it will be auctioned about June 8, Hill says.
For the past few years, the finished piece has been about 90-by-90 inches, Blume says – about the dimensions for a queen-size bed. Hill says she has received photos from at least one winner with the quilt on her bed.
It’s been a lot of fun, Blume says. I really enjoy sewing and quilting, and I’m really enjoying getting to see the Vera Bradley fabric before (it’s introduced in stores) and getting to work with it.