Blue shirt

Three Sisters, One Quilt

Three Sisters, One Quilt
by Barbara Jean Springthorpe
Big Bend Hospice Suicide Loss Support Group, Tallahassee

This is my story about how quilting has been an important part of my journey in grief, mental health, and suicide loss awareness.

I am a member of the Quilters Unlimited, Inc., guild in Tallahassee, Florida.  When the guild announced in the springtime that the theme of the 2017 Challenge Quilt would be “Sentimental Journey,” I knew immediately I would enter the contest for the first time and what I could include in my quilt. My two late sisters were quilters, and both left many unfinished quilting projects at the times of their deaths.  Sadly, both deaths were suicides; Joan in 2003 and Claire in 2013.  I decided to combine some of my late sisters’ works into one quilt for my Sentimental Journey.  I carefully considered which pieces to include in my quilt, and took a lot of time on the design and layout, as well as the background fabric and type of quilting, while working within the size limitations (maximum of 160 inches square). I titled my project Three Sisters, One Quilt for the 2017 Challenge Quilt.

Claire was a traditional quilter, loved appliqué, and designing her own art quilts. She often incorporated photographs into her art quilts that are significant to our family, such as the “Honora’s Trees” piece, a photograph of the land on which our great-great grandmother’s cabin once stood in County Leitrim, Ireland. Three of her appliqué projects with similar, bright colors are also included in Three Sisters, One Quilt.

Joan learned Hawaiian quilting while she lived there during the 1980-90s, and she generously shared her quilts with friends and family.  She left at least 5 similar projects, relatively small quilt tops that were suitable for pillows.  I chose the pink one for Three Sisters, One Quilt.

It is impossible to know what my sisters had envisioned as the end results while working on these individual pieces. That is not for me to know. What is left to me, however, is to remove these works from storage, bring them out in the light, and show other people my sisters’ creative works, and to combine them into one beautiful Sentimental Journey. 

Since Claire’s death in 2013, I have attended a suicide loss support group at Big Bend Hospice in Tallahassee.  The group is facilitated by a professional grief counselor and provides a safe place for people to discuss the impact of their loved ones’ suicides. I showed Three Sisters, One Quilt at the group’s meeting in July, 2017 and was grateful for their support.   

This piece will be published in the Florida Suicide Prevention Coalition Newsletter in October, 2017

Barbara in the Jean McCully Family House Garden. The Big Bend Hospice Suicide Loss Support Group meets monthly. For more information contact: Pam Mezzina @ 671-6078 or email

Big Bend Hospice and American Foundation of Suicide Prevention will also be teaming up to offer a Survivor Day video showing and potluck on Saturday, November 8 from 10-12 in the Bartelt Center at Big Bend Hospice.