Saltwater Portrait

Carol Wallace: No frills, just quilts

Georgetown woman donates 400 quilts each year
Georgetown's Carol Wallace enjoys quilting so much she has made it a year-round hobby. She creates 400 quilts each year, which she donates to several charities. BY RACHEL SWICK MAVITY
May 17, 2011

Georgetown resident Carol Wallace doesn't mix words, but she does mix fabrics. Wallace turns out about 400 quilts each year for charities across Delmarva.

Wallace taught herself to quilt from library books in 1979 after she and her family moved from Portland to Baltimore.

"Quilting was very popular around then, so I got some books from the library and started quilting," Wallace said. "It's not nearly as hard as following a recipe."

Wallace and her family moved around a lot, but quilting was a hobby she could do anywhere.

"We moved about 22 times in 44 years," Wallace said with a chuckle. Now that her three children are grown, Wallace and her husband Lauren, have settled happily in Georgetown where they have lived for more than seven years.

Wallace started donating quilts through a group in Pennsylvania, but after moving to Delaware, she was determined to continue. She contacted several organizations and finally found a couple that wanted the donations. It is this determination and drive that keeps her going.

"I don't like to sit still," said Wallace. "I can quilt while watching television or a movie."

Over the past six years, Wallace estimates she has given away upwards of 2,400 quilts to various charities, including The Ark of Refuge in Millsboro and to veterans staying at the Perry Point Veterans Administration hospital.

For the most part, Wallace creates simple quilts. Most of her fabric is donated, so she first sorts through it to determine what she can use. Then she makes the 6-inch squares and sets them aside. Once she is ready to make the quilts, she picks out coordinated squares that match a backing.

"Most of what is donated is pink or has flowers, so I have to make sure I save enough that could be used for boys," Wallace noted. "I mix in solid-colored pieces with focus pieces that have patterns."

Organization is key in her quilting style. Wallace keeps holiday fabrics stacked together and tries to keep her shelves organized by type and weight of fabric. Behind her sewing machine stand stacks of rubberized containers holding solid-colored fabrics.

"I love to make quilts, but fabric is expensive," Wallace said. "Most of what I do is given to me. I like to reuse what other people would otherwise throw away."

Wallace devotes about six hours each day to quilting. It's a hobby that now, because of her connections with charities, fuels itself.

"I always say it's either a job that I like so well I do it for nothing, or it's a hobby that doesn't cost me anything," she said.

Wallace also does custom sewing work for clients. Just last year, she created a pumpkin-themed truck interior for Dawn Thompson, who won the Punkin' Chunkin' event. She has also had her share of difficult and interesting project requests.

One came from a woman who was about to have three new grandchildren. She wanted three quilts made using squares that each family member decorated very elaborately. Wallace had to stitch very carefully to make sure the decorated squares stood out on the quilt. Another time she worked with a woman to make quilts for the grandchildren of a woman who had passed away.

"The grandmother was very loved, and she was a fancy dresser," Wallace said. "After they cleaned out her closet, I used squares of her fancy clothes to make four quilts for the grandchildren."

Wallace receives calls frequently from people or groups interested in donating fabric scraps. She hardly turns anyone away without at least taking a look at the fabric. One call earlier this year proved to be a new one, even for her.

"About two weeks ago, I received a call from a man at the Smyrna Penitentiary," Wallace said. "He said he heard about my quilting projects and had fabric scraps from making the uniforms. A couple days later a Department of Corrections truck pulled up to my house to drop off the material."

Although the fabric was a little different from her usual supply, Wallace was able to make many quilts out of the orange, blue and white uniform material. She hopes to donate the scraps she couldn't use to other causes.

"People are very generous," Wallace said as she stands in her garage among stacks of material. "Many people have fabric hidden away in closets or have a relative looking to get rid of old fabric. And, they drop it off to me, so I can keep quilting."

One item Wallace says is hard to come by is the flat quilt batting used in between the quilted piece and the backing.

For now, the grandmother of seven, plans to continue quilting for as long as she can. She enjoys the hobby and enjoys knowing her quilts bring happiness to so many across Delmarva.