Grace Andrews has a deft touch with a needle – a talent that has little to do with her long-time nursing career.
Andrews, née Greenhalf, who graduated from Western in 1955 with a diploma in clinical nursing instruction, has crafted quilts for each of her eight grandchildren.
But her latest project had a decidedly Western hue: a nine-month, three-generation team effort that had her teaching and working with daughter Liz Lusk, BA’89, BSc’92, and granddaughter Justine Lusk, BA’17, BEd’19, on a keepsake quilt that celebrates Justine’s three years competing on the Western Mustangs cheer team.
Working side-by-side for nine months, the three of them also stitched together a closer relationship – because quilting is more than just the finished product, Andrews said.
“It’s about companionship, working with other people and seeing the quilt take shape,” she said.
“This was a work of love. Really, it was fun to do, to be able to share with my daughter and granddaughter.”
Justine attended Western “partly for kinesiology and mostly for cheerleading” because of the Mustangs’ perennial success in the sport. “I loved the team aspect. You have a tight-knit group of family and friends, and a common interest and common goals,” she said.
After more than three successful years on the Western team, her career crashed to a halt when she landed wrong while performing a “full”, a 360-degree backflip with a 360-degree twist, and broke two bones in her leg.
Even after she retired, and even after she went on to teach elementary school, tangible remnants of those university years lingered.
“She had drawers and drawers of cheer gear,” noted her mother, Liz, a physiotherapist at Thames Valley Children’s Centre in London. Then Liz learned of a trend to make quilts from sentimental T-shirts and a lightbulb went off.
Under Andrews’s tutelage, the three of them soon were selecting Justine’s cheer gear T-shirts, shorts, and tank-tops and figuring out how to assemble them into a purple-and-proud work of art.
Then it was a matter of needle, thread, thimble, and little stitch by little stitch.
Justine had never sewn before, had barely ever picked up a needle and had never used a sewing machine.
“It was all about planning, planning, planning. Measure twice, cut once,” Justine said.
Grace gave hands-on tips and shared stories about her time at Western, including singing in the university choir and performing in a student cabaret.
They worked on the project throughout most of 2019 and sent the stitched pieces to a quilter before stitching the border together as a finishing touch just before the pandemic hit.
Justine keeps the quilt in a keepsake box, a tangible reminder both of her time at Western and her mother’s and grandmother’s love.
Said Justine, “It was really special to spend all this time together and learn to sew from my Nana. And that’s just not something you could ever do, or even want to do, by watching YouTube videos.”
Added Liz, who had long admired her mother’s skills as a seamstress, “It was bonding time as much as it was learning time. We get so busy sometimes we don’t always spend time together and this was a reminder of how important that is.”