Swift inspiration leads to quilt project

Swift inspiration leads to quilt project

Gemma Evans didn't expect to figure out her major HSC design project while chatting to Andrea Swift, mother of American country superstar Taylor Swift.


"We were at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre and I was trying to explain the HSC to someone from Nashville," she laughs.


"My idea was that you could make a quilt from a basic kit and personalise it with different materials."


After the concert Gemma wrote "a ridiculously rambling letter", attached a pen and fabric square and posted it to Taylor Swift.


"I wanted something that people like me could work on during their hospital stays.


"I have cerebral palsy. It affects people differently but I was determined not to be in a wheelchair."


Gemma's mother Lee says, "In order to stay on her feet she had to have a lot of operations where her femur was broken, rotated, pinned and plated. Her calf muscles were cut, extended and sewn together so she could stay upright."


Only days after posting the letter, Gemma received a reply and Swift's signed fabric square.


"I was beside myself. It ended up on my quilt and that's how it all started."


The former St Francis Xavier's College student's 'Inspirational Hospital Quilt' placed first in the diocese in last year's HSC for Design and Technology.


"I've been quilting since I was in Year 5 and thought it'd be cool to have something you're working on and can see progressing, because often in hospital you don't see how far you've come."


Although many activities are available to children with chronic illness or disability to alleviate the anxiety of surgery and treatment, teenagers have few outlets to express their thoughts and needs.


"I wanted something that would help with emotional and physical wellbeing."


The quilt is a mosaic of colour, fabric patterns, ribbons, buttons, photographs of family and friends, her god-daughter's footprint, grandmother's bridal veil, and lyrics and messages from Pink, Taylor Swift and Ingrid Michaelson. All these are markers of personal significance and motivation.


"I've tried to make it fit a hospital bed, lightweight, non-toxic and washable. If you have to change beds or rooms you can take it with you. All the techniques can be used in hospital."


Design and Technology teacher and mentor Trish Stallard oversaw Gemma's project. "She worked incredibly hard putting the quilt together, all the blocking, embroidery, and applique."


"She had many barriers to overcome and never complained. I nominated her for the Brother John Taylor Memorial Prize."


The prize recognises students who achieve academic success while overcoming personal hardship. Gemma was one of three NSW recipients. She also scored Band 6s (90% and above) in her other subjects, placing first in the diocese and fourth in the state for Business Services.


Now studying Event Management at TAFE, Gemma hopes her quilt can be an inspiration to others. 


"I found that it gave me a sense of belonging because you have something that's yours. You've made your mark."  

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