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‘To touch the Ukrainian heart’

Nancy Schaadt, longtime resident of Fellowship Community in Whitehall, has created a quilt in honor of the Ukrainian people that will be put on display at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, D.C., until it can safely go to its permanent home in Kiev.

The quilt, which had been on display at Fellowship Community, will be delivered to Washington this month.

Schaadt, 85, who has no ties to Ukraine other than a great sympathy for its people and their struggle, spent four months on the project, searching embroidery designs and fabrics, “auditioning” and choosing fabrics, piecing, stitching and sewing on crystals.

The result is an intricate piece of art full of incredible detail and symbolism - a true gift from the heart.

Schaadt offered a cohesive explanation of some of that symbolism and the thought processes behind her design decisions.

“The intent of the quilt is to honor the Ukrainian people and to pay tribute to their fight for freedom and independence,” Schaadt said. “I started with a design which can be looked at from eight different ways, which was deliberate. The center of the design would be the emblem of Ukraine, which is in the middle in a heart. Now the heart is basically where we begin. The love of their country.”

She reported including the national colors of the country with blue and yellow. She also added doves to symbolize peace.

“I wanted to do something that would encompass the beauty of the country, and I decided on the sunflowers, which are the national flower of Ukraine, along with some poppies,” Schaadt said. “I looked everywhere for the right sunflowers, and these sunflowers have a black background, which is exactly what I was aiming for in this whole design.”

She included approximately 142 red crystals to add a little something extra to the design. She also opted for a traditionally Eastern European embroidery design.

“Now we have to have war,” she said, “and war comes in from all sides, which was the point of doing the star design, but it starts with the introduction of a weapon. I tried to find a stone that looked like a weapon, which was frankly, hard to find. So this bullet-shaped crystal is your weapon. The red of the stone changes from the lovely circles of the sunflower and moves now into a teardrop, which is to indicate bloodshed.”

She noted the black coloring is used to indicate death as a result from the war to honor those who lost their lives. The red diamonds also include a star crystal to represent the souls of those who died.

“Now we have the designs in the black. There’s the dove for peace and the trident, which is the national emblem of Ukraine,” Schaadt reported. “It goes way back into early Christendom and symbolizes the Holy Trinity.”

She noted wanting to use Ukrainian designers in the fabric and embroidery work. She said the design she got from the Ukrainian designer had praying hands.

Additionally, she wanted the doves to be ethereal, so they are dimensional with a see-through effect.

“To encompass the whole feeling, we go right back to the middle, which is the heart,” Schaadt explained.

This section includes blue and yellow stars with a sparkle to honor the Ukrainian people’s fight for liberty and freedom.

Schaadt explained that Lou Schrammel, a veteran who also lives at Fellowship Community, did the embroidery work. He reportedly spent his whole life doing sewing work.

Schrammel got a brand-new embroidery machine, and Schaadt thought this was a wonderful way to try out the new machine. She hunted up the embroidery designs online, downloaded them to the machine and feels they turned out “magnificently,” she said.

The long-arm quilting was done by Dotty Custer, of Topton. They had previously worked together on another of Schaadt’s projects.

“We chose to do three layers of batting to give it this incredible dimension,” Schaadt said. “The whole thing is to honor these people who are so brave in their fight, and when they look at it, I hope they understand that America has great respect for what their fight is all about.”

Schaadt began quilting after she retired from teaching vocal music at Emmaus Junior High School.

“I wanted to do something completely different, to reinvent myself,” she said.

She knew she loved the feel of fabrics. When she saw a church bulletin offering beginner quilting classes, she went.

“I never even threaded a needle until I was 60,” she said, but reported she fell in love with the process.

She noted she found many of the designs boring, so she started coming up with her own designs.

“That’s when I found my joy. That’s the part you can control,” she added.

She spoke animatedly about how form, repetition and motif are used in both music composition and art and how the transition from music to art was very easy for her. She said she loves the “thrill of the chase” when using the Internet to track down the right fabrics and spending hours thinking about and trying out new designs.

“You don’t have much time to socialize when you’re always working on something in your head,” Schaadt said. “You’ve got to find your passion.”

She’s made more than 100 quilts, some of which adorn her home or have been given to family. Most have been donated.

“One of the original thoughts about donating the Ukrainian quilt was that it should go to a Ukrainian College of Art or something, but it doesn’t belong to the students - it belongs to the people,” Schaadt said. “You can give people money and all kinds of things, but art is something that stays in your heart. I wanted this to touch the Ukrainian heart.”

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO This quilt, made by Fellowship Community, Whitehall, resident Nancy Schaadt, is being donated to the Ukrainian people. It will be on display at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, D.C., before being sent to Kiev.
Fellowship Community, Whitehall, resident Nancy Schaadt discusses the symbolism behind the quilt she made in honor of the Ukrainian people.
The doves have an ethereal feeling with a see-through effect. The quilt will be on display at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, D.C., before being sent to Kiev.
PRESS PHOTOS BY M.J. KORSAK The heart makes up the center of the quilt with symbolic stars, colors and more.