Helen Hounshell: quilt maker

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“Our lives are like quilts, bits and pieces, joy and sorrow, stitched with love.”

Helen Hounshell’s shop Cardinal Quilts & Fabrics is filled with more of a variety of beautiful fabrics than are seen in many large chain stores.

Helen grew up in Bennington and recalled her mom making their clothes out of feed bags which was more common than not. As a child Helen was in 4-H program and began sewing at age nine.

Little would she have known at that age that after raising a family and having a career outside the home, that time spent in 4-H would eventually lead to owning her own quilt and fabric shop in Vevay.

While her two long arm quilting machines work perfectly and precisely and keep a quiet rhythm stitching the hundreds of artful pieces together, she looks off the landing and smiles as she thinks about all the clothes she made for her seven children – including the prom dresses for six daughters.

You can see a proud woman as she speaks of her children and her life.

“I always have loved taking care of people”, Helen says as she looks around at all her fabrics as her pet canary sings from his nearby perch.

In 1998, after raising her children, Helen because a registered nurse. She always loved her work and preferred to work in nursing homes. At some point during her career Helen was diagnosed with cancer and the day she was released from treatment asked her doctor how soon she could go back to work.

It is no surprise that she returned the next day. She believes that she had a keener sense of what the patients she cared for were going through after her diagnosis and recovery.

Although she stayed busy most of her adult life, she never got away from her sewing. She bought her first quilt blocks in 1965 and took them to Helen Demaree to get them quilted which led to her career of quilting in the 1970s.

Since retiring from nursing, Helen has dedicated her life to quilting.

She does many commissioned pieces and fondly spoke of a gentleman who had lived all over the world and wanted a specialty oriental king size quilt. In her self assured manner she said it was not a problem and made it.

With her beautiful fabrics and over 20,000 patterns (and still adding about 175 a month to her collection), there is no doubt that practically any design and color could be stitched in no time.

As I was leaving her shop two ladies from Kentucky were just walking in to look around. Later that afternoon I ran into them and one of the two said she was going home to measure her bed because the pink quilt was one of the prettiest she had seen.

When I stopped and asked Helen for an interview, she said, “Well I have to be on the road by 3:30 p.m. because I’m heading to Springfield, Tennessee.”

I assumed she was just taking a little time off. After we spoke I learned that she was heading there to buy fabric for a commissioned California King quilt, dust ruffle and pillow cases.

It’s no surprise that she gets requests from Canada, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and many other states for her quilts.

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Vevay Main Street had its choice of her beautiful quilts for the ‘Flair for Wine’ event, and it took three ladies to decide on a beautiful queen size quilt appropriately named ‘Thumbleberry Village’.

The many vibrant colors including gold, red, purple, blues and greens would accentuate any décor. The pattern certainly describes the scene with houses, evergreen trees, flowers and stars and the dimensions shown in the quilt by using different fabrics welcome you into the village.

– Teresa Bovard Lyons