Legacy of a Green Artist and Dreamer

November 20, 2008 by  
Filed under Artists, Blog, Ecopreneurs, Front Page, Wisconsin

A quilt made with Jeanne's fabric. Quilt and photo credit: Peggy Schmitt

A quilt made with Jeanne's fabric. Quilt and photo credit: Peggy Schmitt

Jeanne Freymiller was a fiber artist, an unconventional quilter, and a dreamer. She was “green” before it was fashionable, collecting thousands of pounds of castoff and scrap fabric that factories would otherwise have sent to the landfill. But she didn’t hoard it selfishly; Jeanne had a vision for how the rescued fabric could be used to help others.

A child's tote bag made from salvaged fabric. Bag and photo: Peggy Schmitt

A child's tote bag made from salvaged fabric. Bag and photo: Peggy Schmitt

She dreamed of gathering folks together, in the spirit of an old-fashioned quilting bee, to teach them how to make something useful with the fabric. Her goal was to ease their loneliness and isolation while generating items that could benefit others. And that’s just what she did.

Jeanne’s quilting students made lap robes for veterans; quilts to be given to families under stress due to fire, flood or medical emergencies; costumes for teddy bears to be shared with young hospital patients; and soft hats for children who had lost their hair from cancer treatments.

Jeanne used some of the rescued fabric to create tote bags, cosmetics pouches, toss pillows, place mats and table runners, rag rugs, quilts, and costumes for soft-sculpture characters. She made — and gave away — wheelchair and walker bags to people who were elderly or disabled.

Over the years, Jeanne and her students made comforters for a number of fundraisers and benefits, as well as a “welcome home” quilt for a family moving into their Habitat for Humanity home.

Children from Riverway use fabric scraps to "dress" Thanksgiving decorations for a nursing home. Photo credit: Peggy Schmitt.

Children from Riverway use fabric scraps to "dress" Thanksgiving decorations for a nursing home. Photo credit: Peggy Schmitt.

One cause that Jeanne’s fabric stash supports is the Riverway Communities of Hope Early Release Program. Children with various needs come together at the center for a safe haven after school.

They often use the fabric scraps for art projects, enjoying the richness of the fabric’s textures and colors. The children, too, are passing on Jeanne’s legacy of reuse and sharing by making decorations for the local nursing home.

Jeanne died from cancer in October of 2008, leaving behind a huge collection of fabric salvaged over a ten-year period from Omni (maker of draperies and futon covers), Land’s End (catalog clothing), and various furniture stores that gave her sample upholstery fabric booklets. Bag by bag, her fabric pile grew, until it filled a 14′ x 14′ room, stacked to the ceiling.

The donors gave the fabric to Jeanne to use for charitable projects, a charge she took very seriously, and one which her husband, David Neff, is honoring. Volunteers in her hometown of Blue River, Wisconsin, are working to find homes for the fabric.

Friends have posted the offer of fabric on Freecycle in at least two states. The goal is to see that all of Jeanne’s fabric is used and that none ends up in the landfill.

Jeanne Freymiller rescued thousands of pounds of fabric from the landfill. Photo credit: Peggy Schmitt.

Jeanne Freymiller rescued thousands of pounds of fabric from the landfill. Photo credit: Peggy Schmitt.

Thousands more pounds of fabric are still available for projects like those Jeanne developed — or for anything the imagination can create.

Scraps in a variety of sizes, textures, and colors fill 100 large leaf bags. Some pieces are as small as index cards. Others are long, narrow strips; squares with a circle cut from the center; or odd-shaped pieces that defy description.

Jeanne also rescued hundreds of yards of 60″ wide, patterned, drapery-weight fabric still on the factory rolls. Now she is gone, but she leaves behind a wonderful resource waiting to be put to good use.

Peggy Schmitt
Contributing Writer

Editor’s note: To learn more about Jeanne Freymiller’s fabric, contact the author at foresters_lady@yahoo.com.

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One Response to “Legacy of a Green Artist and Dreamer”

  1. Love is Green : Blue Planet Green Living on July 29th, 2011 10:20 pm

    [...] love. And now that Jeanne has died, the love of friends like Peggy Schmidt is making sure the Legacy of a Green Artist and Dreamer is carried on. Kurt Friese. Photo: Joe [...]