The 70273 Project

with a side of Jeanne Hewell-Chambers

Tag: 70273 journal

About Those Two Red X’s

Block #1, made by Jeanne Hewell-Chambers

They’re such a little thing,
a simple design, folks say,
and yet they’re incredibly hard to make.

When I sat to stitch the first block,
I had no trouble cutting out the base
or threading the needle.
I had no trouble cleaning toilets
or cleaning out the dishwasher
or going to the grocery store.
But I had much trouble
stitching two red X’s.
The fact that they represented
a life
did not escape my heart,
my brain,
or my hands.
Continue reading

WXII Came A-Calling

Q: How do people find out about The 70273 Project?
A: Through high tech social media and good old-fashioned grass roots spreading and every way in between.

Jeanne and Bethany with her first quilt. She had to borrow a sewing machine and rotary cutter. We’re talking total novice, y’all.

So once upon a time, there was a lovely lass named Bethany, a newspaper reporter on assignment. When Bethany commented on the lovely quilts, the tables were turned and she was asked if she was a quilter. Her answer that day was no, but soon enough, our Bethany took the advise of the woman she was interviewing and signed up for one of Denniele Bohannen’s classes, and the rest, as they say,  is her story.

Then the day came when Bethany landed a job just over yonder from me  in North Carolina, and today she and Chris brought the camera and microphone and spent the morning in The Dissenter’s Chapel & Snug (my studio) looking at The 70273 Project quilts, asking good questions, and listening to my answers and stories. I don’t know when I’ve had so much fun, y’all.

In her star quilt, there were bicycles for her mother, an avid cyclist . . .

and a nod to science (atoms) for her dad . . .

and newspaper for journalist self. I see a theme in Bethany’s quilts: black and what and read all over. Or for those of you who don’t remember that childhood riddle, journalistic communication. It’s part of Bethany’s life, and it’s part of her quilty signature.

Bethany and her Churn Dash quilt she made in another one of Denniele’s classes. Note the backing fabric. Just sayin’.

And you know what else? Bethany brought a suitcase filled with her beautiful quilts and treated me to a private showing-for-one exhibit of her quilts. Pinch me.

Chris wanted to get a shot of me making blocks on my sewing machine – a 44 year old beauty The Engineer bought for me with proceeds from winning two radio contests the first year we were married. Now for all you eagle-eyed stitchers and non-stitchers who like finding bloops in films, if you  see this story  on the WXII  web site, you’ll chortle when you note that I ran out of thread before I’d stitched a single leg of a single red X. “Keep stitching,” Chris said, so I stitched and stitched and stitched some more . . . without any thread in the bobbin!

You’ll be hearing more about Bethany and Chris in another blog post coming later this week, so stay tuned.  Thank you, Bethany and Chris, for this wonderful opportunity to let people know about The 70273 Project. It was so much fun, and I’m serious about y’all coming back with your families for a weekend. I’ll leave the light on.

My Performance Evaluation

the performance evaluation I longed for. maybe next time.

My boss (me) calls me in today for my timely performance review and evaluation. It started out on a somewhat positive note, our meeting did . . .

The Boss Me: Well, Sugar, did you have a big time last week with your family at the beach?
The Me Me: I sure did! It was nonstop chaos, and I loved every minute of it. Every single minute. It sure did fly by, though. Would you like to see some photos?
The Boss Me:
 Well, you are so sweet to offer, but I think we have some other things we need to talk about right now.
The Me Me: Okay, shoot.
The Boss Me: First of all, I just want to tell you how excited I still am about The 70273 Project. It has attracted more big-heated, compassionate, caring people than I ever dared dream exist.
The Me Me: Oh my goodness, isn’t that the truth?
The Boss Me: Please don’t interrupt. I get enough of that at home.
The Me Me: Tell me about it. I mean, Yes ma’am.

then things turned rather quickly . . .

The Boss Me: I’m sure it will come as no surprise to hear that you’ve been absent far too many days.
The Me Me: I know. Things have been pretty busy since last November, what with company, holidays, illnesses, family needs and issues, Nancy, my computer meltdown, moving our daughter, our family business, travel – hey, I have done some traveling for The 70273 Project – but yeah, you’re right: I’ve been out waaayyy too much. The work is portable, but when I travel, there are people who need or want to see me, and then I get tired and have to go to bed at a reasonable hour like other people because I just can’t pull all-nighters any more and have the brain to put words together to tell about it the next day.
The Boss Me: I’m glad you see it, too. I appreciate that, and I know your life is full – everybody’s is, but we’re talking about you right now.

The Boss Me: You are more weeks behind on your recaps than I can count.
The Me Me: Yes ma’am [because you can never go wrong with good manners]. I would like to point out, though, if I may, that I can’t update the block count when I’m not home to receive the mail, and several weeks ago, my computer had a meltdown, and I lost a lot of project information. I first had to figure out what information was missing (and let me tell you how much fun that was), then I had to set about recreating what was missing.
The Boss Me: And what’s the status of that?
The Me Me: I’m still working on the recreating part. Like most everything I do (or want and need to do), it takes rather large blocks of uninterrupted time . . . something that is nigh near impossible to come by.

The Boss Me: Yes, well, I see that you’re also woefully behind on sending out thank you notes, penning blog posts, creating quilt labels, getting bundles together, completing the web site makeover, and a host of other things. What have you to say about that?
The Me Me: Guilty as charged, and embarrassed more than I can tell you.

The Boss Me: Before I go any further, I’d like to slip on my Enlightened Leader Hat and ask if you’d like to say anything.
The Me Me: Thank you for this opportunity. I, too, am incredibly embarrassed by and weighted down by the unspoken apology of my performance of late. You should see what kind of leader I am on the inside. I’m on time, I’m fun, I’m cheerful and supportive and encouraging. I create automatic responders to emails when I’m going to be out of town; I pen a queue of blog posts that  go out even when I’m not here to mash the publish button; and I never miss a weekly update. I have so many ideas, and I reveal them regularly with complete, easy-to-follow guidelines and instructions. I marvel people with my enthusiasm and attentiveness. My deep gratitude to all who help commemorate to shine through in the way I conduct myself and communicate and lead. On the inside, I am the poster girl for servant leadership. I like that Me the best of all – I want to be her, and I hereby vow to do that.

The Boss Me: I don’t think of anything I can add to that, except to ask when you think you might get started becoming That Kickass Jeanne?
The Me Me: I start tomorrow. Now I have to tell you that it’s unreasonable to think I could promise to be caught up by the end of this week, especially since I fly out on Thursday to celebrate Calder Ray’s first birthday, and I still have all the other responsibilities in the circle called Jeanne’s Life, but I can at least get started tomorrow.

The Boss Me: Okay then. I think our work here is done. I look forward to tomorrow – the first day of becoming That Kickass Jeanne.
The Me Me: Me, too, Sugar. Me, too. Now may I please be excused ’cause That Kickass Jeanne likes to get started on things early, and she has an awful full to do list. (And her bedtime is right around the corner.)


Other places to gather around The 70273 Project water cooler:

Shop with Amazon Smile and support The 70273 Project.

Subscribe to the blog (where all information is shared).

Join the English-speaking Facebook group – our e-campfire – where you can talk to other members of The 70273 Project Tribe.

Join the French-speaking Facebook group – our other e-campfire – where you can chat with other members of The 70273 Project Tribe.

Like the Facebook page where you can check in for frequent updates.

Get folks to help celebrate your birthday by making blocks and/or donating bucks.

Follow the pinterest board for visual information.

Post using #the70273project on Instagram. (Please tag me, too, @whollyjeanne, so I don’t miss anything.)

Tell your friends what you want for your birthday.

And if you haven’t yet made some blocks, perhaps you’d like to put some cloth in your hands and join us.

Or maybe you’d like to gather friends and family, colleagues or students, club or guild members, etc. together and make a group quilt.


Block made by Andy Urbach


28 blocks made by Jeanne Hewell-Chambers


Made by members of a quilting club in Gers, France


Blocks by Patsi Brletich


Quilt #23 is made by Maïté Findeling

Visual impact.
Emotional impact.
Physical impact.
Mental impact.
Visceral impact.
Social impact.
Qualitative impact.
Quantitative impact.
Historical impact.
Cultural impact.

Today I think about all forms of impact.


Thank you for helping The 70273 Project grow and make a positive, worldwide impact:
Subscribe to the blog (where all information is shared).
Join the English-speaking Facebook group – our e-campfire
where you can talk to other members of The 70273 Project Tribe.
Join the French-speaking Facebook group – our other e-campfire
where you can chat with other members of The 70273 Project Tribe.
Like the Facebook page where you can check in for frequent updates.
Get folks to help celebrate your birthday by making blocks and/or donating bucks.
Follow the pinterest board for visual information.
Post using #the70273project on Instagram.
(Please tag me, too, @whollyjeanne, so I don’t miss anything.)
Tell your friends what you want for your birthday.
Shop with Amazon Smile and support The 70273 Project.
And if you haven’t yet made some blocks,
perhaps you’d like to put some cloth in your hands and join us.
Or maybe you’d like to gather friends and family, colleagues or students,
club or guild members, etc. together and make a group quilt.

Kindness, a Cornerstone of The 70273 Project


Blocks made by Chloe Grice and her sister, Kat Andrews. Photo by Chloe Grice

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters
and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

~~ excerpt of a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye

It Touched a Tender Spot In Me

Everything happens for a reason, and sometimes things help us clarify and articulate what matters and what we – what our life – is all about . . . 

“Last year we had 12 volunteers, this year we have only 9,” she was saying as I walked in. “I asked for 12, but I only got you, so people will just have to wait because we are NOT going to rush. Hey, you can’t be in here,” she barks when she sees me slip quietly into the room.

“But I signed up to help,” I tell her.

“What’s your name?”

“Jeanne Hewell-Chambers.”

“Who ARE you?” she asks loudly.

And with that, the 6-8 other women around her begin to giggle.

“I’m Jeanne Hewell-Chambers,” I tell her again.

“And YOU volunteered to HELP?”

The women don’t know whether to look at me or her, but they all know how to laugh in either direction.

“Yes,” I say, my voice now almost at a whisper.

More laughter, then she says with a sigh and rolling eyes, “Okay then” and joins in the laughter with them, shrugging her shoulders as if to say “whatever”.

Though it certainly feels like it, this is not the 7th grade playground. This is a quilt show just a few days ago. I officially belong to this organization (even though I’ve never been able to attend a meeting because the drive is 1.5 hours each way), but because part of the membership requirements are to work at the annual quilt show, I raise my hand and show up at the appointed time.

Staying in the back of the room by myself near the exit door, I work the entire shift, frequently fantasizing about walking right on out the door and never looking back, but I have two quilts to pick up, and besides, I gave my word and, as we now know,  they are short-handed, so I stay and work. Three hours later on the walk to the car, I physically brush myself off and do a little shimmy – my way of slipping out of the negativity and leave it there.

We stop for a nice supper, The Engineer and I, and when we get home, I remove the quilt show tags and open two envelopes that my novice brain thinks contain a renewal notice and a thank-you-for-helping note.

But no.


The 70273 Project, Quilt 1 is one of the quilts I entered, explaining in my artist statement that people from around the world are making 70,273 quilt blocks to commemorate the 70,273 disabled people who were murdered in Germany between 1940-41. White bases represent the medical records on which evaluations were made, and the two red X’s represent the death sentences. The judges’ feedback is that the blocks are not the same size, causing the quilting lines to be askew.


The other quilt I entered is Communion 2, a visual interpretation of a conversation with my mentally disabled sister-in-law, Nancy. The judges’ feedback is that while the hand stitching is okay, the quilt should be square, sides straight, and there should be no exposed raw edges on the fabric used in the quilt.

Though I’ve attended many quilt shows, this is the first time I’ve participated, and the judging is a surprise to me. I feel quite sure that the judges are expert quilters – as expertly talented and knowledgeable as every person who had a hand in creating The 70273 Project, Quilt 1. I am also keen on believing that the judges weren’t privy to information about each quilt before judging . . . but still. Had there been an option on the submission form giving me a choice of having my quilts be judged or not, I could have saved the judges some time and me some angst. Their words sting. It hurts to be misunderstood, to be told you’re less than . . . and the thing is that though I do admittedly feel a tiny bit bruised, my ire comes from the disrespect shown – intentionally or no – to Nancy, to Kitty, to MJ (the Piecer and Quilter for Quilt 1), to those who made and continue to make blocks for The 70273 Project, and always, always, always for those we commemorate and celebrate. It’s this setting aside, this overlooking, this dismissive behavior we are standing up to here in this project.

Now I’m not saying that it’s what The Woman In Charge Of Volunteers or The Judges were doing – in fact, I feel pretty sure that the judges have to adhere to a set of quantifiable, measurable rules and standards (and I still maintain that it would’ve been nice to be able to opt out) – but I am saying that I will never understand why some people make themselves feel better and bigger (as in more powerful) by stomping on and squishing others.

And let’s be honest: we all know people who people like this.

Such behavior seems to me a shallow, temporary way to fill your Self . . . like a sugar rush that brings a burst of energy followed quickly by lethargy. On the other hand, people who fill themselves by doing good work – who spend every day spilling caring, kindness, and compassion everywhere they go – these people have no need to belittle or begrudge others because they fill themselves up with Things That Count. It’s easy for people who know how to fill themselves in lasting ways to accept differences in personalities, in preferences, in creations, to see value in every human and every creation.

I hope that makes sense.

I’m not saying we have to like every single quilter, but how hard is it to be pleasant and appreciative (even when tired at the end of a quilt show)? And I’m not saying we need to like every single quilt, but how hard is it to be encouraging, to find something good to say (or at least ask a question to show interest and willingness to See), even if it’s not our preferred style of quilt?

Before long, I’ll open an envelope with a form requesting my renewal dues. I think I’ll spend that money buying fabric for a new piece in the Communion Series  and takingThe Engineer out for a good dinner – complete with a glass of wine – on our way home after attending next year’s quilt show as spectators who love marveling at and being in the presence of quilts (and each other).

Big News, Y’all



Some of you may remember that I launched The 70273 Project on 2/14/2016 . . . Valentine’s Day . . . my birthday . . . Love Day. It seemed Right to me because this is a project about kindness, caring, respect, and compassion – all feeding into the river called Love.

Since Launch Day, we’ve been floating along, allowing the project to unfold and evolve as it will. Many people along the way have asked me to point them to the finish line, wondering what’s my deadline. It’s a fine line I walk, navigating between the numbers and the commemorating. I don’t want to do anything to distract us from the reason we’re gathered here around The 70273 Project campfire, don’t want to do anything to get between us and our commemorating those who died, celebrating those who live, and educating all who will listen.

There I was, about 10 days ago, writing in my journal when The Crazy Idea paid me another visit, landing on my shoulder and dictating this to my fingertips:

It shouldn’t take longer to love than it takes to hate.

Not giving me time to catch my breath, The Crazy Idea explained . . . the German Nazis took 20 months to murder 70,273 disabled people. Can we . . . shouldn’t we . . . commemorate those 70,273 people in the same length of time? Should it take us longer to commemorate than it took them to kill? Launch occurred on 2/14/16. Twenty months later is October 2017, so y’all, we have ourselves a goal. A target date. A finish line.

Now I don’t want us to get so focused on numbers – quantities, and dates – that we crank the blocks out like machines. That’s who they were, not who we are. That’s what they were about, not what we are about. But it does seem Right and Good to my Bones that we strive to have the blocks finished in 20 months. Does it feel Right and Good to you, too?

The world will not stop spinning if we don’t have all the blocks by October 31, 2017. The moon will not pack up and move to another galaxy far, far away. Cloth and thread will not dry up, disappear, cease to exist. If we don’t have all 70,273 blocks by the end of October 2017, we will simply continue stitching until we do have them all – one block for each disabled person murdered. (Important note: I’m talking having all the blocks completed by the end of next October, not the quilts, though we will continue to work on them, too. I expect they’ll take a bit longer, though.)

So it will be a soft deadline.

I will not crack a whip or purchase a bull horn or declare you must work overtime. Your pay will not be docked should we not meet our goal. But we will try, right? We will galvanize with renewed enthusiasm and dedication, right? (Please say yes.)

How will we do it? By continuing to do what we’re doing now: Creating an eternal grape vine by telling at least three people every week about The 70273 Project. Being breathing billboards by stitching blocks wherever we are. Sharing links to blog posts, tweets on Twitter, posts on Facebook. Inviting friends over to sit and stitch a spell. Getting on the agenda of our clubs and guilds. Making blocks with our siblings, encouraging our children to make blocks with their siblings, inviting our friends to join the English-speaking Facebook group or the French-speaking Facebook group, liking the Facebook page, subscribing to the blog. We’ll continue posting photos on Instagram, following the Pinterest board, and encouraging friends and family to do the same.

And always, always, always we’ll remember, honor, and commemorate.

Will we do it? Will we create another 66,129 blocks in a year? Can we do this big thing? I’m pretty darn sure we can because when we join together, when we bring our hearts and our hands together, when we believe deeply and wholeheartedly in what we’re doing, we do Big Things.

Thank you for being part of The 70273 Project Tribe. ‘Tis a good thing y’all are doing.

A very good thing.

Differences and Commonalities


Thank you.
I’m sorry.

Two things I say a lot these days.

“Thank you for being a part of The 70273 Project.”
“Thank you for sending the beautiful blocks.”
“Thank you for your kind, gracious words.”

I firmly believe – nay, I Know in my Bones – that the more you say Thank you, the more you have to say Thank you for.

“I’m sorry this note is so long in coming.”
“I’m sorry for my tardy reply.”
“I’m sorry I am running behind.”

More and more I fear the same is true for apologies: the more I say “I’m sorry”, the more I have to say I’m sorry for.

To those of you participating in The 70273 Project, please do not mistake my tardiness for a lack of appreciation or caring. This is not how I fantasized it would be. I am Super Woman. I got this.

Yeah, right.

Living with The Engineer, a Mother who lives in another state, a grand baby on the way in yet another state, Nancy who lives in still a different state (This may or may not be a metaphor.), a daughter and friends who live far away — continuing to stitch Nancy’s drawings — stitching quilts for family members — researching and writing books — developing 3 Hymns of Cloth series — developing a writing cloth workshop (I’m so excited – you should ask me about it sometime!) — giving presentations for The 70273 Project and performing/creating one-woman storytelling performances? No problem. Super Woman is at her most dazzling when juggling.

Hundreds of blocks coming in every week that need to be processed at 30 minutes/block? No problem. Super Woman eats systems for breakfast.

Social media, blog posts, emails, magazine articles, tv productions? No problem. Super Woman does communications in her sleep.

Wait. Sleep?

Super Woman used to regularly pull off all-nighters, getting her work done – creative and otherwise – while others slept. It was the only way, really, and it worked, leaving no consequences visible to the naked eye. But Super Woman walks a lot more these days or is getting a little age on her or something. Whatever the reason, her head demands to lay itself down on a pillow at night, and that has shaved off an entire day’s worth of productivity.

So to those of you who’ve made blocks for The 70273 Project; have offered to piece tops and quilt quilts; and to those of you who will, at some point in time, become part of The 70273 Project in one way or another ::: Thank you . . . and I’m sorry.

How ‘bout this . . .

Dear The 70273 Project Makers, Piecers, Quilters, Contributors,

  1. Thank you for bearing with me as I get the wrinkles ironed out of my systems.
  2. Thank you for being patient as I try to stay out from behind the 8-ball and occasionally fall and skin my knees and palms.
  3. Thank you for thunking me upside the head every now ’n then to tell me that this is not a project that lends itself to being caught up.
  4. Thank you for reminding me that The 70273 Project is not about being perfect in any way, shape, or form.
  5. Thank you for encouraging me to remember that Super Woman would not be here had she lived in Germany in 1940 because while she fantasizes about things being different, the reality is that not a single day of her life has she been perfect or behaved perfectly.
  6. Thank you for being a part of The 70273 Project, for sharing your stories, for spreading the word, for getting the bigger picture and deeper meaning of this project.
  7. And last but certainly not least, thank y’all for not once crossing your arms, tapping your toes, looking over your glasses,  and harrumphing out of the room in a huff.  Yes, that’s right. Not a single one of you – and remember, I’ve heard from people in 60 countries now – has huffed and puffed and threatened to blow my house down. Not. A. Single. One. To a person, y’all have been gracious, supportive, patient, appreciative, encouraging, and enthusiastically involved. So why am I writing this post? Because I thought you’d like to eavesdrop on a Committee of Jeanne conversation.

Super Woman
(who tells you this while trying to untwist her cape from around her neck so she can untangle those darn knots)

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