Knit, Sew, Quilt: Boise Woman Pushes Through Pain to Help Others

Knit Sew Quilt

By KEN LEVY

At 73, Lana Levy is pushing through the debilitating pain of rheumatoid arthritis by helping ease the pain of others. Using her myriad crafting skills and upbeat imagination, she creates useful and whimsical quilts, blankets, and mementos that speak directly to the hearts of the beneficiaries.

She learned of a nearby neighbor’s tragic loss of her 12-year-old son, Brenden, in a traffic accident. Angela—his mom—had saved the tattered remains of the clothes he wore that terrible day. Combined with some of his favorite shirts and other items, Angela was keeping a memorial to him in a cardboard box. She wanted something more, something permanent, a true keepsake.

She had seen a couple of Lana’s beautiful hand-made quilts created for Lana’s grandson, who lived next door to Angela. She wondered whether Lana could create something in memory of her son.

When Lana got the word, she immediately arranged to visit with Angela and her husband to go through the memorial box. She gathered the bits and pieces and other paraphernalia she would need to compose and create a very special commemorative quilt.

Within a couple of weeks, Lana had quilted a masterpiece of sensitivity to the boy’s memory. Besides incorporating the fateful clothing, she embroidered a skateboard image, added cloth photographs of the boy’s brothers and dog, and pieced together shirts with school and rock-band logos into the quilt. She left Brenden’s hoodie intact on the final piece.

When she delivered the quilt, there were tears of gratitude and astonishment from the parents and hugs all around. Brenden’s folks have a deeply personal memento they can cherish forever.

Lana said she relishes the opportunities to ease the pain of those who have suffered great loss, or whose needs are otherwise unmet.

“I get a lot of pleasure creating something attractive for fun, and then gifting it to someone in need,” she said. “Making quilts that have special meaning to the receiver, with items that commemorate a lifetime or special events or times in their lives, is very gratifying.”

Lana and her husband, Ken, opened their home to Lana’s widowed mother in the mid-1990s. When her mom died at age 93, Lana took over the empty bedroom and converted it to her sewing and knitting room. She outfitted it with a serger, a sewing and embroidering machine, and neatly organized drawers-full of various colored and textured materials and spools of thread wound with every color imaginable.

When she needs the flexibility to make a really large item, she arranges rental time with a local quilt shop to use their large, long-arm quilting machines.

Lana starts her week on Mondays, when she has to give herself a shot of RA medication in her belly. Her right hand is swollen and twisted from the disease; there are painful nodules on her forefinger and inside her hand, along the tendons, and she cannot close her hand completely.

But she is not hindered in her resolve to create beauty and help in the form of lap blankets she crochets for veterans. She made and donated a batch of these to the Boise VA hospital recently.

Many follow patriotic styles, colors, and themes. She also quilts blankets with pastel flannels colored with whimsical designs, to help fill the needs of babies and toddlers staying with their families in homeless shelters in Boise. Some are made with the quilt-as-you-go technique, “which involves individual blocks with batting and backing, quilted and joined with sashing, to make the final piece,” she said.

When a new and improved Ronald McDonald House opened in Boise in January 2020, Lana got busy making several more quilts for youngsters who are seriously ill or have been injured and who are getting treatment at local medical facilities, as well as their siblings. The 47-room house provides temporary living quarters, including kitchen facilities, for the families of the affected children.

Lana puts many other crafting skills together for worthy causes. She once used a technique known as Tunisian crochet to make a large Afghan for a church benefit auction. Replete with the blue and orange colors and logo of Boise State University, the piece auctioned for $500.

Even small animals aren’t left out of her repertoire. She makes small blankets, known as Wraps from Scraps, for animal shelter critters. As the name implies, the pieces are made from leftover scraps of material or yarn, whimsically and colorfully combined. They’re designed for small to medium-sized pets, mainly cats.

And, of course, there’s the family mending. She’ll fix torn pants, replace zippers, repair handbag straps, and darn socks for three generations of families in and around Boise.

“I plan to keep on doing this for as long as I can continue to knit and sew,” she said. “There’s always a need somewhere.” ISI