Over the past three years, 12-year-old Efren Rodriguez has completed numerous projects as part of a sewing class at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence: pillows, blankets, a plastic bag holder, quilts for a club fundraiser and a youngster with brain cancer, tote bags as Mother’s Day presents for his mother and grandmother, and a skirt for his 5-year-old sister.
Rodriguez’s latest project, a multicolored 40” x 40” quilt, is destined to decorate the nursery of his newborn niece. First, however, it will be displayed at the 41st annual Vermont Quilt Festival, New England’s oldest and largest quilt festival which runs from June 23-25 in Essex Junction, VT.
The quilt, which is titled “Cubed Emotions,” features numerous colored triangles that look like cubes from a distance.
“Its brightness makes me think of happiness,” said Efren, a sixth grader at Guilmette Middle School in Lawrence, “and most of the time, I’m very happy.”
Efren said he was “speechless” when presented with the opportunity to travel to Vermont for the first time, as well as attend his first quilt show. In addition to 36 quilts in the youth category, the festival features more than 230 quilts by adult contestants and exhibits of antique and modern quilts representing a myriad of styles, techniques, and fibers.
Robin Heller-Harrison, a volunteer who teaches sewing at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, said she is proud of Efren for doing all his own cutting and sewing, as required for festival quilts. “It really stepped up his learning,” she said. “Efren already has a very good sense of color, but there’s a ton he’ll be able to learn at the festival. Hopefully he’ll also have a lot of fun.”
Efren already has a long list of future projects in mind.
“I like making things for my relatives, and thinking about what colors and patterns they would like. Then I realize I’m leaving somebody out, and I should make another one,” he said.
When asked about the typical reaction to his handmade gifts, he smiled.
“Hugs and kisses.”