Janet Heise’s Opus Quilts

A real treat awaits you in this blog post. My newsletter subscribers heard part of the story last April, and I am pleased and honored to share the whole series with you here now. Grab a cup of tea – and possibly a tissue – and enjoy.

Opus 75 Grants Song

Opus 75: Grant’s Song
51″ x 51″

Janet Heise and Grant Wilkin were married on March 12, 1980. A life-long barbershop harmony singer, Grant was a founding member of the East York Barbershoppers, an Ontario District Champion with the quartet Canadian Chordsmen in 1952, and a church organist for 30 years.  Music was very important to him.  To celebrate Grant’s 75th birthday in 2002, Janet made him the quilt “Opus 75: Grant’s Song”.  Party guests provided many of the signatures.

Janet Heise was president of my home guild, York Heritage Quilters Guild, the year I was invited to speak and teach there. She attended my EQ classes at that time and took my Sewflakes: Papercut Appliqué workshop a couple years later. During that class, Janet designed a lovely snowflake-style block using a musical quarter-note as her motif. She was planning to make another quilt for her husband.

Opus 85 Heart of my Heart

Opus 85: Heart of my Heart
40 1/2″ x 40 1/2″

Earlier this year, Janet wrote to tell me that the quilt was almost finished. She made four of the quarter-note sewflake blocks plus another block featuring the bass clef. When she realized that the bass clefs mirror-imaged to create the shape of a heart, she decided to name the quilt “Heart of my Heart” after a classic barbershop song. The color scheme and fabric choices reinforced the musical theme, right down to the red-and-white “barber shop poll” bias cut binding!

Janet had been working on the quilt in secret, so as to surprise her husband with it as a gift for his 85th birthday. Knowing she would be on stage at the February guild meeting as the featured quilter-of-the-month and that her husband would be attending, Janet decided to unveil the completed quilt as the grand finale to her presentation!

One week before the guild meeting, Janet carefully put the final stitches in the quilt after her husband went to bed. That night, Grant – the heart of her heart – passed away in his sleep. He never saw his Opus 85 quilt, but it was draped lovingly over his coffin.

I supposed that Janet would reschedule her presentation as quilter-of-the-month, but I was wrong. She was determined to use the opportunity to pay tribute to her dear husband, partner, and friend. What an amazing, strong woman.

Opus 65 Bye Bye Blues

Opus 65: Bye Bye Blues
38″ x 38″

Shortly after her husband’s unexpected death, Janet attended a performance by Jamie MacPherson – an award-winning banjo player – and Ragweed, a Dixieland Jazz band.  Janet requested one of her favorite songs, “Bye Bye Blues”.  As she listened to the solo, Janet could feel the sadness being lifted away by the upbeat banjo notes.  You can’t be sad listening to a banjo!  Then and there, she vowed that Bye Bye Blues would be her mantra for coping with her sudden loss.

In August 2012, Janet celebrated her 65th birthday alone.  She decided to make a quilt for herself to commemorate the occasion.  The Disappearing Nine-Patch pattern seemed an appropriate choice. She even managed to find banjo fabric to use in the quilt! The nine-patch blocks were sewn, cut apart, then rearranged to form a different pattern.  Although the underlying structure was still there, it was changed and not so obvious.  This seemed to echo Janet’s feelings about her husband Grant. She still felt his loving presence even if she couldn’t see him; her life had been cut up and rearranged as well.

Using the same banjo fabric, Janet decided to make a quilt as a gift for Jamie MacPherson and his wife Joy. His performance of Bye Bye Blues had changed her thinking to focus on the positive. When she found the banjo fabric online, she couldn’t believe that not only did the fabric have banjos – it also had accordions.  Jamie’s wife, Joy, plays the accordion and they often perform together! Janet hopes the quilt “Opus 2012: All That Jazz” will bring them as much comfort and happiness as they have given her with their friendship.

Opus 2012 All that Jazz

Opus 2012: All That Jazz!
32″ x 32″

Janet’s story really touched my heart and I thank her for allowing me to share it with you. A quilt is such a wonderful gift – whether you give it away or keep it for yourself.


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