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Arts & Culture
West Orange Times & Observer Monday, Jul. 31, 2017 3 years ago

The Smithsonian Institution adds an Ocoee resident's quilt to its collection

A quilt - inspired by the Pulse shooting and created by Ocoee resident Roberta Blick - will be added to the Smithsonian Institution’s collection
by: Brittany Gaines Reporter

OCOEE When the Smithsonian Institution called, Roberta Blick was astounded. 

She never imagined they would be interested in an old lady’s quilt. But they were, requesting she gift it to the institution for its collection.

“Can you imagine a heritage of mine lasting 500 years,” said Blick, who lives in Ocoee. “Isn’t that fabulous? I thought that was the most beautiful thing that ever happened.”

But it’s not just any old quilt. It’s a rainbow quilt covered with the faces of the 49 victims of the Pulse shooting.


“The good Lord gave me the ability”

Blick has been creating quilts for as long as she can remember. As a child, she would sit near her grandmother watching her quilt. Those were the memories that inspired her to become a quilter as an adult, she said.

“I loved being a part of it growing up,” she said. “I loved doing it.”

Having been an oil-paint teacher for most of her life, Blick said quilting was just another creative art form that she was able to tap into.

“I enjoy anything that is creative,” she said. “And all women want their homes to be beautiful, so we look for ways to enhance our own homes - like quilts.”

Nearly every chair in her home has a colorful quilt hanging off the back, and several quilts hang on the walls as tapestries.

And despite a terminal cancer diagnosis at the age of 90, Blick still gets behind her sewing machine to make quilts. 

She often makes what she calls nap quilts, which are a smaller thinner quilt similar to a light blanket. And having quilted for decades, she’s a pro and can finish a single quilt in a few days.

“The good Lord gave me the ability,” she said.

“Their eyes just talked to me”

Blick was at Windermere Union Church Sunday morning when she heard about the shooting at Pulse Nightclub and immediately felt moved to do something to honor the victims. That’s when her son, Tim, gave her an idea.

Do what you do best, he told her. Make a quilt.

She started it that very day, making a stop at the fabric store after church where she found rainbow-colored fabric, which she thought was a perfect fit. But it wasn’t until later that afternoon while watching TV that she decided to embed photos of the victims onto her blanket.

“Their eyes just talked to me,” she said about seeing their photos on the news. “They were all just looking at me with these beautiful eyes.”

Over the next six days, Blick carefully transferred photos of each victim onto a square piece of white cotton fabric and began sewing the squares together. Several of her friends from church also came over to help with the assembly of the quilt.

By the end of the week, the top layer was complete, and Blick asked a fellow quilting friend who owned an industrial sewing machine to attach the backing and bottom layer to her quilt. By Saturday, the quilt was done.

“I felt like it was my best ever,” Blick said.

She brought the quilt to church on Sunday, and most of the congregation signed the quilt. Then one of her church friends, Nancy, asked to borrow the quilt so she could have more people sign it.

Blick liked the idea, so over the course of several months, the quilt moved from place to place getting signed by family and friends of the victims and several politicians, such as former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi.

For now, the quilt will be loaned to the Orange County Regional History Center for its One Orlando Collection until the Smithsonian Institution requests the quilt be turned over to them.

Although proud of her quilt, Blick said it was about paying tribute to the victims.

“It really is dedicated to the young people from Pulse,” she said. “I wanted to express my love and care for all the those young people, and I feel a bit of me has done so.”


Contact Brittany Gaines at [email protected].

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