Lillie Jackson. Photo credit: Ozark County Times

Story originally published by the Ozark County Times.

Lillie Jackson and Reitha Forrest have been friends for more than 50 years, living on nearby farms in Ozark County, Missouri. The two, who are now in their eighties, both moved to the area with their husbands in 1964. The women have been quilting since they were young, but work and family life didn't leave much time for the hobby. A few years ago, both women lost their husbands and leaned on each other. Now, the two friends are avid quilters and are closer than ever, crediting quilting with helping them through the tough time.

Lillie married into a quilting family in the early fifties. She was so inspired by the work of her husband's mother and grandmothers that she wanted to learn how to quilt, too. She was taught how to quilt by her mother-in-law, and later passed the craft on to her own daughter, Linda Howerton. Over the last few years, Lillie's eyesight has failed, so piecing small fabrics has become difficult. Luckily, her daughter has plans to help her finish partially-complete quilts. Although quilting has become almost impossible, Lillie is still creating. She fills her time sewing rugs made of polyester squares on her sewing machine, since she is so familiar with the machine that she can rely on her sense of touch to make the projects.

Reitha began quilting more seriously once her five children were grown. Since then, she has created quilts for all of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and has no plans to stop anytime soon. "It's what I do when I sit down to rest. My mother lived to be 94, so I'm planning on making a lot more quilts," she told the Ozark County Times.

Lillie and Reitha have become a quilting sensation in Ozark County, and were featured in an exhibit at the Ozark County Historium in April 2016. The two friends attended the event to visit with guests and talk about their creations.

Reitha Forrest. Photo credit: Ozark County Times