Sleepless in Sienna Plantation



It’s early Saturday morning and I cannot sleep. It’s still dark outside in Sienna Plantation. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday this week we were out the door by 7 AM on our way to MD Anderson for blood work, review, and transfusion or appointment with my oncologist. On Thursday, I was on my way to La Grange, Texas for a Quilts, Inc. Executive Committee meeting. Today was my day to sleep in. I love to sleep late, but not today. There’s too much on my mind.

Was it the excitement of yesterday’s blood work revealing  my  platelets count went up since Wednesday’s results? Or was it the fear of needing a stem cell transplant if my numbers don’t elevate to at least 20,000 over the next few weeks?

Yesterday’s results were reason to cheer and hug with my two favorite Physician’s Assistants. However, just last week we were nervous and worried about dipping to 3,000 platelets until it got to 1,000. Starting back up, instead of dropping lower, was reason to cheer. I was on a high when we got home even after a stop at the Quilts, Inc. office for a few hours of work.

Over the last few months I haven’t felt like concentrating on anything in my studio other than an order from the Texas Quilt Museum for collage cards and design packets. When I got home yesterday late afternoon, I went into my studio and decided it was time I spend some time creating or catching-up on adding merchandise to my etsy shop. Or maybe I start with straightening my design wall clutter and work table mess.

Design wall

Design Wall in my Studio

My whole studio is a far cry from the order it was in for the photo shoot of my work space for the publication, Where Women Create. My studio is featured in the Nov/Dec/Jan2015 issue. What a fun day with my kind friend, Jo Packham, the editor of the magazine.

So last night I had the energy and desire to add to my etsy shop two little frocks I made early this year. When our children were here for Easter, our granddaughter, Madison Murrah modeled the frocks while another, Lindsey Huebner photographed them. The garments have been hanging in my studio since then. It was good to get those posted last night. The pattern I used is Simplicity 1080. The frock on the left is made from a vintage cutwork tablecloth. The frock on the right features a 1930’s embroidered hostess apron I imagine was worn by the hostess for a bridge party. Both pieces are in excellent condition.

I have collected vintage linens, laces, patchwork, and trims since I started having an interest in sewing and embellishing when I was in my twenties. I have boxes and closets full of everything you would ever need for a lifetime of stitching and creating. Madison would take all those things in a heartbeat, if she weren’t just 19 and going to college.

Where did all this begin? How did a young woman with a degree in Elementary Education, who just wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and wife to an executive husband have a life-time career as a teacher, author and show planner?

It all started when our youngest son, who is now 41, was an infant in arms. His brother was 6 and his sister 2 1/2. I was sewing fabric squares together to make quilts when I had a few minutes to myself. There were no books to follow, but occasionally an article in Women’s Day or Woman’s Circle on quilting.

One lucky day I learned of an antique shop teaching quilting classes at night. What joy I found that one night out each week that I could be with other quilters and learn how to make a quilt. In a little over a year, my first full-sized quilt was hanging at Great Expectations Quilt Show, and my quilt was featured on the advertising postcard. There was no turning back.

Quilting and creating became my passion. I started teaching classes in a Continuing Education program at our church while Todd was in second grade, Holly was in pre-school, and Troy was in the Mother’s Day Out program at our church. I was actually using my degree. As a thirty-three year old young woman, I loved teaching women many years older than I how to create something beautiful. They were of a generation where women did not work outside the home. For many it was the first time they were so proud of their accomplishments. It became a mission for me.

Quickly the word was out and I started teaching at a couple of small shops. I sewed well into many nights once I had the children to bed. I couldn’t get enough of it. Oh, to have just a little of that energy today.


My Sewing Corner in the 1970’s

It wasn’t long after that that I had a meeting with the owner of Great Expectations, Karey Bresenhan. She had added fabrics to her antique shop and wanted me to make some samples for her. That led to teaching classes for her on how to make tote bags, bibs on pinafores, notebook covers, etc. from the quilt blocks I had learned while taking classes from her mother, Jewel Patterson. I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t taken that first meeting with Karey. I have worked for her for 40 years now.

My career took off. Wait a minute…I didn’t plan to have a career. Remember I am raising three little children. I’m a mom. Somehow I was propelled and soon teaching at Quilt Fair ’78, designing a garment for the first Fairfield/Concord Fashion Show which later became the Bernina Fashion Show,


Patchwork and Lace Jacket for the Fairfield/Concord Fashion Show

designing and creating large fabric pieces for a debutante ball, being published in magazines, becoming VP of the Greater Houston Quilt Guild, part of a two-woman fashion show,


Holly Modeling for Fashion Show

creating special decorative items for antique shops from vintage quilts and linens, designing and making rodeo vests for a trendy dress shop, etc.

Then in 1982, my husband moved us to Victoria, Texas, so he could run an independent bank there. Did my career or my association with Karey Bresenhan end there? Guess again. She did not want to see me go, but that didn’t mean she let go. Shortly after we moved, I came back to Houston to a wonderful surprise going-away party Karey had in her shop. I was presented with a quilt full of hearts and signatures from my students at Great Expectations Quilts. I continued to go back to Karey’s shop to teach a full load of classes.

What’s next? It wasn’t long after I arrived in Victoria, Texas that I started teaching quilting and related decorative classes at the Open Door Creativity Center.


Open Door Creativity Center

Quilting caught on quickly. The classes were popular and it wasn’t long after that that Susan Manning and I formed the Quilt Guild of Greater Victoria under the umbrella of the Nave Museum. I was their first President and remained active in the Guild for 20 years. I also became very active in the Victoria community. Soon one of the Guild members opened a quilt shop where we gathered for classes. I taught there and in a shop in Edna, Texas on a regular basis for many years.

During that time teaching picked up in other towns, more of my designs were published in books and magazines including Virginia Avery’s book Quilts to Wear. In 1983, I took charge of the Education program for Quilt Festival and Quilt Market and became first President of South/Southwest Quilt Association which is IQA today.IMG_2977

Later in the 80’s we started taking Quilt Market to other cities in the summer. Not long after that, we took Quilt Market to European countries along with Quilt Expo. That made for lots of over seas travel for 20 years, but what a delight to see all those European countries and to meet so many wonderful people. Life was busy and children were growing older.

In the early 90’s I was approached by the Editor in Chief, Barbara Weiland, of That Patchwork Place to write a book on the garments I was creating. I had started a series on collage patchwork jackets about that time. After much hesitation, I did write the first book, Jacket Jazz. A series of 6 more books and a pattern line followed over the next 10 years. The first two books put me on the teaching circuit map. I began teaching all over the country for many years. That was gratifying, but hard, exhausting work. I also designed a line of fabric with a Jacket Jazz flair during this time.

Judy Murrah published books

“Jacket Jazz” series

Kids continued to grow, went off to college, graduated, married, had babies. I quit teaching in 2006. We moved back to Houston in 2007. Since then my life has been filled with being with my husband, VP of Education and Administration for Quilts, Inc., mother and Grammy, and active in our church.

Now my focus is on getting well so I can enjoy these golden years, play in my studio, be with our family and travel with my husband. I want to be able to manage MDS. I know the only cure is a stem cell transplant, if it’s successful. Please keep praying for more platelets. Your prayers sustain me, and I am so thankful for you, my friends. God bless you all. Judy


Our Family



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45 Responses to “Sleepless in Sienna Plantation”

  1. Tamara Says:

    I love reading all this, Aunt Judy!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cathy Van Bruggen Designs Says:

    You have a beautiful family Judy. We are praying for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Marilyn DeMontrond Says:

    What a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing.
    My thoughts and prayers for restored health are with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. shiborigirl Says:

    Judy- I always wondered how you and Karey got started in all this. I am grateful always to you for the great job you have done with the education portion of the International Quilt Festival and Market.

    Thank you for sharing this story here on your blog.

    It is truly unique. No other show has the devotion to education and is also able to produce a great show in tandem. Now I know why. I am so thankful Maggie talked me into teaching there even when I had told her no several times. She insisted.
    Please take care, and I am wishing for your platelets to become as numerous as all the stars in the universe. xo

    Liked by 2 people

    • judymurrah Says:

      Thank you, Glennis. I am so glad you took Maggie’s offer to be part of the Silk Experience. We have been delighted to have you on our teaching staff. And also thanks for platelets plentiful like stars wish. I like that image. See you this fall.


  5. Sheila Swanson Says:

    Thanks for telling your story Judy! Throughout all the years that we have known each other, I was always inspired by you; your creativity in quilting encouraged me in my own creative outlet of painting which I still enjoy today. Blessings,

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Joni (Broome)Detlefsen Says:

    Hi Judy, This is a friend from the past who worked with Quilts, Inc. in registration. I’ve thought of you through the years and wanted wanted to see how you were doing, then I came across your blog and was so sorry to hear of your health issues. Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you. You are an amazing strong woman, talented, smart, caring, and have made such an positive impact on so many people, me as one. My prayer is that your health improves greatly so that you have many, many more years with your beautiful family. Love to you and your family,
    Joni (Broome) Detlefsen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • judymurrah Says:

      Hi Joni. How good to hear from you. Of course I remember you and you carrying home all those registration forms at night. Thank you for your kind words and prayers. They are much appreciated.


  7. Nancy Penry Says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this story with us, Judy. You are precious to us all.

    More prayers coming your way!


    Liked by 1 person

    • judymurrah Says:

      Thanks, Nancy. I appreciate your prayers. We are so hoping and praying for counts to show another platelets boost tomorrow when I do blood work. Always good to hear from you.


  8. Teresa Duryea Wong Says:

    Great story! I know you will beat this thing and have many more chapters to write. MD Anderson is the best!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • judymurrah Says:

      I like your positive thinking, Teresa. I feel so good, I can’t help but feel positive, but my blood work says something different. Hopefully tomorrow will show another increase of platelets. Thank you for your thoughts.


  9. Holly Huebner Says:

    Love this mom! Love all the pictures.


    Liked by 1 person

    • judymurrah Says:

      Did you like the one of you, Holla? Remember how you loved being on the stage once you got started. I was so proud of you that day, my beautiful daughter. I love you.


  10. MARY SUE BAKER Says:


    Liked by 1 person

  11. Mary Nyberg Says:

    I’m so glad to hear you have received good news on your platelet count–now we pray for more. Your career has been amazing and it’s not over yet. Not many would leave an oncologist appointment and then stop to do a few hours work. Your energy today sounds as high as it was when you were half your age. Thanks for telling your story–you have much to be proud of. You are a beautiful lady inside and out. Hugs cousin! Love you.!

    Liked by 1 person

    • judymurrah Says:

      Thanks, Mary Jane. So good to hear from you. Hope all is going well with you and Chuck. I think of you so often and hope we see each other this fall. I appreciate your kind words and prayers. Love you, too!


  12. Teresa Duggan Says:

    Judy I love how you open the door of your life and welcome everyone in! It was fun to read about so much of your history. What a gem you are not only to the office and industry but to all of us who are lucky enough to call you “friend”.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. leslyclaireLesly-Claire Says:

    Judy, what a wonderful trip down “Memory Lane” I feel like I have shared so many of your adventures. We have been friends for over thirty years! Quilting, what would we have done without it? Karey was also a catalyst in my quilting career. Love your posts and try to read them all. You are always in my prayers, you are an inspiration, your strength is amazing. Lesly-Claire

    Liked by 1 person

    • judymurrah Says:

      Thank you, Lesly-Claire. You certainly were a part of our early show days. We had some crazy times back then. Wish we could see you again at a show. Yes, Karey has been the catalyst in hundreds of people’s quilting careers. Thanks for keeping up with me and for your prayers. Hope your health is holding up. Hugs.


  14. nildarcook Says:

    Thanks for that little window into the beginnings of both your quilt life and your family life! You have been a creditable blessing to both worlds!! A real inspiration and certainly worthy of answered prayers. I will join the many who pray and hope for good years ahead for you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person


    Loved reading the life story of a famous quilt-maker!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Marti Michell Says:

    I loved reading this….what a trip! You can’t begin to know how many of your quilting friends are praying for you! I’m one of the many who believe my quilting journey has been enriched because of our friendship.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. iris smith caplovitz Says:

    Judy, you are amazing! Your former classmate at Jeff. my prayers are with you and I think of you each day. iris smith caplovitz

    Liked by 1 person

  18. jerry stube Says:

    Judy, stay strong and lean on God. I celebrated 20 years of post cancer life this last month. Each day is a blessing. Prayers for your recovery.

    Liked by 1 person

    • judymurrah Says:

      Congratulations to you, Jerry, on your cancer survival. That’s wonderful. May you have many more years. At this time I am staying strong and leaning on God. Such good advice. So much strength comes from friends like you also praying on my behalf. Thank you so much.


  19. Barbara Weiland Says:

    Wonderful post, dear friend.Loved reading about your journey and honored that you included me. It means so much to be your friend and to know that I played an important part in your journey. Sending prayers and hugs every day. Barbara

    Liked by 1 person

    • judymurrah Says:

      Well, you certainly did play an important part in my journey, Barbara. I never could have written those books without you. Especially that last one. Didn’t we have fun working in our jammies getting that one finished? The best part is the lasting friendship created over those years. Thank you for your prayers. Love you.


  20. Billie Stehling Says:

    Always enjoy reading your story. Our prayers are with you and your family. Be blessed. Good luck on the blood work today.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Kay Smith Says:

    Judy, it was so interesting to read this article and see the pictures of your enjoyment and skill. While most of your replies are from “current” people that have walked recently with you, I go back several years to sharing 4 years with you at TJHS in San Antonio. Our lives and paths have not crossed until this media form reconnected us. For which I am so very pleased as your words and views on happenings both happy and concerning have certainly brought you very close to my heart and with warm memories. It seems only right that you would have Tommy there to care for you as you two have been through a lot I am certain since your participation in Lassos and his in Mustang football. And your 3 lovely children and their sweet families rally around to often just celebrate you. When I think of you both “then” and “now” I am drawn to the Proverbs 31 Women and see in you that strength and noble character. With life as it is today, it is very refreshing to have the opportunity to read your stories and share your outlook on how to live with and go past to the next happiness that is to come. You are indeed an inspiration and I am so happy your words reach me. I wish you well with your treatment program and it sounds like it is doing a good job in restoring you to better health. God is the Master Physician! Prayers have been answered and please know they will continue as you have more quilts to make, inspiration to share and love of your family to enjoy! Keeping you in my prayers and heart!

    Liked by 1 person

    • judymurrah Says:

      Dear Kay, Wow! what a stunning letter. Thank you so much. It’s been fun reconnecting with you, too. So happy for social media in that respect. Another Proverbs that was pointed out to me recently is 17:22. “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Having kind words and prayers like yours on my behalf helps me keep the faith. I do believe in the power of prayer. Hugs to you.


  22. Kelly S Schleider Says:

    I awakened this morning and you were in my prayers. I thought I should check out your blog you mentioned when we connected at MD A …so happy I did. Wonderful news about your platelets. Blessings to you.
    Kelly Summerlin Schleider

    Liked by 1 person

  23. judymurrah Says:

    Hi Kelly, I have thought of you and your husband often since we saw you at MDA. He looks so wonderful. I haven’t talked to anyone else at MDA who seems to have breezed through a stem cell transplant. I’m so thankful all went well for him. We had great news yesterday. My platelets count was 22,000. The other counts were good, too. The new protocol must be working. I am so thankful. Would love to stay in touch with you. If you get active on Facebook again, friend me. Much love and blessings to you and your family, Kelly.


  24. Lori dejarnatt Says:

    I really enjoyed reading about your sewing and quilting history. The photos are wonderful!
    Prayers for your platelets levels to raise and healing!!


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