Friday, November 16, 2001

Morrow teen-ager sews her patriotism

She offers world the Ameriquilt

        Thirteen-year-old Sarah Pullem could match Betsy Ross stitch for stitch. And tale for tale.

        They could talk about the red, white and blue ways they found to combine stars and stripes.

        Betsy's way, according to family lore, became the first American flag.

        Sarah's way became the Ameriquilt. Her idea was for a flag-shaped quilt that folds into a built-in pocket. All tucked in, the quilt becomes a pillow covered by Old Glory's field of stars.

        Like Betsy's flag, Sarah's Ameriquilt offers unlimited potential.

        The surge in patriotism since Sept. 11 has heightened demand for anything showing the flag.

[photo] Sarah Pullem, 13, of Morrow shows off a small version of the Ameriquilt, which she designed and sews.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
        Since finishing her first Ameriquilt two weeks ago, Sarah has received word-of-mouth requests to make six more. The Morrow teen is also taking orders on the Internet at

        “They're $50 each,” she said in the second-floor sewing room of her parents' Warren County home. “One dollar for each star.”

        A portion of the proceeds — Sara has yet to pick the amount — goes to Back2Back Ministries. The Mason organization sponsors programs to aid Mexican orphanages.

        Talking about money matters made Sarah blush. She's of two minds about the project. She wants to sell Ameriquilts. But she also wants to have fun.

        Sewing is a great joy in her life. She doesn't want it to become a chore.

        “When I'm up here, I relax,” she said.

        Even though her nimble fingers hand-cut every stripe so it is perfectly straight and pinned without puckers, wrinkles or sags, she sees sewing as her pressure-release valve.

        “If I'm upset with something,” she said, “I can push the pedal faster on my sewing machine to take out my frustrations.”

        Sometimes, she admitted, “my younger brother and sister can frustrate me.”

        She can lock the door and keep 7-year-old David and 9-year-old Hannah from pestering her. She can turn on her CDs or work in silence.

        “When I'm up here sewing,” she said, “it's peaceful.”

        Every day, after school, Sarah walks up a flight of steps to sew. She's home-schooled by her mom, Ann Pullem.

        Ann told me about the Ameriquilt's genesis. Late in August, Sarah had just finished a quillow, the basis for the flag quilt.

        “I was standing in the family room on the first floor,” Ann said. “Sarah ran out of the sewing room and draped the quillow over the railing.”

        Picking up the narrative, Sarah continued:

        “I said, "Hey mom, if we put the pocket in the corner, it could be a flag.'

        “But we didn't pay much attention then.”

        After Sept. 11, Ann reminded Sarah of her idea. Weeks later, and after help from kind strangers and family members, the Ameriquilt was born.

        An employee of the West End-based 132-year-old National Flag Co. donated pieces of blue cloth emblazoned with 50 white stars.

        Sarah's grandfather, John Peter, used his engineering skills to calculate the pattern's dimensions.

        Her brother and sister pestered her less.

        Her mom applied for a patent.

        Her dad, Fred Pullem, looked into setting up a quilt-making business.

        They left Sarah alone to sew. That's what she loves.

        When she puts needle to thread, she experiences what the flag symbolizes. She feels free.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; by fax at 768-8340; or e-mail at

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