Tandem skydiver and quilter and longarmer Meledie Dallman has taught us that the skills you need for and the gains you earn from quilting and skydiving are more similar than different. And with super-fun terms like jelly roll, stipple, and binding the baby … it sounds like quilting lingo would fit right in at the dropzone.
By weaving together her passions, Meledie has learned to live a little bigger, love a little harder, and embrace the notion that there are no limits on what you can do.
Here is her story.
Meledie has a twinkle in her eye. A look that makes you feel safe and loved, and free to be your authentic self. She laughs easy, loves deeply, and when she gives you her word she means it. She’s whimsical, if not mischievous, and always has creative ideas tucked in her back pocket.
True to form, Meledie had a big plan for her 60th birthday. She’d been eyeing the sky for some time and, having done plenty of research, committed to doing her first tandem to usher in her milestone year.
But her timeline was altered following the untimely passing of her dear friend Lauren in 2016.
Meledie promised Lauren that she would forever help her little boys remember their mom. During her period of research, Meledie had read that skydiving can support in the grieving process, and so at the age of 58 she decided to jump for Lauren … and invited Lauren’s husband to jump too, and for their young sons to watch from the ground.
That same year, they jumped on Lauren’s birthday. And Meledie has jumped every year since in her honor.
“No one knows exactly where Heaven is, yet whenever it’s mentioned we always look to the sky,” shared Meledie. “Jumping through the clouds is the closest we can get to being there, to being close to Lauren, and to sending her our love.”
For Meledie, memories are palpable, even sacred. Preserving them in meaningful ways has always been important.
Many of Meledie’s favorite childhood memories take her back to the same place: her grandma’s sunny kitchen. Here, generations of her family’s creative women would gather around a table of sentimental fabric scraps arranged this way and that as they pieced together her grandma’s next quilt.
Meledie’s grandmother passed away some time ago, but her quilts will wrap friends and family long into the future. Meledie has several of her quilts, and she can feel – really, truly feel – her grandma’s love stitched throughout each one.
Meledie has sewn all of her life, has hand-quilted for some years, and recently upped her game in a major way by investing in a longarm quilting machine that Lauren’s boys helped her to name Lola. Since bringing her home, she and Lola have made 29 quilts together:
“I love to quilt because I love to create. I love putting a part of myself into something; especially when that something lasts a long time. If I cook a meal it’s gone in ten minutes and I still have a sink of dirty dishes to contend with. But when I make a quilt it can last a hundred years or more and all of the love that I’ve stitched into that quilt can be wrapped around my child, my grandchild and then my great-grandchildren.”
The mega-fast speed and immediate gratification of skydiving may seem like light worlds apart from the slow-and-steady-wins-the-race pace and delayed gratification of quilting, but not for Meledie. For her, they are perfectly complementary.
Both require commitment, focus and perseverance, and both yield heaping helpings of empowerment, joy, and a sense of triumph … and the aggregate result is unbelievably fulfilling.
“When you pull that ripcord up in the sky everything useless rips away from you … your pain, your worries, your grief … leaving more room for that creative spark inside of you to absolutely dance,” she shared.
And the community aspect of both hobbies makes them all the more soul-nourishing:
“Anytime you become part of a community you grow as an individual and you improve in your craft. In quilting, I’m part of many online groups who graciously share their tips, tricks, and techniques along with their successes and failures. The skydiving community is no different. I jumped once during CarolinaFest and you could just feel the love among the crowd. There is such a sense of camaraderie, a sense of being a part of something bigger, even if you’re just a beginner.”
Like every first-time tandem student, Meledie had no idea what to really expect during her first jump. Her research led her to understand that she would experience a sense of relief, release, and reclamation, but she had no idea how impactful it would be on the rest of her life.
“Once you’ve jumped you also realize that the only boundaries in your mind and heart are the ones you put there yourself,” she said, “… and suddenly you find yourself expanding.”
Meledie now has four jumps under her belt, has ziplined, hopes to go mountain climbing with her brother, and dreams of heli-diving … in the Swiss Alps.
“When I went skydiving here in South Carolina and my chute opened up I experienced pure joy in a soundless sky,” she shared excitedly. “To experience that again only this time surrounded by the spectacular views of the Alps would be truly amazing.”
Given the twinkle in her eye when she said that, and the fact that she’s publicly declared this idea as a bucket list item, it’s probably safe to say that Meledie’s going to make it happen.
We dig it, Meledie – seize the day! Blue skies!
Meledie’s blog is called Bits of Whimsy Quilts. Check it out to learn more about her journey and to see her amazzzzzing work. She hasn’t done any custom quilt commissions yet, but she’s open to it. Interested? Get after it by connecting with Meledie on Instagram or Zazzle.
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