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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News
Debbie Thurgood's Valentine's Heart pockets have an opening on top to hold poems, sayings or other things precious to the owner.

AMERICAN FORK — An award-winning quilt designer, also known for her detailed embroidery work, is enjoying a comeback of sorts after recovering from brain surgery.

Debbie Thurgood is a master of fine embroidery. But a tumor on her brain stem debilitated her in 2004.

She lost the use of her hands and had to set her work aside.

Walking and speaking were also challenged.

After the tumor was removed the use of her hands came back before she left the hospital but her ability to do fine work, for which she had won numerous awards, did not return for about a year.

Her recovery, however, has continued and today is almost complete, with the exception of some minor problems with her speech.

"I talk funny, but I don't have a lot of visible problems now," she said.

That didn't keep her from showing up recently at the Hutchings Museum in Lehi as a substitute crafter, where she taught young girls how to make pocket hearts.

The heart-shaped pockets have an opening on top that can hold poems, sayings or other things precious to the owner.

Thurgood keeps her personal mission statement in hers: "Today is the only day you have."

"I found out how real that was when I had my brain tumor," she said.

She makes her pocket hearts to give away at Christmas, Valentine's Day or special occasions.

Recently Thurgood made a pocket heart for one of her four daughters to boost her spirits on the first day of her daughter's son attending kindergarten.

With four daughters and 11 grandchildren, four of them girls, Thurgood was more than ready and comfortable teaching young girls at the Hutchings Museum craft event.

Her intricately designed quilts are featured in four books. She uses symbolism from the scriptures to design many of them.

One — designed for her oldest daughter — was entered in a Mormon Handicraft contest during Utah's sesquicentennial and won. It hung in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Museum of Church History and Art for 18 months and is featured in the book, "Small Quilts" published by Oxmoor House.

The quilt dubbed "Between the Vines" is in green tones symbolic of many scriptures related to having an open heart, she said.

Made in eight sections, mostly by hand, and then machine sewn together, it contains the images of 800 seeds among intertwining vine-like hearts. The seeds are symbolic of scriptures that refer to planting seeds in the heart, while the color, green, symbolizes growth and love.

It took three years to craft it, she said.

These days her work is mostly for her family including one she is making for another daughter based on a pattern found in a book of Depression-era quilts, "Soft Covers for Hard Times."

The design is of large dandelion blooms with dandelion leaves worked in. She is using real, pressed dandelion leaves for the leaf pattern. Made in sections, it's portable.

"I take it wherever I go," she said. "When you do a little something every day it gets you closer to your goal."

E-mail: rodger@desnews.com