Cuttin’ It Up – Teaching Children

Why learn to sew and quilt? Why teach your children?

Learning how to sew is a valuable skill and there are plenty of reasons why you and every child should learn how to sew. Let me enlighten you.

  1. Sewing helps in developing Hand-Eye Coordination: From cutting to threading a needle and operating a sewing machine these simple exercises aid dramatically in this development.
  2. Mathematical and Geometry skills: Math and measuring is an integral part of sewing, especially quilting. Practical application of math and geometry is in all parts of sewing and quilting. This is such a solid way to teach these skills and a child particularly will love to use and show these skills they learn.
  3. Planning and Preparation Skills: Sewing and quilting require advanced planning and preparation, kids will use their problem-solving skills to prepare their sewing and quilting projects. They have to plan their pattern, figure out how much and what materials they will need to complete their project. This is something I focus on with my second year students and is a skill that will take them through all aspects of their lives and careers, even the corporate world.
  4. Creativity and Accomplishment: When a child completes a sewing or quilting project, they will have a physical reminder of their accomplishment. They can show their work by using it in a very practical way either for themselves, to help others as a donation or as a gift.
  5. Mending their clothes: When a child learns to replace a button, mend their clothes, patch a hole or fix a hem they have a skill set that will follow them into adulthood and provide a solid independence and confidence that too many people today seem to lack.
  6. Sewing provide defined stages in their life: From sewing doll clothes to their own clothes, as a child, allows them to express their individuality. Each sewing machine marks a mile stone in our lives and helps us to strengthen our coping mechanism in today’s crazy world. Imagine what this does for a child?
  7. Sewing can save you money: Oh yes it can! Have you ever gone into a store and looked at a garment that was just too expensive for what you are looking at?  Well enter sewing – go home and make it!  Only you get to choose exactly the color and cloth you like and make it really fit just you.

Before you verbally eviscerate me for such a strong opinion, let me explain. Sewing has so many layers. Sewing by hand, home decor sewing, sewing for children/grandchildren, fashion/garment sewing, quilting (ohhh – especially quilting!), crafts, and a lot of other sewing areas I can’t even begin to recount. Saying that, sewing is a useful skill that is worth learning.

When it comes to sewing tasks like winding a bobbin or threading a machine it can bring a person to a screeching halt, just too much for them to master. The thought of inserting a zipper or a buttonhole can cause overwhelming trouble with breathing! Enter teaching, especially as a child, learning through a teacher can be invaluable. This takes much of the stress away since you are relying on someone else’s experience, past mistakes and patience to guild you through this new world.  Part of why I feel so strongly in teaching children is due to their ability to not limit themselves.  I don’t hear ‘I can’t do that’ with young students, they haven’t yet learned that they ‘can’t do something’ and plow right through a project. Sewing does something else most don’t consider; it can reduce your environmental impact; no sweatshops, no cheap – fall apart cloths that you replace every few month and fill up our landfills with so many synthetic materials which take around a thousand year to fully decompose.  Even producing cotton takes a tremendous amount of water, water that many 2nd and 3rd world countries do not have in abundance.  One bolt of material can produce up to 25 garment, depending on what is being made. By sewing your own clothes, you’re reducing your impact on the environment and creating something that will last for years – I could go on but you get the picture.

Sewing also connects us to history, to our parents, our grandparents.  It is a bit of nostalgia, love and memories.  Those who sew have a wonderful tale about who and how they were taught, most involve a loved one. A button box, an embroidery hoop, a thimble – these are some of my most treasured possessions – this gives me a connection to the past and slows down my mind allowing me to escape from the busy-ness of modern life.  With each stitch, each garment, each quilt block I am sewing in my love, and my prayers for those who are so very dear to me.


Cuttin’ It Up – Services

Local quilt and Longarm arm stores and services add great value to a small community.  Recently our quilting community experienced a loss, to some a great loss.  Quilts and Beyond in Prairie City closed their doors in December 2018, this not only left this community with one less business but the wisdom and helpful experience these talented ladies provided to us. A lot of quilters go to Bend, Pendleton, Baker City and Portland to shop or they shop on line. But these locations add cost to travel and on line shopping leaves little to actual color choices that you can see, touch and compare to your pattern and/or other pieces of cloth you already have. So where does that leave us – the quilters in the John Day Valley?

Experience shows us that whenever there is a void something will fill it. There are several established and a couple new places for quilters that as a community I urge you to support and help grow these local business. We have BellyAcres Twisted Stitchery, The Shiny Thimble, both in Mount Vernon Oregon and now Chester’s is carrying fabric and starting to focus a little more on supplying quilters. The longarm service in the John Day Valley is also growing to support the need for quality longarm service, each longarm business can provide you with their own unique talent to turn something you created into something stunning, Lou’s Heartfelt Quilting in Mount Vernon and BellyAcres Twisted Stitchery are two of the several fine longarm quilters in the Grant County Area. Those of us who provide quilters with classes and longarm service want to see the quilters in the John Day Valley united and flourishing, to bring the recognition long overdue to the talented folks who are quilters and artists – and to create a warm and knowledgeable environment for new quilters. There is an annual quilt show the third weekend in October each year – ‘Best of the Old West Harvest Festival and Quilt Show’. If you can make it here you will truly appreciate the local events as well the ongoing Quilt Block Walk through Grant County Oregon.

Cuttin’ It Up – Ironboards

Ironing boards, we all have them, we all use them but what are they other than something that takes up space and most of the time are unattractive – no – just plain ugly. Some people get creative and use Ironing boards for decoration to hang other items to keep your space neat, but it usually gets stuffed in a corner or closet – mine was not exception, it was just used and ugly with scorching, wear and tear from students, myself and time.

One morning I found myself unable to sleep – so at 4am I got up, built a fire in my studio, turned on my music.  I sat there trying to focus with a cup of coffee and figure out what I should start working on. Then my eyes focused on my very ugly but necessary ironing board.  It had belonged to my mother that I inherited many years ago and didn’t want to get rid of it…so I thought to myself…self – what should I do with it?  Spying some left over camo canvas I used to make a jacket with and wondered if there was enough there to make a new cover and YES! There was not only enough to make a new cover but to cover my smaller board to! So I got busy and made both covers, backed them with left over heavy batting and they both turned out even nicer than what I hoped, I love them and discovered this heavy canvas makes a wonderful cover. I was so pleased that I woke my sleepy man up to show him this wonderful thing I created. When he finely got into my studio to see this creation – my ironing board was nowhere to be found…next time I’m going to rethink my use of camo fabric….

Cuttin’ It Up – A Kind Hearted Person

There are moments in our lives we come to a realization that somethings Just. Can’t. Happen. “Like teaching my sister to quilt”.

My sister, Julia, is one of the most talented people I know – she is infectious in her personality, and a true joy to be with and we are always laughing together. She loves going for rides on her Harley Motorcycle with her husband or just by herself… A few weeks ago she was out riding and she passed a dog alongside the I-5 freeway eating fallen fruit. She was appalled that no one would stop and help this starving animal. Being the kind hearted person she is she pulled over, grabbed her phone so she could call someone with a car to pick up the stray, and walked back to this poor dog. Walking closer, she watched people slowing and staring at her; yes staring!  ‘How can so many people be so heartless’, she thought. She walked on and as she got closer this ‘dog’ stood up on its hind legs and took a step towards her…this made her stop dead in her tracks as well almost caused an accident with the passing cars.  This dog was a bear! Some choice words crossed her mind as she took a step backwards and all she could think was ‘don’t turn and run – don’t run! It will think I’m a squeaky toy’.  As she started making a fast retreat backwards trying hard not to fall lest the bear would chase her and knock her down! Fortunately the bear was more interested in the fruit than her unsalted meat and she made it back to her bike safely.  During all this her husband, Bob, pulled over and watched, not sure if he needed to come to her rescue.

My sister is now seriously considering Lasik surgery, until that time I can’t teach her to quilt – since I won’t let her near any of my quilting machines…

Cuttin’ it Up – Quilt Guilds

Quilt Guilds have been around for three centuries in the American culture, as formal and informal groups, meeting in churches and homes and barns.  Guilds are formed for various reasons and for specific causes from supporting the community to commemorating important people or events. The 19th century Guilds were known as ‘quilting parties or circles’, the 20th century quiltmakers formed groups in order to establish a sense of identity as well for education and mutual support.  During the last half of the century fewer mothers and grandmothers have passed on the traditions and techniques of quiltmaking to their children, the 20th century woman have been too busy making a living.

Enter modern quilters today who have taken quilting to a whole new level through Guilds.

In the 21st century American quilting is considered one of the last traditional crafts still being widely practiced, millions of people are making quilts every year throughout the world. Human beings are born makers, we all have a desire to create and to help others. Quilt Guilds help to support quilters in collective groups through teaching, sharing of ideas, community projects and supporting each other.

Grant County Oregon has an established Quilt Guild (Grant County Peace Makers) and has a new Quilt Guild (Strawberry Mountain Quilt Guild, established 2017) that are supporting exciting agendas along with teaching and sharing of ideas. Whether you have quilted for years or you ‘have always wanted to learn’ I urge you to see what these two Guilds are doing, the growing involvement with our community, bring art, beauty and support.  Strawberry Mountain Quilt Guild’s ‘Sit & Sew’ make quilts for children receiving beds from ‘Sleep in Heavenly Peace’ as well teach new quilters the ‘art’.  Grant County Peace Makers support Quilts of Valor and have provided hundreds of beautiful quilts for our veterans.

Cuttin’ it Up – Marathon Quilting



Marathon Quilting….We’ve all been there; the long hours, the excitement, the fatigue – being so close to the finish and pushing until completion – and swearing we will never do it again! You know how long that lasts – kinda like giving birth, at the time ‘I WILL NEVER DO THIS AGAIN!’ comes to mind as we ‘push’ through to the finish. Then we see the beauty, the possibilities, the hope and something in our brain blocks all logic and we do it all over again…and again.

This happened a couple weekends ago, our youngest daughter, Aubri, came down with her family and she needed help with a quilt, this quilt she was working on was for her husbands cousin’s first child.  We decided on a new quilt and a different pattern completely so early Saturday morning we began; we measured, we cut and we sewed, we laughed and talked all day long. Fortunately Rob and Papa were there to help with the little ones (of course dirt bikes, quads and tree forts helped). We completed the quilt top in time to put it on the longarm for quilting while the ‘men folk’ made dinner and fed the littles.  At 11:40pm Saturday I pulled this quilt off the longarm all done and beautiful, saved the binding for the next morning and she left happy at noon Sunday with a completed quilt to give as a gift the next weekend… her smiling face was all I needed – life is truly good.  I love and cherish these moments with my daughter, she is a blooming quilter and yes, I would do it all over again and again…just not too soon.

Cuttin’ it Up – Scisssor’s

One can never have enough tools – good tools, just ask any man about his shop, his man cave, his reloading room, his…well you get it; men and tools can be never ending nor will they ever have enough.  I happen to agree with men on this one.  Having good tools on hand to do your work can be critical to the outcome of your project.

Take something as minor as scissors – no really.  Scissors have a rich and long history in the world starting out as spring scissors during the Middle Ages, in Mesopotamia 3,000 – 4,000 years ago. These were larger, ‘spring scissor’ shear type and hard on your hands. In 1761 pivoted scissors were manufactured in large numbers being the first modern-day scissors and they have become even more specialized.

My daughter and family visited us a while back.  Aubri was working on her quilt in my studio while Rob corralled the little ones. Rob sat for a bit and looked, really looked at my tools (oh yeah – I have tools) and made some smart mouthed comment about all my scissors – why so many scissors? And they are all organized! I had to explain what I do with all these ‘tools’,  I use shears, snips, clippers, paper, leather, silk and cotton scissors for various projects – and now we quilters use an amazing tool – the rotary cutter and we have never looked back. The first rotary cutter was introduced by the Olfa Company in 1979 for garment making and quilters quickly adapted to it. It’s a time saver and allows us to cut fast and accurate.

After I explained all this to my son-in-law, Rob, he just sat there, quiet… and shook his head slowly.  I really thought I lost him until a few weeks later Aubri sent a picture of Rob buying several pairs of scissors to begin his collection.

I love my family…..

Cuttin’ it Up: Galloping Horses

Galloping Horses

I have been teaching quilting and sewing classes for over 30 years, teaching is both inspirational for me and a learning experience. Throughout my life I have never met someone – anyone – that I haven’t learned something from. While on my walk about in my early 20’s I meet so many wonderful people, some interesting and some scary and after 5 years living everywhere I came home. I learned about life and about myself from everyone I met.  Quilting is no different.  People used to think (myself included) of quilting as something older ladies sit around and do together…Oh no – not anymore! Quilting is a wonderful art form as useful as it is beautiful.

When I first started teaching new quilters I had one student, (don’t we all have that one?), Laurie, who just couldn’t get the concept of ¼ inch seams, she didn’t grasp it, couldn’t grasp it, and didn’t seem to want to understand that if you aren’t exactly ¼” on your seams then you could be off square by ½” to 1 ½” depending on the size of your project.  I had her rip out her seams, I would rip out her seams – over and over until our eyes crossed.  We were close to finishing the class as I approached her to see how she was doing and her quilt was pathetically out of square, corners didn’t match, seams weren’t connecting…I looked at her, she looked at me and jumped up holding her quilt towards me making her quilt wave up and down exclaiming in a very frustrated voice “On a galloping horse it don’t matter”!

At that moment all I could do was belly laugh and realized how we are all so unique, our sense of perfection is unique and our methods are unique.  It changed my teaching experience and attitude completely. She added to my life experience something I will never forget:  Life isn’t perfect, just a perfect mess for some and perfect beauty for others.

Thank you Laurie, for teaching me.