I have been interested in handwork since I was very young. I embroidered pre-printed quilt squares when
I was in grade school. My mother, grandmother and aunt were quilters. But they didn’t teach me. I didn’t start quilting until around 1995, and I am self-taught by trial and error. My great-grandmother would come to visit for a few days, and she taught me to crochet. She always wore an apron over her dress, and in one pocket she had a little round metal can of snuff and in the other pocket she had a little round ball of white crochet thread. Her name was Cora.
I have tried an array of things from counted cross-stitch to oil painting. Never one to sit idle, I was, and still am, always experimenting with something new. I did paint-by-number, glued colored rocks to a velvet background to make a picture of Elvis, put sawdust and sand in oil paint to get texture, made doll clothes and paper dolls, and I painted my boring clear plastic eye glasses with red fingernail polish when I was 8 years old. I was always bringing the neighborhood flowers home to my mother.
Still today, I love to have fresh flowers in the house whether from my garden or the neighbors yard. I love to try new and challenging things. Just last week I had my granddaughter over for a visit, Hope---she’s 2 years old, and she had a mouthful of Skittles. She wiped her mouth on my shirt and the color was brilliant. So after she went back home, she left the Skittles at my house, and I decided to paint with them. I got a brush and a little water and was able to get great color from them. The color dried nicely on the paper.
Several years ago, I bought a quilt magazine and found a pattern I wanted to try using the pre-printed embroidered squares from 40 years earlier that were still in my dresser drawer. My Mother had not changed anything in that drawer because I also found my high school letter sweater, my diploma, a pair of shorty pajamas and a dried up corsage from the 1959 prom.
Then I bought some quilt books and more fabric and started trying to make a traditional sampler. I was cutting the fabric with scissors and piecing them together by hand. The sewing machine was purchased in the yard sale years earlier---when my girls got old enough to know their clothes looked different. Before I realized that I didn’t care for traditional blocks, I had made 148 different squares. I never put them together---they are still in that box marked “unfinished”. I went to a couple of quilt shows and took some classes and decided I wanted to do my own squares. I especially liked crazy quilting because I could sew strips of fabric together, and if they didn’t match or weren’t even, I could put a piece of lace over it. Then I taught myself how to make the crazy quilt stitches and that was good for me. I can manipulate the needle and embroidery floss.
My quilts are a mixture of traditional scrap piecing with a contemporary twist. I love the old log cabin pattern of sewing strips, but I like to use small strips that are not cut the same size. I love to sew with very small scraps too. I make dolls and greeting cards out of the scraps.
My goal is to have a nice body of work and get a few pieces into some private collections. I’d like to have time to create new pieces for juried shows and maybe someday have a solo show. I just want people to have soft fiber pieces hanging on their walls.
I still love the Appalachian Mountains where I grew up. I return often to get my mountain fix. They bring me back to my roots,
and I have great memories of Big Stone Gap, Virginia (above). I had a great childhood there with a close
extended family---great parents and great grandparents, a rotten, stinkin' brother and lots of aunts, uncles and cousins.
My great-grandmother, Cora Shuler, taught me to crochet. My mother and grandmother and Aunt Estelle were quilters.
Aunt Estelle made a quilt for every important event---births, weddings, graduations, and she gave them all away.
I made this huge alphabet quilt for Max, my grandson. It is loaded with charms and trinkets for every letter.
I also hand embroidered the names of his entire family on the quilt. In the border, there is an animal for every letter.
I used coloring books for some of the animals and a pattern I had for letters.