Celebrating Women Quilters on International Women’s Day

Mar 8, 2022 7:00:00 AM / by Cayden Crowise

Happy International Women’s Day. Today, we celebrate the accomplishments of women! In honor of women everywhere, we are sharing some stories of AccuQuilt quilters and learning how quilting has impacted their lives.

 

 

AccuQuilt Quilters and the Women Who Inspired Them

The stories of how quilters got into the craft are as diverse and extraordinary as the women who tell them. Grab your cup of coffee, or glass of water, and get comfy as we immerse ourselves in the fantastic stories of three AccuQuilt women.

 

Pam Meets her Quilting Mentors

Pam Heller, AccuQuilt’s Cutting Expert, lived in a small town in Colorado over 20 years ago when she discovered quilting. She happened to be walking down the main street in the town when she discovered a quilt shop and was instantly intrigued. She had never seen one before.

Upon going inside the small-town shop, she found herself immersed in a whole new world.

“Intrigued, I stepped inside,” said Pam. “That’s when two vibrant, talented businesswomen greeted me and introduced themselves.”

What she did not know, at the time, was that they were soon to become her quilting mentors - their names are Ginger and Nancy.

“They taught me about color and texture and patterns,” said Pam. “They urged me to try new quilting methods like EPP and applique. Together, those women started me on my quilting path, and I will be forever grateful.”

 

Eleanor Burns of Quilt in a Day and Tula Pink of Tula PinkTwo of Pam's favorite quilters at Quilt Market:
Eleanor Burns of Quilt in a Day & Tula Pink of Tula Pink

 

Karen Inspired by her Mother

Karen Johnson, AccuQuilt’s Director of Marketing, was inspired by someone who many women are inspired by – her mother. While her mother didn’t quilt until much later in life, she had been a sewist since she was a young. In fact, this incredible woman sewed all the family’s clothes…on a treadle machine!

“My mother was such an inspiration to me,” said Karen. “She taught me the basics of sewing a skirt when I was around 10 years old. After that, I learned more advanced techniques in home economics. My mother was my introduction into the world of makers.”

 

AccuQuilt's quilter shares a memory quilt she made for her parent's 60th wedding anniversary.

Karen presents a memory quilt she made for her parent's 60th wedding anniversary.

 

Karen’s mom invested in her first serious sewing machine when Karen was just a baby - a Singer Slant-o-matic! It was so fancy that it was beyond her wildest dreams!

But to understand Karen’s whole story, you need to know that her grandmother did not sew…but she wanted to! She decided around the same time to get the exact same sewing machine so she could learn.

“Her learning to sew just didn’t stick,” said Karen.

“She never completed a single project and the machine just sat there for years. When I was 12, she gifted me that unbelievable machine. My mom and I created a sewing room together – complete with her then very tired Slant-o-matic on one side, and my practically brand-new Slant-o-Matic on the other. It was quite the sight!”

 

Karen's parents admire the memory quilt she made for their 60th wedding anniversary.

Karen's mother and father looking at the memory quilt she made for them.

 

The story gets even better because she found something that would remain precious to her for years before it became a quilt. Inside her grandmother’s sewing cabinet Karen found a surprise – a cutout pair of pajamas that were being made for her when she was still a toddler and an assortment of hearts. The hearts had been cut from worn-out clothing her mother had made for her over the years.

“I held onto those hearts for many years and eventually they became my very first quilt,” said Karen. “I machine zigzagged the hearts, machine tacked the corners in lieu of quilting and adding store-bought binding. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing; however, I still carefully crafted a baby quilt for my daughter made from the scraps from my baby clothes! A quilty version of the circle of life!

 

Karen's first quilt made from baby clothes
Karen's first quilt made from baby clothes 2

Karen's first quilt.

“It was a special moment for me and a treasured keepsake for my now adult daughter. You have to start somewhere in the quilting journey.”

 

Joy Inspired by Fellow Creatives

Joy Banfield, AccuQuilt’s Chief of Staff, finds inspiration from fellow quilters and creatives. She enjoys the many talented women, and men, who share the love of the craft – especially on social media.

“There are so many amazing quilters out there who are using their craft to change the world,” said Joy. “One example that stands out is Sherri Lynn Wood – she is an improv quilter whose projects are made from upcycled/recycled materials. While I haven’t ventured into the improv quilt world, I am just blown away by her passion for educating others through sustainable quilting.”

Joy’s appreciation for women who are affecting change does not stop there. She also finds the team of Patty Murphy, Kristi McDonough, and Jennifer Sampou amazing. They developed Create and Sustain in 2020.

 

Corgis sleeping on a homemade quilt made using AccuQuilt

Joy's dogs napping on one of her quilts.

 

Their goal is to:

  • Celebrate companies that are making environmentally sound decisions, and
  • Highlight designers that use environmentally safe products and/or design sustainable items, and...

 

Create a community for makers to:

  • Become educated advocates for change
  • Support designers that create sustainable items
  • Collaborate about creative and sustainable ideas

 

“Create and Sustain encourages quilters and crafters to find sustainable ways to execute their craft, and they bring well-known makers in the industry together to educate and train. It’s fantastic.”

 

 

Navigating the World as a Quilting Woman

There’s something magical about being a quilter. It brings people together, affects positive changes within the world, and brings joy to those who participate in the craft. Quilting often becomes a part of a woman’s identity in a big way. Read on to learn how quilting has impacted Pam and Joy.

 

Pam Living as a Quilter

Quilting provides Pam with an amazing way to connect with others - no matter where she finds herself.

“I was in an airport working on English Paper Piecing and the woman next to me asked what I was doing,” said Pam.

“When I responded, ‘I’m a quilter,’ she said, ‘My mom was a quilter.’ and our conversation quickly moved into the common ground and was a beautiful moment in time."

 

Pam Heller, AccuQuilt Cutting Expert, and Eleanor Burns, from Quilt in a DayPam and Eleanor Burns making videos together.

 

Pam recounts countless times when the same thing would occur – at parties, social gatherings, even at playgroups.

“Whenever someone asks what I do, my response is, ‘I’m a Quilter,’ and everyone knows someone who was a quilter,” said Pam. “It’s a magical conversation starter.”

The world of quilting is truly a testament to how the world of quilting brings not only women but everyone, together.

 

Joy’s Quilting Identity

Quilting is carefully woven into Joy’s identity. She starts each project with intention and executes it in a way that, by the end, it is a piece of art.

“I build it from the design phase through completion – drawing each pattern out on my tablet all the way to long-arming and binding on my own,” said Joy.

“I actually have trouble giving my quilts away because I put so much heart and soul into each piece I make.”

 

Old photo of Joy and her mother proudly sharing Joy's first quiltJoy proudly displays her first quilt with her mother.

 

Joy often jokes that everything she does relates to quilting in some way. A typical day looks like this:

 

  • She spends 8-10 hours a day working for a company that makes quilting supplies,
  • Then, she makes her 12-foot commute to her dining room table where her sewing machine lives.
  • Once there, she spends another 4-5 hours a night working on her projects.

 

Not only does she breathe quilting, but she is also surrounded by it in unique ways. She has quilting bumper stickers, quilt block jewelry, and she said that she’s even considering getting a quilt block tattoo...but the jury is still out on that decision.

 

Quilt made with old Block of the Month Blocks
Quilt made with old Block of the Month Blocks - Double-sided

Joy created this double-sided quilt in 2020 for her father after her mother passed away. The blocks were created during a Block of the Month program that Joy and her mother did together when Joy was about 12 years old.

 

“I just find that [quilting] fulfills me personally,” said Joy.

“The type of work I do in my career rarely produces a physical product of any kind – one with tangible results. I problem-solve, strategize, or provide support where needed in our organization. But at the end of the day, I don’t really have anything tangible to show for it. When I quilt, though, I’m able to physically make something with my hands and I find it so enriching and fulfilling at the end of the day to see a finished project.”

 

Joy models a quilted jacket me made using AccuQuilt
Joy models a quilted jacket me made using AccuQuilt - Back

Joy shows off the quilted jacket she made.

 

 

How Quilting Trickles into Daily Life

These stories exemplify just how immersive quilting is for makers. The world outside of fabric and blocks becomes pure inspiration for quilters. Suddenly, the world goes from being ordinary to a space filled with patterns, extraordinary colors, and quilt blocks. Pam, Karen and Joy share their experience of the world as quilters.

 

Pam Views the World through a Quilting Lens

When you quilt, something changes how you interact with the world. Pam has experienced this over and over throughout her time as a quilter.

“Quilting has changed my visual perspective,” said Pam. “I look at art and nature differently now. Instead of a portrait or a landscape, I see shapes and color and design.”

 

IMG_3894_webPam and Lynn pose for a photo at AccuQuilt.

 

People often overlook details that are crucial to the construction of a photo or scene; however, without those details, you lose the full context. That’s why Pam looks for tiny elements within the imagery she's viewing and appreciates the significance of it within the overall picture.

“I was in an airport recently and on the wall was a huge, mosaic mural of flowers,” said Pam. “While I was drawn to the overall beauty of the piece, I was more interested in the myriad of penny-sized stones used to create it. Once I dissected the overall pattern, my next thought is always – is there a die for that?”

 

Pam at the Quilts of Valor National Convention

Pam at the Quilts of Valor National Convention.

 

Karen Sees Everything as a Quilt

When you quilt, everything takes on a whole new meaning. Shapes become pieces and colors become focal points.

“I think I see everything through a creative lens that I developed at a young age,” said Karen. “Everything can become a quilt! When you see a blue sky, you see a great color. When you smell flowers, you imagine gorgeous applique. The farmer's market becomes a source of inspiration with all its shapes and colors. Even a fence can suddenly transform into a border! You experience the world in a special way.”

 

Joy Appreciates the Geometry

“Oh, I see quilting in everything,” said Joy. “It’s amazing how - when you spend as much time quilting as I do - you often see patterns or quilt blocks in the real world. From linoleum designs to fencing to patterns on clothing, I see geometric shapes and patterns everywhere now.”

 

Corgi wearing a quilt dog jacket made by Joy using AccuQuilt diesOne of Joy's dogs wearing a quilted dog jacket she made.

 

 

Triumphs as a Woman and a Quilter

Being a woman quilter provides a special connection to the world, community, and support group when you need it the most. The triumphs of these women’s stories that you are about to read are so incredibly touching that there are barely words to describe them. The stories speak for themselves.

 

Pam Connects with Quilters

Pam’s greatest triumph as a quilter has been her time with the AccuQuilt team. She has been with the company for over ten years and adores every moment. During her time, she has been blessed with the opportunity to travel all over the world to meet thousands of quilters.

“Each one has been as different and unique as the quilts they make,” said Pam. “I have learned so much from their quilting journeys and stand in awe of their ability to overcome obstacles to continue making their craft.”

Her largest personal triumph originated from her connection to a quilter in Ohio, and the story is so touching that Pam tells it best.

“I’m a breast cancer survivor. It’s been 6 years since my diagnosis, and today I am strong and healthy,” said Pam.

“However, shortly after my surgery, the medication I was taking made the joints in my hand and feet ache constantly. I had been working on some EPP blocks for Grandmother’s Flower Garden, but I wasn’t able to hold the needle.”

 

Pam and Erica hosting an AccuQuilt live event

Pam hosting a Tuesday live event with Erica.

 

Pam found herself flustered. So much so that she wanted to give up the project entirely – which would have been sad on multiple levels. That all changed after she went to Ohio for an AccuQuilt event.

“In the back of the room, I saw an elderly woman working on EPP,” said Pam.

“After my presentation, I approached her and asked to see what she was working on. Her stitches were tight and tiny, and her blocks were beautiful! I shared my dilemma with her, and she invited me to sit by her. Very quietly, and very patiently, she told me of her bout with cancer and how she learned this easy technique to whip stitch to help her. Days later, I took out my project and continued to work on it. Even as I’ve gotten stronger, that’s still the way I whip stitch.”

 

Karen Lives and Breathes Quilting

For Karen, quilting is a way of life – from work to leisure. She lives the dream that many people look for in their lives.

“They say, ‘Do what you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life,’” said Karen. “This is so true for me. For over 25 years now, I’ve worked in the quilting industry and have been privileged to work with so many talented quilters. Every day ends with me wanting to go stitch something!”

 

Karen with her morningstar quilt made using AccuQuilt

Karen proudly shows off her Morningstar quilt made using AccuQuilt. Read about her experience here.

 

Joy Connects with Quilters

One of Joy’s biggest triumphs arrived at the start of the pandemic in 2020. During her first weekend of lockdown, she discovered a local organization that was partnering with a major hospital in the area to make masks for medical personnel.

Upon learning this, she knew that she could help. She jumped right in and pushed for AccuQuilt to create a custom die for them - which would allow the team to easily organize volunteers for mask-making efforts.

“After doing this, it really took off, and I immediately saw the opportunity we had to help in our community of quilters and makers,” said Joy.

 

55182 AccuQuilt GO! Olson Face Mask

 

“While it was difficult to tell whether there would be an extended need for masks – because this was just late March 2020 and no one could predict we’d still be wearing masks in 2022 - I really spearheaded the idea to bring out a mask die to help our customers in mask making efforts across the US. This new die even helped some international customers, too!”

Joy spent a ton of time coordinating everything the AccuQuilt team would need for this project to take off – from die approval to launch. She spent three months working tirelessly helping the team get the dies to makers who needed them in a timely manner to help those in their families and communities.

 

AccuQuilt team members model Hanukkah Masks

AccuQuilt team members model masks made with an AccuQuilt die.

 

During a time when you couldn’t find masks at stores, AccuQuilt released a die that would provide a big solution. All Joy’s diligent efforts paid off in a big way – communities across the US were able to quickly create masks that were in such high demand.

“We sold over 10,000 much-needed mask dies between April and August of 2020 and, from those sales, we were able to donate $100,000 in net proceeds to No Kid Hungry,” said Joy. “It was absolutely amazing to make such a big impact on communities across the country.”

 

No Kid Hungry Check held by AccuQuilt team members

Members of the AccuQuilt team hold the check to be donated to the No Kid Hungry organization.

 

Her efforts didn’t stop there, though, as she saw even more ways she could positively impact others during such a tumultuous time.

“I also worked with various groups across the country and donated cutters and dies wherever we could to help volunteers who were making and donating masks to hospitals, schools, shelters, and more,” said Joy.

“I got really burned out by the time we wrapped up the program in the fall of 2020, but I get to say that I spearheaded a project that helped volunteers produce over 1,000,000 masks for various causes across the country – and championed the idea to make the large donation to No Kid Hungry. I think this will be one of the proudest moments of my life.”

 

 

What Does International Women’s Day Mean to You?

Today, we’ve heard the stories of three incredible women at AccuQuilt who exude creativity, resiliency, innovation, and compassion…all of who share a passion for quilting. Let’s see what International Women’s Day means to them.

 

Pam Celebrates Connection

“Today is a day to celebrate all the amazing women in my life! I know physicists and firefighters, cooks and accountants, moms and doctors, and so many more. Each one brings a connection that I will forever treasure.”

 

Pam at an AccuQuilt event

Pam at an AccuQuilt event.

 

Karen the Quilter

“Ha! I feel every day is Women’s Day! So, this is just another day in the life of Karen the Quilter.”

 

Joy Celebrates Strong Women

“Personally, I think it’s a time to step back and celebrate and appreciate the work of those who came before us while also recognizing there is still much work to be done,” said Joy.

“There are still gender biases that negatively impact society today. For some, that means pay disparity, opportunities lost, or gender stereotypes they must live with daily. For others, that means fighting for the right to education, employment, choice in marriage/relationship status, the list goes on. We have come far and it’s great to step back and recognize that. However, there is still much work to be done regarding equity all around – beyond just gender equality. But today, we should celebrate the strong women in our lives, and those who have influenced our past.”

 

Joy co-hosting an AccuQuilt live event with Pam and Erica

Joy hosting a Tuesday live event with Pam and Erica.

 

 

Thank You for Being a Quilter

Today, AccuQuilt celebrates all the women makers in our community – past, present, and future. We know that each one of you have your own incredible story and journey in quilting, and we hope that you are sharing it with all the women in your lives.

Your contribution to the world of quilting is immeasurable – even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes.

 

Cheryl Lynch QuiltsCheryl L. created this adorable quilt using AccuQuilt. It looks so comfy!

 

Thank you for creating beautiful pieces for yourself, for your loved ones, and for the world! Thank you for sharing your stories with us on social media and on our blog posts. You all inspire our team as much as we inspire you.

 

Veronica_B_childs denim jacket

Veronica B. created this quilt block on a child's denim jacket using AccuQuilt. Great work!

 

Thank you all so much for being a part of our community!

 

 

Learn More about Women in Quilting

If you enjoy learning about women in quilting, then be sure to watch today’s live event if you haven't already. It's called, Generations of Quilting. AccuQuilt invited some amazing women quilters to tell you a little about their stories.

 

Watch Generations of Quilting Now

 

Topics: Quilting Stories

Cayden Crowise

Written by Cayden Crowise

AccuQuilt's copywriter and avid crafter.