Rebekah and I have been so thrilled to share our new book, Exploring Folk Art with Wool Appliqué & More, with you. To give you some extra insight into the book, we want to introduce our collaborators to you. We started off by introducing you to our friend Lori Ann Corelis in this post last time. Today, get to know our friend Kathy Wright, a long-time family friend. She helped us with two projects: Pinwheel Posy (the yarn-sewn pillow) and A Garden Patchwork (the center quilt). Let’s take some time to get to know a little more about her today!
How did you get into quilting and yarn sewing?
“I started with what I call my 30-year quilt. When I was 12, my mom got me a cross stitch embroidery quilt kit as a summer project. I worked on it, then I would put it away off and on. I finally finished it when I was 42.
I was drawn to quilting because of the fabrics and history behind it. Back in the 70’s when I started, there were very few quilt shops. The first place I went was a quilt shop in Willoughby. It was something for me to do for relaxation. I was a stay-at-home mom, and there was a natural draw for me to create. I loved the textures and fabrics from the old quilts. It wasn’t as easy to find what I was looking for, so I had to adapt what I could find. I started with a smaller project—making Christmas stockings for my boys.
I found yarn sewing on a trip to Sturbridge Village to textiles weekend. I am drawn to the old textiles. They were dying and spinning, as well as showing some of their old textiles. They had a make-and-take project there. It was a square of linen, and for $5 you got the yarn to learn to make a little yarn sewing project. You traced a little heart onto the linen using a cookie cutter and then stitched it.
[Old Sturbridge Village] also had some of their treasures on display. One of the objects they showed was a yarn-sewn rug depicting “The Peaceable Kingdom.” Now that I had just learned how to yarn sew, I looked at it differently.
The basic reason I like it is because it’s portable. I have a low threshold for boredom, so anything that’s going to take me too long is not going to interest me anymore. I tend now to work on projects (including quilting) that are small & quick.”
We covered a little bit of history in the book, but can you tell us a little more about yarn sewing?
“The first, early yarn-sewn pieces were purely decorative, and were done in silk on fine linen. They were meant to be smaller, ornamental pieces done by upper class women.
It was not until the 1850s when feed was stored in burlap sacks that rug hooking became popular. Because of the open weave of burlap, you could “sew” with wider fabric, including strips of old cloth. Some people began adapting the early yarn sewing technique using the burlap fabric and handspun yarn, creating yarn sewing. But rug hooking was always more popular because it resulted in functional rugs and the materials easy to come by. Because of this, there’s not a lot of information on yarn sewing, but Old Sturbridge Village does have some resources on it.”
What are some tips you have for those who want to do more yarn sewing?
“For myself, I can copy anything, but I can’t design. So I look for rug hooking patterns and then yarn sew them. It’s a different look, but you are using the same background fabric.
The challenge for me is finding the muted yarn colors I like. It doesn’t have to be 100% wool, but I like it when I can find it. Specialty shops with hand-dyed wool are getting more diverse colors. Wool shows can be a great place to find yarn, too.”
(The sunflower yarn sewing piece was created by Kathy from a rug hooking pattern by Donna Bennett of Crows on the Ledge.)
Who is an artistic influence for you?
“Actually, it’s Rebekah. She encouraged me and led me toward the historical aspects. Her influence challenged me to stretch myself and try new things. And she always has good advice for what I’m working on.”
A big thank you to Kathy for her help in this book! Along with her artistic influence, she let us use many of her antiques in our photos, and has been a big supporter throughout the years. You can find her and her husband’s antiques at Seville Antique Mall in Ohio.
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