Mark Lipinski — Marching to the Beat of His Own Drummer!

(Originally posted October 11, 2015)


00Mark-upside-down-3Mark Lipinski lives his life with joyful exuberance.  His magazine, Quilter’s Home, became a runaway hit because it was unlike anything the quilt world had ever seen.  Quilting enthusiasts embraced his wild conversational style.  Every page made you feel like you were inside Mark’s head (where very little editing goes on).  He writes exactly like he talks and he revels in humor and unpredictability.  Swimming upstream is how he gains speed and strength.

Teaching a class in Chicago.

Teaching a class in Chicago.

After starting his working life as a social worker, Mark became a successful television producer — eventually producing Oprah and The View.  Although quilting started out strictly as a hobby — Mark was soon invited to teach and speak at the biggest quilting events in the country.  Not only did he became an accomplished quilter — he designed patterns, and created his own signature line of fabrics.  He wrote just about every word in his stunningly successful magazine, Quilters Home.   Labeled the “bad boy” of quilting  because of his candor, honesty, and unfiltered opinions — he was the most entertaining speaker to ever hit the quilting circuit.  By any measure, Mark Lipinski’s career in the quilting industry was a huge success.   Always listening to his own drummer — he was marching on the very top of the quilt world mountain.

Mark with his kidney donor, Mary Eichler taken just minutes before being wheeled into surgery.

Mark with his kidney donor, Mary Eichler
taken just minutes before being wheeled into surgery.

So here did he go?  What happened to Mark Lipinski?

Mark’s  “cupcakes”  (his term for his fans) were shocked and saddened when he quit Quilter’s Home in 2011.   We continued to follow him on Facebook and were sick with worry when he had his life-saving kidney transplant in 2013.  Mark couldn’t travel and he had to be very careful about crowds and people contact.  Although his recovery has had its ups and downs, Mark’s attitude is incredible and now — one year later — he looks healthy, his eyes are bright, he is burning with nervous energy.

After a three-year absence, Mark considered himself an outsider in the quilt industry. He simply moved on.  His weekly internet radio show, Creative Mojo, is a live two hour chat with guests from all over the world.  Mark discusses the actual process of inspiration and creativity with traditional artists, quilters, mixed-media artists, sewists, designers, crocheters, knitters, fiber-artists, etc.

The BIG question was — “When are you coming back to us, Mark?”  His answer might surprise you.

Mark with Rita Farro.

Mark with Rita Farro.

Mark has no interest in making another quilt-under-a-deadline.  He doesn’t want to crank something out to go with a new fabric line or magazine or book deadline.  In the last three years, he became troubled and disillusioned with the focus of his personal patchwork and stitching journey and that of the fiber and quilting industry, too.  “Everything, including my own work, became about FAST AND EASY.  Visit a bookstore or newsstand and look at the current book and/or magazine covers — they are all packed with the same words:  FAST, FASTER AND FASTEST . . . QUICK AND EASY.   In an effort to appeal to the internet mentality, patchwork and quilting has been dumbed down and this trend has all but eradicated our creative process.  When designing  for a book or magazine we are urged to keep it simple so the pattern pages don’t waste valuable real estate.  Is it any wonder we see Rail Fence or Square in a Square quilts in just about everything we buy? We have lost that soulful level of creativity and stitching and process and excellence that made quilts matter.”

One of Mark’s art journaling pieces.

One of Mark’s art journaling pieces.

Mark went on to say,  “I am getting rid of my fabric stash. I gave away over 1600 books and magazines to people who may actually need what I am not using. I am finally, after 20 years of quilting, going to make a quilt that matters, an important quilt, just one quilt that will mean something and  be reflective of my life and the time in which I lived. There won’t be a deadline, and I plan to drown in my individual creative process, new techniques, and excellence in execution.  Maybe I’ll add some appliqué, some words or text, and definitely embellishment. I’m going to take my time with it, buy the very best fabric and notions I can afford from my local shops first (called ”ethical buying”), lay out a pattern and carefully choose the colors, designs, and techniques that will tell my story. It will be my legacy quilt.  Don’t we quilters deserve to make just one ‘important’ quilt in our lifetime? A legacy quilt that will say who we were, what our lives were like, and celebrate the original, creative art we leave behind . . .?”

On the QNNtv set.

On the QNNtv set.

Mark went on to say that while speed should probably never be the point of any art or creative endeavor, he still thinks there is a need for “fast and easy” patterns and projects.  But this time, he wants to take it slow, live and create in the moment, perfect his skill, and appreciate the process of making an excellent quilt.  He referred to his new way of thinking as “The Slow Stitching Movement.”   You might think of it as the difference between fast-food eating and a fine dining experience.  There is a time and place for everything — but you should ask yourself which one will you remember ten years from now?  The Big Mac and fries from McDonald’s?  Or the perfectly cooked fillet mignon and delicate chocolate soufflé from Morton’s Steak House?

The “Slow Movement” is not new.  The Slow Food Movement was created by Carlo Petrini in Rome in the mid 1980’s.  Journalist, Carl Honoré, wrote his international best seller, In Praise of Slow:  How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed, in the early 2000’s in which he suggests the concept of “slow” can be applied to everyday life.   It was over a regular lunch meeting several years ago with close friends, Liza Prior Lucy and Meg Cox, that Liza brought up the “slow” issue and how she thought it might relate to patchwork.  She urged Mark to develop the idea and run with it. He has.

Mark says, “First of all, Slow Stitching does not mean hand stitching.  Slow Stitching does not mean turning down the speed regulator on your sewing machine.  It means you should take your time and pay attention to the process of your art, allow yourself the space to make something that matters, on a deeper level than just having a finished project.”

Mark with Eleanor Burns on her Quilt in a Day webinar.

Mark with Eleanor Burns on her Quilt in a Day webinar.

Why?” he continues, “Because your creative time matters. Because what you do and how you create matters.   Because what you learn about yourself and your place in the world by being alone with your thoughts while you create, and reflecting on the life experiences that have formed you, and are continually ‘re-forming’ you into who you are, while you create matters.
YOU matter.”

“I’m simply urging quilters, and needle-pointers, embroiderers and rug hookers, tatters and crocheters, knitters, long-armers, apparel sewists, and all fiber artists to ‘create in the moment, to organize your workspace and your projects consciously, and stitch with focus and intention.  Make your work and creative process benefit you on both internal and external levels.  Don’t just sew or stitch or knit or embroider, but put your whole heart and attention into it, for the benefits of personal growth and increased creativity.  Build a community of like-minded slow-stitchers around you.   Buy the very best quality of supplies you can afford and create while celebrating the process – not necessarily the result.”  

“If you take your time to choose and study new techniques, pattern, design, color and textures you want in your quilt or stitching project — then work toward excellence as a long term goal, through your focus and commitment to your art and to yourself, there will be rewards beyond just having the completed project at hand.  If you invest and practice the process of The Slow Stitching Movement —  intentional,  focused, and soulful work — you may reap the health, emotional, financial and spiritual benefits that have become limited at best, or eliminated altogether by the rushing through and/or the dumbing down of your creative process.  The point of slow stitching is more than just quality versus quantity.  It’s about leaving behind work that actually means something, not just a piece of fabric and stitches.”

Visit The Slow Stitching Movement website at

Quilt Alliance – Document, Preserve, Share

(Originally posted October 4, 2015)



The mission of the Quilt Alliance is to Document, Preserve, Share . . . and their motto is, “We’re saving your place in quilt history.”  So . . . what is the Quilt Alliance and what does it mean to you?

In 1993, recognizing the need to centralize information about quilts and quiltmaking, four women joined forces to create Quilt Alliance. Their mission is to inform, educate and connect people everywhere with America’s rich quilt heritage.

The Alliance founders gathered a distinguished group of quilt scholars, artists, experts and enthusiasts to develop a vision for gathering the great body of information about quilts and quiltmakers.  They document and preserve the history, the art, the people and the culture surrounding American quilts.

To make this work accessible to teachers, enthusiasts and historians — the variety of Quilt Alliance projects are ongoing and ever-changing. For example:


Maybe you own a quilt treasure like this, but what is the story? Who made it? Was it your Great-Grandmother? Who was she? Who did she make the quilt for? Could the next generation figure it out?

Maybe you own a quilt treasure like this, but what is the story? Who made it? Was it your Great-Grandmother? Who was she? Who did she make the quilt for? Could the next generation figure it out?

Quilters’ S.O.S. is a key element of the Quilt Alliance. They created a downloadable manual so that anybody can conduct an interview and make the transcription available at the Library of Congress American Folklife Center.  Hundreds of interviews are archived at the Center, where they are available for research. Click HERE for more information.

00aGTIlogo_800pixwideGo Tell It at the Quilt Show! — A new oral history project designed to capture the stories of quilts where quiltmakers gather. The formula for Go Tell It! is  simple:  one person talking about one quilt in front of one video camera for three minutes.

Label your quilts!

Label your quilts!

Unlike our Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories project where the interviewee must be a quiltmaker, the Go Tell It! interviewee profile is much broader.

00TheQuiltIndex_LogoAThe Quilt Index is an on-line repository where tradition meets technology head-on, allowing you to use your computer to see and study more than 54,000 quilts from four centuries. This archive is unique:  nowhere else can a journalist, researcher or quilt enthusiast have access to so much information about American quilts.


In a recent post on the Quilt Alliance blog, Amy E. Milne, Executive Director of the Quilt Alliance, shared the history of this 1886 Crazy Quilt. This is a good example of how the Quilt Index documents American quilts.

00Quilt_IndexSue Dee Grainger Brown of Houston, Texas made this stunning hand pieced, embroidered and embellished Crazy Quilt in 1886. The Quilt Index record states, “Family history on this quilt states that it won first prize at the St. Louis World’s Fair.” Brown’s family members documented the quilt during the Texas Quilt Search. The quilt is included in the book Lone Stars: A Legacy of Texas Quilts, Vol. I, 1836-1936, by Karoline Patterson Bresenhan and Nancy O’Bryant Puentes (Austin: University of Texas Press) and was included in an exhibition by the same name in the Texas State Capitol Rotunda, Austin, Texas, April 19-21, 1986.

View this quilt on The Quilt Index:

Read about its history, design and construction. Be sure to use the zoom tool for a detailed view or click the “See full record” link.


Jodie Davis

Jodie Davis

Mark Lipinski

Mark Lipinski

World class quilter, Jodie Davis, is on the board of the Quilt Alliance, and her hope is that you will be inspired to tell your own quilt story . . .  NOW, while the information is still available.  Jodie says,  “American quiltmakers were anonymous and unacknowledged.  Our mission is to document the history of American quilts.  If you have a quilt in your family, do the interview — Share Your Story.  Who made the quilt? How was it passed down in your family? What is the meaning from the maker to the receiver?”

Mark Lipinski is also on the board of directors — and his message is, “Please, please, please — label your quilts. Quiltmakers do not understand the power of their own artistry.  If you label your quilt, it can be passed down from generation to generation — and your story will live.”

What’s the Quilt Alliance message? Label your quilts! Look for our in-depth interview with Mark Lipinski in the coming weeks.  You might be surprised by where he thinks American quilting is heading.  You can always count on Mark to bring a very different point of view.

Lauren Taylor – Lladybird

(Originally posted September 20, 2015)


00headshot1Lauren Taylor of Nashville, Tennessee, is the beautiful young woman behind the popular sewing blog,  Mood Fabrics invited Lauren to become a Mood Sewing Network blogger because her garment sewing is impeccable and creative. Lauren has a passion for sewing, a gift for writing, and an irreverent, joyous attitude about life.

When asked about her current sewing, she said, “Right now, I’m focused on transitional pieces that will work for the wishy-washy Tennessee weather — leggings, long sleeve t-shirts for layering, light jackets, and knit dresses. The weather in Nashville can change from below freezing to pushing 70 degrees in the matter of an afternoon (and we’ve got the tornadoes to prove it!). I’ve also started planning my summer wardrobe — mostly in the form of happy day dreams 🙂 — I’m thinking lots of breezy lightweight cotton dresses and linen shorts. “

In her adult life, Lauren has mostly worked non-sewing jobs.  She spent six years answering phones at an ad agency and now works as a personal assistant for a female entrepreneur.  She also has a small part time job helping a local clothing designer with assembling piece work for her line (she LOVES that job). Lauren would like to teach sewing classes in her local area.

Lauren modeling her Fabulous Birds dress.

Lauren modeling her Fabulous Birds dress.

Birds often serve as Lauren’s inspiration. At one time, Lauren had a local clothing line, LLADYBIRD, so that’s what she named her blog. Ladybird is a nickname people gave her because of her bird tattoo.

Her lifetime favorite garment is her Fabulous Birds dress.  Inspired by a vintage pattern from the 1940s — she chose a silk georgette by Marc Jacobs from Mood Fabrics. Making the dress was a true labor of love — from the initial muslins (and the fact that her pattern was lacking its original instruction sheet!), to learning how to handle the 00quotefabric. “SCHMETZ is my sewing machine needle of choice — and the 70/10 Microtex needle makes perfect stitches in fine silk. The most important thing when working with silk is to always start with a FRESH, new needle.” After the whole dress came together beautifully, she pulled out the big guns and made a bias cut slip of 4 ply silk to wear underneath. The end result is perfection and she can wear it for pretty much any occasion that comes her way.

When sewing on knits, Lauren loves to make hems using the SCHMETZ Stretch Twin 4.0 needle. Her special tip is to use Wooly Nylon in the bobbin — which gives the finished hem some nice additional stretch.

When asked what sewing brings to her life, Lauren thoughtfully replied, “Sewing brings me PATIENCE. It forces me to slow down (sometimes I feel like a hummingbird, the way I race around all day!) and focus on the small parts that make up a whole. It gives me a wonderful creative outlet and a reason to be a perfectionist at something. It also challenges me and forces my brain to think outside the box when faced with an issue. Oh, and it gives me some pretty sweet clothes.”

Lauren with fellow Mood Sewing network bloggers in New York City.

Lauren with fellow Mood Sewing
network bloggers in New York City.

Lauren recently went to New York City to meet up with some Mood Sewing network bloggers. “Fabric often inspires me. I bought a gorgeous piece of silk in vibrant colors of blue and purple, and every day I think about that fabric. I don’t know what it will become. But I am obsessed . . . .”

Lauren is lucky because she has a big, bright, inspiring, dedicated sewing room. Her landlord even agreed to paint the room her favorite shade of turquoise. She has space for her sewing machine and her serger so each has their own table and work space. She has room for a cutting table and ironing board, and lots of storage for fabric, books, and patterns.

Like every busy woman, Lauren has the problem of TIME.  “Whether it’s getting up early to do a little bit of sewing before work (part of my ~power hour~ in the morning, yeah I know that’s dorky!), or sneaking in 10-20 minutes when I can find it . . . I always find a way. If you want to do something badly enough, you will find the time to make it happen.”

Lori Van Maanen – Girls in the Garden

Lori with Girls - and boys - in the Garden.

Lori with Girls – and boys – in the Garden.

(Originally posted September 6, 2015)


In the summer of 2006, Lori  Van Maanen stumbled upon a few sewing and decorating blogs, which led to many hours at the computer.   She was hooked on the format, and she thought blogging would be a great way to keep track of her sewing projects.  She could look back on her posts and use the information to improve her next garment.

Lori lives and works on her Missouri family farm, and is very involved in the family’s agricultural business.  She works full time at their livestock market — so time to sew can be an issue.  And she had to think long and hard about making the commitment to writing her own blog.

She knew her area of blogging would be mainly sewing, but didn’t want to limit herself by putting sewing in the title.  One day, while weeding her flower garden with her daughters, she looked at them and the name of her blog came to her:  Girls In the Garden.  As the mother to four girls, it was perfect — close to her heart.

Although Lori does all kinds of sewing  — her passion has always been fashion sewing.  With so many girls in the house, there is always an occasion or event requiring a new outfit.  Lori is inspired by fashion magazines, fashion blogs and Pinterest.  Once she gets an idea for a garment, she likes to search Pinterest for variations and details to make it her own.

aMood_Sewing_Network_LogoLori is fortunate to have a dedicated sewing space — but it’s in an unfinished basement, tucked under the plumbing pipes and behind the furnace.  She doesn’t really have a “stash” of fabric (maybe 10 yards on hand at any one time).  When she is inspired to make a garment,  she goes online to buy the fabric.  The Mood Fabrics website is her favorite place for fashion fabric — so it was a huge honor to be invited to become a part of the Mood Sewing Network in January, 2013.

When asked about her favorite sewing inspiration, Lori said,  “When the twins were babies, I took a smocking class.  My favorite magazine was Australian Smocking and Embroidery and each month I would find at least one dress to make.  One issue had these smocked black corduroy coats with leopard faux fur — and I was hooked on those coats.  It is a wonder I didn’t wear out my magazine just looking at them.  AS&E offered kits with everything but the pattern, so I checked the kit price and the exchange rate.  With four young girls, money was tight and it  took me a week of debating if I should buy not one but two kits.  In the end, I did order the coats and never regretted the purchase.  I made the coats a bit bigger and since the shape was flared, the girls were able to get three winters’ wear.

Leopard Trench Coat

Leopard Trench Coat

The most recent thing I was inspired to sew was my leopard trench coat.  I saw several leopard trench coats on Pinterest.  I found the perfect fabric at Mood and had the perfect Vogue pattern.  I have worn this coat many times, it just goes with everything and it is one of those ‘feel good’ garments.” 

Your best sewing advice?

Whenever I am having a problem, the first thing I do is rethread my sewing machine and change the needle.  That solves the problem 90% of the time.  And don’t forget to change the needles in your serger, too!  My go-to sewing book is Sandra Betzina’s  Fabric Savvy.  It is an excellent reference book and I often refer to it.  I only use SCHMETZ needles, and I ALWAYS have a good supply on hand.”

What does sewing bring to your life?   

I cannot draw or paint but I can take a piece of fabric and turn it into a garment.  Sewing is my creative outlet and it gives me such fulfillment and joy with each garment I make.  Sewing has also brought many friendships with women both near and far.”

Lori’s blog:

Mood Sewing Network:

Rita Gramsch — Banking on Creative Sewing

(Originally posted August 30, 2015)



With over 26,000 attendees — Toronto’s Creativ Festival is a comprehensive interactive marketplace and Canada’s largest consumer show dedicated to sewing, knitting, quilting, beading, needlework, scrapbooking, DIY decorating, crafting, fibre, textile and paper arts and more. Creativ Festival is held twice a year in Toronto, Ontario Canada, every April and October, with two distinctly different formats. So, how is it that a woman who doesn’t sew starts a successful international consumer sewing show?

Rita Gramsch

Rita Gramsch

Rita with her mother, Eva.

Rita with her mother, Eva.

Rita Gramsch, the founder and president of Creativ Festival, laughs when she replies, “I never learned to sew because my mother was so good at it.  She sewed all my clothes.  And it was my mother, Eva Gramsch,  who was my inspiration. She was the General Manager of the Canadian Home Sewing and Needle-craft trade association.  Although I started my professional life in the banking industry, while on maternity leave, I helped my mother during the trade shows for the CHSN, and show biz got into my blood.”

a-aDSC_2219Retailers could attend the trade shows where they are exposed to the fabulous fabrics, fibres, yarns, tools and notions, but there was no such venue for consumers. It was blind faith and the belief that there was a need to educate, inspire and provide an exclusive shopping experience all under one roof that made Rita quit her management job at the bank.

In April 1988 she took that leap of faith and incorporated her business and launched the very first Creative Sewing and Needlework Festival (later renamed to Creativ Festival).  They were expecting 10,000 but had 18,000. It was a cold blistery October day with line ups wrapped around the building and a one hour long wait to get in.  Rita had the caterer staff walk the lines with canteens of coffee on their backs, serving complimentary drinks to the waiting crowd.

This is the 27th year and the biggest change Rita sees is the way they market and advertise the show. “It used to be we wrote the brochure, and breathed a big sigh of relief when it was printed.  But nowadays consumers expect instant and constant information.   Although we still print the conference brochure, most people receive it digitally.   They thrive on in-depth information and updates.  So we are always working on our website, our blog and, of course, Facebook . . . to provide additional information — teacher bios, detailed class information, any changes or additions as they happen.  So the job never ends!  It is hard and time-consuming to keep up with all the changes in technology and people’s access . . . but to remain successful we need to constantly be improving our skills and platforms.”

The 2014 Creativ Festival line-up includes:

  • “Bespoke” techniques, the almost lost arts of the tailors on Seville Row. Gio Gaudet, known internationally for his exquisite collections of felted outerwear will share Bespoke Tailoring Techniques for Jacket as well as Pants.
  • Author and former Threads editor, David Page Coffin for Making Trousers:  The Details and Shirtmaking:  The Details.
  • 200 hands-on workshops and seminars, inspirational exhibits, how-to demos and an exhibit hall buzzing with the hottest fabrics, fibres, papers, beads, notions, tools and more! You can try before you buy the latest sewing, quilting and embroidery machines from all the major brands.

aaFabric-Dyeing-Class-with-Maggie-VanderweitRita would like to issue her personal invitation for you to join in the fun this year.  Creativ Festival is your chance to meet sewww many fabulous designers, artisans, industry experts, phenomenal retailers and individuals who are passionate about what they do. Come to the show and be inspired!!

The 2015 Creativ Festival is October 15 to 17 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Nouth Building. Please call 1.800.291.2030 or visit: