Fabric and stitching have always fascinated me. I have a little embroidered bib that I made for my baby sister when I was not yet five years old. By the time I was 9 or 10 years old, I was making many of my own clothes. I tried other needlearts – knitting, needlepoint, hand embroidery – but always came back to the sewing machine. I made garments for myself, my sister, my cousin, and later, my children. Then, in 1988, I had one of those “moments” when something happens, you blink your eyes, and things are changed. I picked up a copy of Sew Beautiful, an heirloom sewing magazine. I had grown up on a farm in Missouri, gotten a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, and had never seen laces and fabrics like that! I was hooked! Because I knew how to sew, and because I consider myself more of an engineer than an artist, I easily taught myself how to make those beautifully embellished children’s clothes. I did everything by machine, and because I hadn’t been taught the “proper” way of doing the techniques, I developed my own ways. Soon I was going far beyond the traditional techniques and coming up with new interpretations. Almost before I knew it, I was sewing for that magazine.
From 1990 to 2005 I worked free-lance, although essentially full-time, for Martha Pullen Co., as a primary designer for Sew Beautiful magazine, all of her other publications, and for “Martha’s Sewing Room” PBS TV show, on which I was also a guest. I have created many of the techniques made popular by her endeavors. My column “Sue Says…” in Sew Beautiful magazine, which I wrote for 8 years, was shown in a reader survey to be one of the most popular features of the magazine, and I have had scores of feature articles. I had two articles published in Zig Zag magazine, and made the cover garments for two issues of Sew News magazine. In 1996, I wrote Easy Elegance, a book with heirloom sewing techniques and patterns. I taught at the Martha Pullen School of Art Fashion in Huntsville, AL over 30 times, at Pfaff and Viking Conventions, and for guilds.
During those years, I followed and admired quilting. But I didn’t do much quilting, except a few very simple heirloom technique samplers. Then, I made a Christmas quilt for my husband, and a fiftieth anniversary quilt for my parents. The siren call of quilting was drawing me! One day, as I was giving a trunk show presentation for our local quilt guild, I had another of those “moments”. It struck me that very few people out there were making really good quilts using heirloom sewing by machine techniques, and that I was the person to do that. So I decided to integrate my expertise in heirloom sewing by machine with the exciting creativity in the quilt world. My first “serious” quilt was “Heirloom Dreams,” which won a blue ribbon at the 2004 IQA show in Houston. My quilts since then have won may awards at major shows. I have a book, Heirloom Machine Sewing for Quilters, which was published by AQS. I keep on working, and the pictures in my mind keep on coming!
In the summer of 2005 I resigned from Martha Pullen Co., to have more time to follow my new interests, although I continued to teach at some of the schools and occasionally contribute to the magazine. I still love the gorgeous heirloom garments, and try to come out with several new patterns a year. I have more ideas for quilts than I will ever have time to make. I have had a great deal of success incorporating digitized machine embroidery into unique quilts, with many ribbons from major shows, and four quilts residing in the permanent collection of the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY.
In the past year, I have filmed a Craftsy class, "The Machine Embroidery Inspired Quilt," started spending more time making heirloom garments, and working on future surprises!
My husband, Mark, and I live in Pittsburg, KS, with the companionship of a number of cats, who entertain and exasperate us!