We got news yesterday that we are CLEAR TO CLOSE! So on Monday, we will be home owners! A new home for Christmas! My wonderful mama took Jemsy to the Zoo with her friend Joy and Joy's grandson yesterday, giving Ian and I our first day of just us since he was a little newborn potato. We got incredible amounts of packing done, and I think he really enjoyed having all the toys to himself with no fiercely affectionate tackles and head bonks from big brother. ha!
Today I'm delighted to bring you an interview with Tara Curtis, inventor of the WEFTY Needle. Her Instagram is one of my favorites! She's friendly, knowledgable, open, and fun. Thank you for joining us, Tara!
1) Tell us a little about yourself—your family, your quilting, other creative interests, etc. Hello! I'm Tara and I've been sewing since I was a teenager. I started out upcycling clothes and bags, some for fun but most for necessity. Throughout college I only bought clothes and accessories second hand and I didn't yet know how to make clothes. My proudest sewing moment was deconstructing an old velvet robe and adding strips of it to the seams of some ancient bell bottoms. I'm fairly certain I wore those jeans every other day for three years! I've always liked building things and crafting, but sewing seemed super complicated to me. I didn't start quilting until my mid-twenties when I made my first baby quilt all by hand. Along with sewing, I love to draw. I think my next sewing obsession is going to have to be embroidery. I think it can be a melding of those two artistic loves of sewing and drawing.
My husband and I have been married for six years and have two daughters. Hazel is four and Alice is two. We are living in the Pacific Northwest for about two more weeks. Then we are relocating to Madison, Wisconsin to be closer to family. We are going to drive there, which I can only imagine will be totally enjoyable and not in the least stressful - ha!
We all really love music. My husband Donald was a drummer and singer/songwriter for several years and that musical ability is super evident in the girls. They love to stand on the furniture and perform for us. Hazel is really into crafting, and she really wants to learn how to sew.
Donald is always busy making something, and pretty much does everything perfectly. He made himself a Timbuktu style messenger bag, which was the third thing he ever sewed, and used it all through grad school. Now he is a woodworker in his spare time. I hope both the girls take on all sorts of DIY projects throughout their lives because those sorts of endeavors offer opportunities for learning that don't exist in school. We let them go hog wild when they come up with projects to work on. We just stand by to make sure no one gets hurt.
2) You are the inventor of the WEFTY needle, the tool used for all the amazing fabric weaving that’s happening now. So how did the fabric weaving start? I have a ton of fabric and even more abandoned plans for how to use it. When I signed up for the Banner Adventure Swap on Instagram, I wanted to do something really different. I had seen weaving in an April Rhode's look book and decided I wanted to learn how. Basically fabric weaving in the form I do it now, with fabric strips on a foam board, was supposed to be a stepping stone to get to loom weaving with fabric. I just got really sidelined with the stepping stone, and didn't ever get around to moving forward. What happened was I finished my first woven panel and realized it was the coolest thing I'd ever made. It was a great way to use my fabric and it made me want to use it. I wanted to weave more, and try to work it into every kind of project - bags, quilts, pot holders, pillows, etc. Honestly I thought I had come up with this, but soon saw that others had done this before me, like way before me, dating back to ancient times. After my second woven project, I scoured the library for weaving books and found Hex Weave & Madweave: An Introduction to Triaxial Weaving, and I've been practicing the patterns in the madweave section of that book for about a year now.
3) Tell us about the invention of the WEFTY—what is important about its design, and how are they made? The WEFTY fabric weaving needle is 5.5" long and comes in a set of two. One is 1" wide for use with 1" fabric strips, and the other is 1/2" wide for use with 1/2" fabric strips. We designed the WEFTY for weaving single and double fold fabric strips on foam boards. It's structural elements were created with triaxial weaving in mind, so every part of the needle was carefully planned out. The eye of the WEFTY is made to accommodate materials as thick as canvas and denim, and is flat so that you can fold the strip neatly underneath itself as you weave. The tapered end helps it slide under the strips as you begin to weave. It's flat construct ensures that the WEFTY will glide through the fabric strips without disturbing the design - all while holding and pulling the fabric strip tucked neatly behind it. The gills (the grooves on the top) allow you to choose how to move it through your project: You may grip the WEFTY by the sides, or push it from the top using just your finger.
4) How is creative community important to your work? Creative community is essential to my work, because without it I would lose motivation quickly. As a mom of two little ones with very immediate needs, I find it easy to lose steam when it comes to creating. Sewing can take a back burner for things as important as health problems in the family, to something as minor as an empty sippy cup. Seeing what people were trying and making on Instagram got me charged up to sew, and kept me wanting to sew in order to have something to share. And the community is so encouraging and sweet with feedback, which kept me going.
When Circa 15 Fabric Studios opened up in my town, it was really the catalyst for me. I could touch and see the fabric so many sewists were posting online, so I felt confident buying it. I learned so many tips and tricks from owner Kristen Suzuki, who took a gamble and let me teach my first class there - which was teaching a project idea she came up with. She and her staff taught me all about the local guilds, all of which I joined! I can't say enough about her and about the shop she keeps or the staff there. I don't joke when I say Circa 15 is my mecca.
Speaking of guilds, I will say that the best idea I ever followed through on was joining the Snohomish Modern Quilt Guild. I got in on it's third meeting I think, and so I've watched it grow over the last couple of years. We meet in the classroom of Quilting Mayhem, which has the largest selection of Superior Threads of any shop I've ever been to, and super nice staff. I love the SnohoMQG especially because we are inclusive of every type of quilter, so you can draw inspiration from every style of quilting and sewing. People show off everything they're working on, from bags to quilts to clothes, and every member is fun and friendly. I am not sure how commuting once a month from Wisconsin will work out, but I would be an idiot not to do it. I will miss those ladies so much!
5) What advice do you have for quilters and designers along their creative journey? Get out and join real life stuff and do it now, no excuses. Take a class, join a guild, go hang around inside a local quilt shop. Ask questions, touch all the things, smell the fabric. Online is nice, but there's nothing like being in the room with makers and their makes. Honestly with all the knowledge my guild mates, students, and friends have shared with me over the last two years in casual conversation, I feel as though I've been to sewing college. And there's still a ton to learn. My best advice is this: if someone says he or she has been sewing for 30 years, don't talk unless you're asking questions. That person knows stuff!
My only other advice is to stop treating your fabric like it's too precious to use (if you do that). I tend towards that behavior because I have very deep hoarding tendencies. So I remember the origin story of every scrap in my sewing room and it hurts my heart to cut into it. When I am able to overcome that, I am so much better for having used the fabric. However you can, organize and use what you have. And please trust me when I say that it is extremely difficult for me to do that, so I will celebrate with you when you do!
Also, I may need you to remind me.
Tara, thank you! I love how open you are with us, and I hope y'all's move is going/ went well! Y'all be sure to visit Tara on Instagram (source of these lovely photos) and on her website-- you have a few days to order a WEFTY for Christmas!
If you need me this weekend, I'll be buried under my last three projects before I have to pack up my sewing room. You can follow along on Instagram!