Many young girls (and a few boys) who grew up to be quiltmakers learned how to sew at the knee of their mother or grandmother. MPS member Deb Messina learned this valuable skill — among others — from her grandfather.
“Growing up in my grandfather’s house, I learned how to frame roof rafters, mix concrete, change the oil in a car, and sew — all under his guidance,” recalls Deb.
She clearly remembers their first joint sewing project. “We had some deck chairs that needed to be recovered. No such thing as outdoor fabrics in those days. He taught me how to draft the patterns, choose the right kind of canvas, and then cut and sew them on a 1905 Singer treadle sewing machine. From there we progressed to recovering the couch cushions, dining room chairs, and a foot rest. We made pinch pleated drapes for every window in their big house and eventually moved on to making quilts.”
Deb was around 15 when she made her first quilt. “It was a double wedding ring,” she remembers. “Pretty crazy when I think about it now!” She followed the steps her grandfather had taught her: drafting the templates, cutting the pieces, and stitching them together. “Back then, in the 1970s, my templates were made from Cheerios boxes,” she laughs.
“I didn’t know how complex some of those old patterns were,” says Deb. “I just copied them directly from some I had inherited from a long gone family member.”
In the years since then, Deb has made lots of quilts using traditional patterns, including several more double wedding ring quilts. She has made, or helped to make, more than 200 charity quilts for Children’s Protective Services. And along the way, she passed her sewing and quilting skills on to her daughter.
One of Deb’s favorite quilts, shown here, is the one she made for her husband, Jim.
“The block is called Italian Tile — particularly appropriate since Jim is Italian,” says Deb. “It’s a pretty traditional quilt with multiple pieced borders that are not the same size top and bottom and on the sides. I really like playing with borders to do things that are a bit unexpected.”
Deb and her husband are owners of Quilter’s Corner Store, tucked into a cozy little space on SW Broadway Street in Beaverton’s Historic Business District:
Open as a “bricks and mortar” store since 2012, Quilter’s Corner features fabric on the bolt and pre-cuts, notions, kits, patterns, gifts, and more. Take a look inside:
Oddly enough, Deb and Jim didn’t set out to open a quilt shop. Here’s what happened:
Several years ago Deb left the corporate work life behind to design her own line of tea, coffee, and kitchen accessories, and in 2006 her wholesale business, OneMark Creations, was launched. Naturally she needed to buy fabric for her creations, which include tea cozies, cozies for French Press coffee pots, and travel wallets for tea bags and loose tea. You can see some of those items on this wall of Quilter’s Corner Store:
“Quilter’s Corner Store started as a tiny corner of my OneMark Creations website,” Deb explains. “It was a way for me to sell off the yardage I no longer needed for my wholesale customers.”
In 2011, in search of much needed workspace away from her home studio, Deb leased the space she is in now. “My intention was to use the space for my wholesale business because the commercial address makes shipping and receiving orders easier,” she says. “Since it’s a street front retail location, I decided to be open to the public several days a week. After all, I was going to be there anyway. And since I was already selling excess yardage to quilters online, it seemed a natural extension to sell it in the shop as well.”
Deb didn’t really know what to expect in the way of local traffic. Her wholesale customers are all over the world. “I certainly didn’t expect them to be walking down the street of this little downtown.”
Not many wholesale tea accessory customers walked by the shop windows — but quilters did.
“I soon found my tiny shop filled with quilters,” recalls Deb. “They just assumed it was a quilt shop and wondered why they hadn’t heard of it before. This was an interesting turn of events! The picture in my mind of a quilt shop was many times larger than this small space.”
But the quilters kept coming in. “After thinking about it and getting lots of encouragement from local quilters determined to convince me that this was indeed a quilt shop, Quilter’s Corner Store officially opened in March of 2012,” says Deb. “Jim and I refer to the quilt shop as our ‘accidental business’.”
As part of running the shop, Deb writes a monthly email newsletter filled with all kinds of news, links to local quilt guilds, quilting ideas, and even recipes. You can sign up for the newsletter in the shop or on the website.
Quilter’s Corner Store is one of 16 independent shops in the metropolitan area participating in the upcoming Sunshine and Stitches Shop Hop (June 18-July 2). Deb designed the shop hop quilt:
“The ‘blank’ blocks in the center are where the 6″ blocks go that the shop hoppers will be picking up at each shop they visit during the event,” she says. “You can see from this picture how I like to play with the borders to do something a bit unexpected.” Deb’s design will be available for free soon on the StitchesShopHops.com website.
Between her two businesses, Deb is kept plenty busy but still finds time to sew. “My quilting these days is more focused on small projects like banners, pillows, and table runners,” she says. “At some point I hope to have enough time to make a few more quilts for my own home.”