A Quilting Journey with Sew Sweet Seebee

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Thank you today’s Guest: Jeresther Thorpe Page

Find our more about Jeresther on Instagram

Watch her “And I Quilt” video here

And  learn more of her story here

Read about her quilting for a special little boy here 

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AME-Zion Church — Jeresther mentioned her church affiliation as significant in shaping her interest in creative histories. 

 

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Lisa  0:0:16

Hello stitchers, welcome to 'Stitch Please' the official podcast of Black Women Stitch. The sewing group where Black Lives Matter. I'm your host, Lisa Woolfork. I'm a fourth generation sewing enthusiast with more than 20 years of sewing experience. I am looking forward to today's conversation. So sit back, relax, and get ready to get your stitch together.

Lisa 0:0:46

Hello, everybody and welcome to the ‘Stitch,Please’ podcast, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. I am talking today with Jeresther Thorpe Page. She's known as SewSweetSeebee on Instagram. She is a quilter and I am so glad to have her one here. Welcome so much Jeresther . Thank you for joining us today.

Jeresther 0:1:08

Thank you. Thank you so much. I'm glad to be here.

Lisa 0:1:14

Yes. Okay. So can we talk a bit about how you started sewing? How did you begin your sewing story?

Jeresther 0:1:22

So okay, my sewing story is so interesting. I honestly have only been on this journey for about four years. But a little bit ago, maybe 10 years, 12 years, I lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was just for a short time and my husband was on a worksite and all these beautiful quilts and you saw all these classic Amish quilts. Then you saw American quilts, then you saw Dutch Amish quilts, with these neat patterns. I've always been fascinated with quilts. And just the story that they told. When I grew up in, you know, St. Mark, African Methodist Church in Indiana, we had these beautiful quilts in our church.  I always looked at those. Folks were always talking back and sharing stories about these quilts. Right. So I was just fascinated. How do you do that? How do you do that?

Jeresther 0:2:19

Well, as the years progressed, you know, working, schooling, going back to school, again, working, you know, all of that. You know, something that I've always wanted to do. I'm a very crafty person, meaning I love to try anything, you know, and I'm like, wow, yeah, that was great. Sometimes the hot mess, but love to try anything, but it just always wanted to quilt. So it was the move from Ohio, leaving Ohio about four years ago to go to Maryland. Then it was the fall of 2016, we had dropped my oldest daughter off at Spelman. She just reminded me and when she was there visiting, you know, the year prior that we moved there, my husband was already there working in Baltimore, John Hopkins and all those things. So she had gone down to visit and you know, different things, her and the kids and she had been looking for these quilt shops because she knew that our little craft shop, she didn't even know what she wanted, what she was looking for, for me. But she knew that I was going to be in this transition, you know, out of the mouths of babes.

Jeresther 0:3:22

So she reminded me, Hey, Mom, don't forget, in our new area, it's this cute little shop and have all kinds of those little things you like to do? I was like, "Yeah, yeah, girl, okay, honey, you don't worry about Mommy, you on your new journey, Mom's going to be okay", because I was going to take some time off from being a school administrator, school principal, to get the other younger ones, you know, settled in Maryland and their schools, and all of that. I was going to take that time, I was going to finish my doctorate working on that kind of thing, and just do some things and transition. My husband said do use this time to really find the things that find joy that you want to do. I was like, but I love teaching and learning. That's such a passion. And so that was a passion. So yes, I want to need to work on my doctorate so I can just, you know, the more I can learn to contribute to that field. Yes.

Jeresther 0:4:17

But then that other side was calling me to his craft. I had this beautiful little quilt as I was leaving a school that I was supporting and Lancaster that they gave me and it was an Amish pattern. It's so beautiful. But on the back, one of the folks there had gone on a missionary trip somewhere. So they had put some authentic African cloth on the back of it. They were like, you know, we wanted to have you to have this part that reminded us of you, I mean to remind you of us but then on the back of it. We just wanted to remind when you look at the back to remind you of how much you brought to us and how you've helped us start to change our mindset. You know, in that bringing in that piece of culture in here, and I was like, ah, and I'm like, see, that's what quilting is. It's bringing in and sharing those stories and wanting to leave something.

Jeresther  0:5:15

So fast forward, now I'm in, you know, Maryland and I'm in this little town Fulton, the kids are in school, and I'm like, oh, Lord, I have worked every day of my life since I was 15. Through college, through having children, through graduate degrees, what am I going to do? Then I remember this quilt shop walk into this quiltshop, um, I have no clue how to quilt. Matter of fact, I don't know how to do anything, but I tell them, I was like, I need to sign up for a quilting class. They were like, um, well, you got to do that. Can you piece and you piece and I'm like, Oh, I got a lot of peace, I got peace in my heart. I'm full of peace. These little women were looking at me like she has lost her mind. And they're like, no peace, cut this fabric apart and put it back together. I'm like, Oh, I love that. I'm so happy. I want to do that. I can do that. So after about 20 minutes, they were like, well, if nothing else, you were a confident beginner and put me and I enrolled in this intermediate advanced quilting class. How about this, this class was like, um, one of the universities there, you could use it as credit or something? I don't know. All I know is I'm like, I'm in this class then I find out there's a difference between hand quilting and machine. Takes 10,000 years, right?

Lisa 0:6:42

Yes, it does. Science has proven that it takes 10,000 years, hand quilting.

Jeresther 0:6:48

But in that hand quilting class, and that and it was nine months. So they explain that to me.

Lisa 0:6:54

It's like having a baby.

Jeresther  0:6:56

Yes! Pretty much in the end, you feel like you've had a 12,000 pound baby too. It's all in each block, the 12 blocks are a different type of intraquite classic quilt. So one, the thing about that is I learned how to be. I learned precision through that. Through cutting and having to cut all of it by template, and then sewing that all together and really saw for the first time... oh my gosh, I took because when I picked out the different fabrics that I needed that I wanted, and they handed me you know, basically about 30 yards of fabric, right? For all these different blocks and pieces, background and all this stuff. I'm going what, and they're like, well, this six yards is going to be for your backing. But this solid color is for the background. And these colors are for you to do your PC with. And then after that, and I'm like you just handed me rolls of material. And I'm supposed.. what do you.. what am I gonna use?

Lisa 0:8:03

"You want me to do who with the what now?"

Jeresther 0:8:05

I was like I have lost my mind. But I got so pulled in. So within three months of that I knew I wanted to go faster, right? So I stayed of course that whole time and learned and learned but while I did that I snuck over to this other quilt shop, right. So simultaneously I took a hand. I mean, I took a machine piecing quilting class where we were learning to piece. So that's when I learned the magic of a rotary cutter. I'm like that changed my life!

Jeresther 0:8:38

I was like, "When do I get to those big machines in that other room?;" And they were like, "Little girl, you need to learn how to piece this stuff", right?

Lisa 0:8:47

"Let's concentrate on making the top of the quilt first before you start driving the Ferrari. How bout that"

Jeresther 0:8:52

It is a Ferrari! You will learn that and I'll talk about it. So anyway, that's part of the thing I wanted the Ferrari. So I'm going home and I'm talking to my husband about all of this. I have this little old machine I had dusted off, and I'm learning to sew but I'm doing this hand quilting. I have all these classes going on. Then I took an applique class because that looked awesome too. So I'm doing all this hand work within this machine work and on this little bitty you know, Tinker machine and my husband's just like "oh my gosh" and I keep telling him but I want to work with those big ones, one of the big ones. So he's like, I'm just so proud of her and I just want to encourage her that she's finding this you know, joy in this. So he calls around size different quilt shops, different things and buys me I have no clue what to do with it, this long Orn quilting machine, this handy quilt, the handiquilter.

Jeresther  0:8:57

That's how I started. I was just like, "no, I wanted a big, more powerful sewing machine" because they keep telling me in class I have to work on this one. But you know I wasn't gonna say that I had this sweet sixteen, he suprised me, and I was like, this is beautiful. Now my oldest daughter, you know, she was home a couple times on breaks. She's like, "Nah, Mom, he's talking about something that's huge Mom, I don't think he's just talking about like your little Suzy machine, I think it's something else."

Jeresther  0:10:16

I was like "well, we will see." I remember when he took me into the place and surprised me that was my sewing machine and I was like, "How do you turn this on?"

Lisa 0:10:32

Let's slow down a little bit. I want to go back and return to talking about your time in Lancaster, because for the folks who don't know, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, as you were saying, is like the pinnacle or the hub of Amish quilting. We know that it's not an Amish culture all around the eastern seaboard of the United States. But in Lancaster, there are lots of Amish and Mennonite communities, and they have a special and distinct quilting style. They've had it for hundreds of years. So the idea that you could be there and Lancaster that absolutely makes sense that quilting became a thing that you were interested in. What I also love is that you were talking about your own experience in the AME church right to the AME. So this is the African Methodist Episcopal Church. This is a an Episcopal church that was founded by oh my gosh, um Alan..yes?

Jeresther  0:11:27

Yes. One started AME and one started AME Zion. So yes, because that's the thing that's a distinction that people miss. There's AME and then there's AME Zion. AME Zion churches are even sometimes smaller than AME's. But my family grew up in the AME Zion with grandma who used to say, you know, "born under Zion gone die under Zion."

Lisa 0:12:01

You were able to blend to quilt traditions like an Amish tradition, and an AME Zion tradition, like together like so those are things that you are bringing into your just , earliest stages of even starting this. Another thing I love, I love how your daughter, as she was preparing to start her first year of college knew that you would need something because she wasn't there. That's something that I was adapting with, because my son is preparing to graduate from college next year, or in 2021. When he left, I fell almost completely to pieces. I was not prepared. I was actually kind of mad, because people were like, "Oh, my God, he's gone, you can have extra room, you got to have this, you gotta have that." I did not feel that way at all. I was really sad. Because I have two boys, and the house was like one boys very quiet and the one that went away was very loud. The house was so quiet. Actually, I got an emotional support Ken doll that looked like him and I made clothes for it. I did. I didn't do what one could call,well, with the separation. I was like, "I miss Riley!" and "Riley would be like, Mom, I'm fine. I'm like an hour and a half away" I'm like, "But still, it's so far!"

Lisa 0:13:26

I just love how you invested in yourself and that your kids, you know that your daughter especially was like, it's almost like doing the four years that she was in college, you were at a type of college as well, that you were taking that time to explore and learn and grow and quilting was a big part of that. It's just such a beautiful story.

Jeresther  0:13:47

It was a huge part of that. You know what, it was a huge part of that because then that launched me into finally because it wasn't just Okay, my oldest baby is leaving, but it was also I'm moving to a new state. I'm not going to be working. I've always worked. I've been I you know, I was raised that way by my I've always worked. Let me tell you, I did marry my high school college sweetheart. I was not allowed to date until my prom, my junior prom, and he was that date. So then you know, so we get to high school together. We went to college together and then we were married. So you know, and I never really stepped back and said it's always been centered around family and take care of family. Since we moved and relocated to different places, which was a great experience and opportunities for our family, but a lot of times you know, it was just us.

Jeresther  0:14:41

So we had to build your network and a community, so I was always in that. So her knowing that mom this is gonna be a time and encouraging me and not just her but my other daughter who was going to be starting high school there and she was like, "Mom, you know what, I'm okay" because you know, they were used to me being a principal at my own school, plus something on their PTA even though they were at three different schools, and you know, the snack mom for volleyball or this or that are the Boy Scouts mom for the community. So you know that I was just I always wanted to be involved in what they were doing, right. So it was a time that they all three were like, "find something that's all about you, Mom, that's all about you." Still turns out, it's anchored in community and legacy and sharing and telling the story.

Jeresther  0:15:34

You know in quilting, I learned not to quilt, but that having that great creative release to do that, and then to start teaching others, but also self care. I did so much more of stopping and taking care of myself, you know, physically, mentally and spiritually. Those are all those things that I was always putting on the back burner, but just walking into that quilting store walking in that and her reminding me "Mom, don't forget, don't forget, Mom, tell me how it was." You know, and just walking into that, and, and taking that leap. It was also much more than just quilting. But through quilting, I was able to really find a lot of that self discovery. As you finally get to that age and you look and your children are not babies anymore. They're going off to college, they got their own little friends, they're in high school, they only really need you to drop them off and pick them up. Then they're getting licenses. It's like, "oh, wow", you know, I no longer control their schedule. What does that mean, you know, and what does that look like?

Lisa 0:16:52

Their independence and their growth is also in some ways an affirmation of you as well, right? Because that's what we want. We want our children to be free and independent and be able to thrive on their own. But when they start doing that, it's like, "awwwww."

Jeresther 0:17:08

It is, you're so proud and people's like now they all see you know, Nia is doing this on Instagram, Nia is working on this. She's about to leave and go off and do this huge two year rotational program with Boeing. In a whole big city and state and you're like, "oh, doesn't she need me? She needs me." you know? We were okay, letting them go off. Okay, so you know, what we had we had gone through when they left for college, just wait until he, you know, starts talking about career moves and where he's about to go. It's like, "oh, wait, you don't you don't need me."

Jeresther 0:17:09

I remember once when my cousin who I remember as a little cousin, I was talking to my aunt at one point. She was like, "Oh, yes. You know, he's living in Chicago now." I was like, "by himself?", because I thought of him as like a nine year old. In fact, this person is 35 years old. But like, I thought of him as a nine year old, like, "would let a nine year old just live alone." Yeah, but no. We get trapped in our imaginations in some ways as these little ones but they are not little forever and we're grateful for that right.

Lisa 0:18:24

So I wanted to talk a little bit more about your sewing machine journey. I keep thinking about maybe I'm in line with some of the quilt ladies that you were talking about that you quote, unquote, graduate, or level up to a certain style machine. So like, I started on a little $20, it wasn't $20, it was like a $100 machine that I got at a fabric store or at a discount store. Then I moved up to another machine, another machine and now I have this gorgeous, wonderful machine that I absolutely love. It's got USB connectivity. It's still a single needle machine, but it's got beautiful LED lighting like I really love my machine. But that was not where I started. But you're saying that you started, you had a little one that you dusted off from back in the day. But your second machine sounds like you went from like a little tiny hand crank toy machine to the Ferrari of sewing machines in like nine months or one year is that right?

Jeresther 0:19:32

Yes! I got that machine before the class was over. So that's why we're just wow really tickled, just right before the class is over. My husband gave it to me for my anniversary. So I had almost been in.. so I think I had just looped around because August is when he gave it to me. Here's the thing, let's talk about machines. I have an HQ sweet sixteen. It's just been upgraded to the Capri. Capri or Capari. I'm never saying that right because I don't have it. So what it is, is the size of those big long or machines that stand on a frame, that then can move horizontally and then they can push up and back. They can come back and they can come forward and they can go backwards. But they're on this frame, right. And it has these big handles. You are then holding those handles. It's kind of like you're writing on your drawing. That's what the free motion is called you're you're drawing, you're creating that pattern or I'm sorry, that quilt design on that quilt sandwich, right?

Jeresther  0:20:48

What I have is the same is that same machine but mine is a stationary. It's on this large table, it's this huge width. It's a huge free motion machine. Now mind you, I was just learning how to piece and put things together when I get this big thing that I'm supposed to quilt under. I'm like, "how do I make the material move?" So that's the difference. It's almost, it's the same as if you're trying to quilt on your domestic machine. Except this is a long arm and it comes out at 18 inches. It's this big horsepower thing.  I have mine sitting up pretty high like countertop. I put my quilt sandwich underneath the needle. My hands are connected to and on the quilt, and I move the quilt under the machine. I'm moving the material instead of and then when I'm sometimes you might see me at different places. I'm in, I'm up and I'm on one of the stand up part or long or machines where they're on a frame and that frame is moving. I'm like driving that machine. So it's interesting the way you see it, it's either you're writing with the pencil, so you have the handle, and you're moving that needle and you're doing all of that you're moving the machine to make those motions, right with the free motion. Or you are seated standing, because I stand most of the time, because I have mine up so high and  I'm moving the fabric underneath that.

Lisa  0:22:36

Yes, okay. So that's, that's what I was trying to understand why not like for free motion quilting, like for those who aren't familiar for free motion quilting, typically with a single needle machine is that one of the ways that I've heard it explained is that it's kind of you know how when you're writing, if you have a pen in your hand, and you have paper, you write and your hand moves on the paper. That's how you write your name. That's how you write anything, paper is stationary in your hand moves. For free motion quilting, you're, it's basically the pen is still and you are moving the paper. So are you saying for your machine, for the sweet sixteen? Is it? Are you moving the needle to make the quilting? Or is the fabric moving underneath?

Jeresther 0:23:20

The fabric is moving. I'm moving that paper, I'm moving the fabric underneath my big horsepower machine, right?  I have a stationary long arm machine. Then there's the other long arm machines that are on a frame. Those are the larger..well, I mean my size is pretty large. They are that same model. I could convert mine to a frame if I want that. But in the midst of doing that, I could just go ahead and buy the million dollar one, that's how much it would cost anyway to convert, so I might as well buy that next one up. But a lot of quilters, at least the ones that were I was quilting where I started in Maryland, some of them even though they had the quilting machine on the frame, which I do like that. I like holding those bar and the bars and I like moving it and I like moving the needle right and that's still free motion.

Jeresther 0:24:34

Now yes the difference with those long arms that are on the frame, you can buy additional software. You can buy a pro stitcher and then you could do a lot of your own digital designing. You can get in and you monitor it and the machine will do the work. Now you're doing a lot of work designing and monitoring and knowing when to know row and move your fabric. But the machine is now quilting, your design. There's things called edge to edge. When I was really learning how to quilt, that's one of the things I did, I took the classes so I could learn and I would, you know, finish a quilt. Then I would go look for a pattern that I liked and the edge to edge library. Then you know, you kind of go through all the work of getting it loaded on the big frame. So you know, the differences when I do it at home on my long arm, but my stationary long arm, where I move the fabric or paper underneath the machine, I have a whole quilt sandwich. You have this whole quilt sandwich. I quilt naturally because of that in sections. Because even though I have a nice space, you still only get so much and you have to keep your quilt kind of rolled up, people do a lot of different things. I have a huge part of it rolled up on my lap like pool noodles.

Lisa 0:26:09

Yes, I was gonna ask about that. Yeah, to keep it from getting creased.

Jeresther 0:26:12

Yes, and then on the side, then I have it kind of flapped in. What's really in front of me at any given time it really is about a 14 inch to 14 inch space at any given time that's right there in front of me. What I want to do in my journey as I grow as a quilter, mind you, I've only been in this.. there are so many more, there are so many phenomenal quilters that I follow, and I'm like, "Oh, I want to do that." My journey..right now I feel like I'm still thinking, it's I'm in this section, okay, I want this section, this section and then the move off to that. That's usually what you do on you know, if you're doing on domestic or you're doing on the big on the large long arm stationary.

Jeresther 0:27:10

I want to get to where, like I'm Helen Gauden. She can look ahead, she can look so far ahead on this quilt. Even that part that's rolled up, you know, right there on my lap. She knows where that whole design is going to flow, you know, and how it is. I still look at some of my quilting and I'm like, "Oh, yeah, I'm still sectional, I still do a lot of meandering, because meandering is a nice safe one. Then you don't have to be so section specific. However, when you get into those folks who are doing micro quilting, and that detailed quilting, they prefer this to the sweet sixteen. A lot of the shops use it because they feel like they're really connected with that fabric. They're right there on the fabric. They're holding it. They're really focusing on "what am I going to put? How am I going to feel this section, how I'm going to make action, pop and come alive", right? That's what I find myself doing under my sweet sixteen. I'm like "What else can I add to this?" Then I have to make myself believe that because I'm like, "oh, and I could do this and I could do a little bit of this." Sometimes I'm like, "Well, I gotta get this baby done, so it's gonna be meandered all the way." I can tell you, I'm more you know 70/30 meandering, because it's very safe. But you know, it just quilting is so interesting because you pieced and you've put this sandwich, together this quilt sandwich together. When I'm on my machine, it's all there. It's right there. But now, it's what is the design I'm going to put on top of that.

Lisa 0:29:10

It seems like you're so committed to the entire process. I know for me, I love the piecing.  I especially love paper piecing, but I like the piecing, like the putting the part together. Once I learned that I could give that quill top to somebody, give them some money, and they would turn that into an actual quilt, I was like "Bet, this is for me."I love the piecing. The quilting, you know if it's a small thing, I can do it on my machine, you know, and I'm happy to do it and I do the detail and just really go to town on it. If it's something that I want to use for like my bed or for a throw or something, and it's not of course cheap, of course because you know how much work it is. I'd much rather just put it out there and then oh my goodness if they would bind it. Yes. Yes, please. So yeah, I will open up my checkbook, I will throw you some Venmo , cash app, whatever you want. Because when I start to do a binding on a quilt, I feel like the quilt has six corners. Like, "Ugh! Why is this taking so long? Wasn't this a square when I began, or a rectangle, I thought those things had four corners. But no, I'm turning another corner. This must be the ninth corner of this quilt it's taking forever."

Lisa  0:29:55

Just to review for folks who aren't familiar with quilting, when we're talking about a quilt sandwich, we're talking about the back of the fabric, which is like a backing. Then we're talking about batting that goes in the middle. I tend to prefer light batting like the warm and natural type batting, which is like a low loft batting. That's what I like personally. Then your quilt top goes on top. So people refer to those as the quilt sandwich.

Lisa 0:30:58

You're listening to the 'Stitch, Please' podcast, and I'm talking today with Jeresther Thorpe Page about quilting, and its ups and downs. Stay tuned. We'll have more conversation after the break.

Lisa  0:31:10

The 'Stitch, Please' podcast is really growing. I want to thank you for listening to the podcast and ask a favor if you are listening to this podcast on a medium that allows you to rate it or review it. For example, Apple podcasts or iTunes. Please do so if you're enjoying the podcast, if you could drop me a five star rating, if you have something to say about the podcast and you want it to include that couple sentences in the review box of Apple. It makes a really big difference in how the podcast is evaluated by Apple, how it becomes more visible, it really is a way to kind of lean into the algorithm that helps to rank podcasts. So if you had time to do that, to drop a little line in the review feature of the podcast, that would be really appreciated and would help us to grow even further and faster.

Lisa 0:32:10

Welcome back to the 'Stitch Please' podcast. I'm talking today with Jeresther Thorpe Page. In this section of the podcast, we're going to learn how Jeresther was living a double life thanks to quilting. Stay tuned.

Lisa 0:32:26

So how big is your machine? And at what orientation Do you sit? This is something I find confusing about some of the big machines, I'm used to sitting in front of a sewing machine with the needle at my left hand and then the interface for the machine like the buttons and those kind of things are on the right. Is that true for the sweet sixteen as well? Or do you sit a different way?

Jeresther  0:32:48

So when I sit down, that was what I had also learned when I first sat down, like what is going on, you know? So now you're sitting in front of it, it's all going vertical. So it's not a horizontal off your workspace that is off to the side of your needle on your domestic sewing machine, that nice little space that you might have in there, like right now in the domestic machine that I'm sitting in front of, I have a nice throat lift in there. That's you know, that's right off on the right side of my head. So everything is behind and on the side of the needle at the sweet sixteen. Your're sitting at the front of it, and it's all you know, facing you like it's gonna just run right over you.

Lisa 0:33:45

Oh my god!

Jeresther 0:33:45

And it is! So you're just sitting there. When you get that thing started, you see this bigger than life needle and all these things happening and moving in front of you. I sit or stand in front of it. If I have it up, if I'm really trying to get to it and I have it up high, which I used to do, keep it countertop high so I can stand and move. I started off sitting and then I kind of watched some folks on sweet sixteen and saw how you know they really put that up at the table. The sweet sixteen, the great thing about that particular one from Handi quilter, the table is built around the machine. So and then you get these two additional flats that adds another two feet on that can add another these two feet extensions. That yes, 24 inches for both of those extensions that you can put on the side of it to give you even that much more space.

Lisa 0:34:56

So see each extension is 24 inches?

Jeresther  0:34:59

Yes.

Lisa 0:34:59

So that's 48 inches extra space on either side of the machine like total. So that just expands the machine out like nearly four feet.

Jeresther  0:35:08

Yes. So two feet on each side. Yes. Now, if you have that kind of space in your studio, like only have one flat because I don't have that kind of space. So I have one and I can flap that up and that helps with the weight of it. Because as you were explaining with that quilt sandwich, you know, it still gets pretty heavy me. I support my local quilt shops and I support small quiltshops where I get my fabric from.  I llove hundred percent quilting pot. I just I love it. So those babies though, can get pretty heavy. To avoid the drag on your machine, which is that you know that stress to your machine as you're trying to maneuver that big heavy quilt sandwhich around, that extra flat helps a lot because it lifts it so you don't have as much laying off to the side.

Jeresther  0:36:06

I noticed that even with my domestic, because I was still put on my walking foot to do some quick things. My daughter and I made a baby quilt for our neighbors. She was four months, they sent us a cute little month picture to show how sweet she looked on her quilt. But you know, if it's something quick like a baby quilt, we'll still throw it on, you know, one of my domestics. Right now I have my 710 out because it has a lot of the decorative stitches.

Lisa 0:36:38

Is this the Bernina 710?

Jeresther  0:36:43

So now you know my husband, we jumped over just getting me and

Lisa 0:36:52

You all did some like some like next some Olympic level hurdling. That's what they're sewing process is, Olympic level hurdling. You come to the track, and you're like, I've never run before, but I think I'm gonna like it. So I'm going to start and enter the Olympics, and it turns out, you're not bad. It turns out that you could do just fine. You're doing great at the hurdle. So what did you start with?

Jeresther  0:37:17

So I know, so I started with that sweet sixteen. I'm like, "Lord, I don't know what I'm doing but I'm gonna finish a quilt so I can put it underneath here." My husband, I could tell he had done all this research, because I was sneaking away to the quilt shop with this one  little quilt top. I still didn't, I didn't know how to use that thing. I still didn't even know how to turn it on after they showed me my demo, and we packed it up and brought it home. Right?

Lisa 0:37:43

I can only imagine how loud it is when it comes on, because my machine, it has this beautiful bling bling, it sings to you when it comes on. Sometimes I know for like the 10 needle embroidery machines, they are kind of almost like you can hear the engine revving up.

Jeresther  0:37:59

You can! The kids know the difference between me on one of my domestic machines and when I'm quilting. They said that they can hear the difference. I usually have whichever musical I have going at the time, loud and up playing in my studio at the same time. So there is a lot of you know, mojo and noises.

Jeresther 0:38:27

As far as my machines, so I was just trying to get the 710. I wanted the 710 that had like the cute little, um, you know, decorative stitches and all these things and kind of you know, then finally have a little electric little thing over here. You know, that's what I want it right. So I get this big mama sweet sixteen and my husband's looking at me like I'm crazy. He was like, "um, that's a car you need to be using that". So when he sees me sneaking off gonna going to do this quilt top, but I needed that quick top redone and so I was going to take it to put it on the machine and do edge to edge at the local quote store. He's like, "why aren't you doing it on your machine?" I'm like "Brother. I don't know how to use that."

Jeresther 0: 39:20

Then in my class and then in the quilt shop, because you know, I'm living a double life at this point. I'm in this class and then I'm over at this machine PC 101 so I can go to quilting 101. But I've already skipped that too because my husband has bought me this huge lumbar and they're laughing at me and they're still not allowing me to go in the room, what I keep on referring to as the big machines. So my husband's like, "but you said you wanted the big one." I'm like "I meant the big 710!" you know in my head, but you know I wouldn't say that.  Then for birthday, he tried again. Christmas, he bought me the 510, which is another single needle single, straight stitch horsepower. So when I'm pushing out quilts really fast, I mean it only has one speed - fast. It is truly a workhorse machine. But he went, "wait a minute, it only goes in a straight line? Did I just get you the same thing as the other one?" I was cracking up laughing. I was like, "No, that's still a long arm kind of free motion. I'm still good."

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Jeresther 0:40:38

Then in April for my birthday, finally I just go into the quilt shop myself and I'm like, “Okay, I want the 710.” When I was at Handiquilter, when I was brought up for the week to be in Salt Lake to do all of the recording, an experience Handiquilter, they gave us all the 210. So I now have the whole Handiquilter line. So I have the HQ stitch, that whole line, and then I have my sweet sixteen, and the next thing that I would move up to is I would keep my sweet sixteen because again, I like that close personal, right? But I'm ready, to go one level, to go one level up to have a frame, so I can really get into doing some of my own digital design and designing. I love the procedure for that so that is my next thing. I keep looking at this guest bed that I put in my studio, which really just holds the quilts that I'm taking pictures of.

Lisa 0:42:05

That's amazing. That is really clever.

Jeresther: 0:42:08

Everytime I look at it, I just look and I see for a quick second when I turn that way, I see in a mirror the next Handiquilter, that long arm that I want, that would stand on a 10-foot frame, I look over and I see it at the corner of my eye and I'm like, “Oh yeah, still... the guest bed, huh?”

Lisa 0:42:30

Youre Like, “Oh, never mind. I thought you were the 10-foot frame. My bad, you're an actual bed, you're not a machine, you're still the same thing, you have not turned like Cinderella’s pumpkins. You have not turned into a carriage yet, you will be my carraige soon, but right now you are still a bed.”

Lisa 42:27

So one of the questions I wanted to ask was, how did you get started with... How did you go from quilt... so right now, it seems like you have, by my count, you've got the 210, the 510, the 710, and the sweet sixteen, is that right?

Jeresther 43:04

Yes.

Lisa 43:05

So you've been doing this for four years and you've got four machines, and how did you get into a relationship with Handiquilter to end up as part of their campaign, their ad campaign, 'cause I saw your wonderful picture about you being a mom and a principal and a Handiquilter. So tell me about how you joined that ‘And  I quilt’ campaign.

Jeresther 0:43:30

So... ‘And I Quilt’.. One evening, I was up and about just piddling as we do late in the night in our sewing room, and I had been practicing something with quilt, and I was on their site just looking at this demonstration again, and it kind of popped up about telling your stories and I’m like “Hmm let me think about that.” Then someone who has taken a class one of my earlier times, and by this time, I’ve moved and I'm in Nashville, but I keep in touch with my little quilt shop because I still order things from them and they tell me what cool stuff is happening and new... And so this is the one now that I picked up the machine and then really started helping me learn how to use my sweet 16. So one of the teachers was like, Jeresther, your story is not just hilarious, but it's about the sweetest thing you have to share, you have to share the story, and I'm like, “Yeah, that's kind of popped up here and there. They are not interested in me.”

Jeresther 0:44:32

Then I said, “Come on, let's all be forreal. Y’all know I don't know how to quilt. Y’all know I am still learning.  I'm telling you I have containers and containers of all these practice squares where I just keep practicing, practicing, practicing to get better at this. They're “Jeresther, you are fine.” I'm like, “Oh no, no, no they're talking about people who have been doing this for years and years and years.” Then they're like, “Please share your story and I'm like, I don't think so.” Then my daughter and I were chatting and she was in her dorm room and down in Atlanta, and I'm here, we're talking, and I was like, “Oh yeah, they called me about that” and she was like “What are you working on? Mom, just do it.” So my other daughter Imani in this time has followed me through these classes, and has joined me for some classes. Imani will skip right ahead of me and just go whip out a quilt on the quilter and I'm like, “Oh my gosh, you didn't plan that, you didn't dot it out and she’s like, “No, Look, mom, here you go it’s done.” and I'm like, “Why can't I be that just woo!” So Nia tells Imani they asked mom to share her story. Tell mom to share her story.

Lisa 0:45:48

They’re ganging up on you.

Jeresther 0:45:50

They are! So the boy, which I love, 'cause that's what we call him, the boy rolls up and he's like, Mom, I'm supposed to come in with your phone and I'm gonna record you talk about your Handiquilting story. I'm like, “What are you talking about? You guys are all just so funny, mom does not need kid therapy, I'm good.” But anyway, I did do the recording and I was laughing about it, and then I didn't think anything about it, and my daughter was like, “James... Get that recording and send it to me.” And she did, and she emailed me, this was like a week or so later, and I said, “Oh honey, I think that deadline has already past, and she was like, “No, it didn't pass it’s right now, and I just uploaed your video.”

Lisa 0:46:43

Oh my gosh! They aren't letting you get out of this one.

Jeresther 0:46:48

I looked like a hot mess and everything, I was just entertaining these children. I was like, “What in the world have you sent!” I was like, you know, and it was kind of me laughing and giggling, but talking about the journey and you know, just talking about why it was important and why... and telling my son, so you know what, I'm gonna be that little Grandma that’s gonna... You guys are gonna all be sitting one day and saying... “Grandma or Aunt oh, she made me this when I graduated, she made me this one when I got married, she maybe this one when I got my first apartment, and you know what, I'm like, just pieces of our story.”

Jeresther 0:46:31

So when they contacted me, I didn't think it was real either. I was like, “What are you all talking about? They were like, “No, no, no, no. We really wanna hear more about that” and they were confused as to where I was, if I was still in Maryland or if I was in Tennesse,.. anyway, so that's kind of how I started. They asked me more about my story and you know about the kids and that I was a school principal, and how in the world to balance all of that, and we talked a little bit more. Then I hear, there's gonna be a cohort, a squad, an inspiration squad. We were all part of this inspiration squad, I think it's 10 of us, and they're like, “We really wanna bring you out”. Handiquilter are known for these amazing academies that they do, that you can sign up and you can do these amazing academies, and they have all these great handy educators that come in and really teach you how they do different things and how to use these machines and the procedure and how to do all these great things on their Handiquilter machines, and in the newest and the greatest things that are out. People love these academies, they fill up almost instantly. Basically, this little cohort, we're all invited out to have our own kind of little academy where we all shared our stories.

Jeresther 0:49:08

So I'm still new. Now, mind you, I finished tons of little bitty quilts and little bitty practice and all those things. But my biggest quilt to that date that I had completed was the one that I had done for my uncle who passed away from Alzheimer's. I had been looking and looking for the right pattern to do for him, because I wanted to thank him for everything he did in my childhood for all of those summers, push popsicles and sprinklers and in the fall jumping into leaves and all that, I just wanted to capture it all to wrap him up in that, to say thank you. So that was also part of my story to Handiquilter, and they were like, “Well, when you fly out here, you need to bring a quilt that's completed, that you've done from start to finish, you’ve pieced, you’ve quilted.”  I'm like, “Well, all the little projects,I’m not taking those they look horrible.” I'm still thinking it's gonna be these people... these talented folks, and I'm like, “What do I have to offer?” But then I  just thought, but it's a journey of my heart, and it's a journey of richness, where my love was first where I would look at those quilts at church and think, “I wonder who made this, I wonder and sitting in Sunday school next to the Sunday school teacher at the end of Sunday School lessons between church just talking about where those quilts would come from for years growing up, looking at that.

Jeresther 0:50:44

Right, and then my husband's grandmother, before she had passed away, had passed on one, a quilt for him that her mother had made. So I had that quilt in our possession and really looking at that and then our time I was in Lancaster, so basically that all became my story and why I really wanted to learn this craft and this art, so I could be a part of that. So I shared that with Handiquilter and we were invited out and we all shared our stories and we talked about those stories and how that just as not just a quilter, but as a person and what that means, and being a part of that community. We played with the cool machines, that's where I found pro-Stitcher and like, “Okay, I love this, I'm like, dog. Why do those kids really have to go to college, do they really need to go”

Lisa 0:51:42

Do they have to do all four years? I think people can get some good education in like a year and a half, a couple of two, three semesters. I mean. The rest of that money can be used to buy that Proquilter or the Prostitcher. I feel the same way, and I'm like, I can either buy this machine or I could pay for three quarters of a semester of a college tuition, like what's it gonna be? Three quarters of a semester or this machine? I don't know, I feel like  the machine is gonna give me a lot of benefit personally, it should be considered as a viable option.

Jeresther 0:52:15

'cause it definitely plays a big part of my sanity! So I know he was like, “Oh Lord, what is she about to bring”...  I know, I just, I know he was thinking, any day when I returned back from that week, that some massive boxes were gonna show up. My machine is a sweet sixteen. That's fine. So when I would take the classes on the Handiquilter classes at my local shop in Maryland, at Springwater Design, so when I would take those classes, we would all be in the room. So you worked on the long arm, you had. So it might have been me and maybe another person or two, and we worked on the sweet sixteens learning techniques, and the other folks were on the stand-up ones, and I'm like... Yeah, every once a while I go and I would spend a little bit of time on it, but I really wanted to learn to use what I had. Right, but that week that I was in Utah, I was like, “Oh, oh, oh no, I need these handlebars, I need these gears, I need this pro- Stitcher in my life.

Jeresther 0:53:28

It’s kind of like you and all the beautiful garments that you make. I have probably 40 quilt tops need to be quilted. That are pieces are just like ohh this is beautiful, some of them were full paper piece, but they need to be quilted like, Oh, if I had that pro-Stitcher and that edge to edge I could whip out five quilts in a week!, So that's kind of where you wanna go, but I'm still so fairly new in this. When you think about these quilters who are just so phenomenal and have been quilting for years and years and years, and you look at them and... It's just amazing. It's absolutely amazing. They do such beautiful work, and you know that's where you wanna be, you wanna do some of that work. Most of the things I make and quilts that I do complete are always gifts, it’s always for someone else. We make it, and it's a gift, and it's sent away. All of those quiltops that are over there, those were ones that I just made for me, and so they haven't gotten quilted yet. Because usually when I finish one of those it’s oh, someone’s so and so is coming up and I wanna do this and I wanna do that, so that's why it's so addicting because I will always have quilts that need to be quilted.

Lisa 0:55:18

We are getting near our time, believe it or not. We have had such a great time. We talked for a straight hour before I even started recording, so I know we could go for another hour. Can you tell me a bit about what you have, what are your future projects. What thing are you working on next? In addition to having your eye on the pro-Stitcher, and addition to the 40 quilt tops you have that are awaiting your attention, is there something, some design you wanna try next?

Jeresther 0:55:55

Yes, so it's very interesting, it's this cute little shop in Indiana, so when I'm there, visiting friends  I always pop in.

Lisa 0:56:03

Is it Crimson Tate? Yes, yes, I know her. She is a friend of Black Women Stitch. I like Heather a lot. Yeah.

Jeresther 0:56:10

Yes, she is. She is definitely, definitely an ally, and I do like Heather, I finally had a chance to meet her at Quiltcon, and it was a whole bunch of squealing and it was just wonderful. One of the pattern books that she wrote is called Noteworthy Quilts. Let me tell you, it's taken me a week to get all of my wording done. So I needed to find something to help me release everything that's going on right now. I needed to find something that helped me move beyond, to help me let some of it go. Too many times I'm looking at things and I just feel that lump in my throat or the tear in my eye, and I look at my son, and I look at my husband,

Lisa 0:57:10

And our daughters too. Our daughters are not exempt from this violence that affects the lives of Black people. I think it's great to concentrate on sons, but one of the reasons that Kimberly Crenshaw began the hashtag, Say Her Name project, was because Black women get overlooked in this. The emotional burden that we face as Black women are about the men in our lives, but we can't neglect how that also impacts us.

Jeresther 0:57:40

You're absolutely right. I’m like how do I release this? I went back to Noteworthy, and on the cover is John Denver, say the prayer for the water. But what’s been in my heart was the whole, is the ‘I can't breathe’.  I can't breathe when I look at the disparatity in schools, I can't breathe when I look at what's happening in our communities, it’s so much of it. So I wrote out, what I pieced out is ‘I can't breathe’ and hashtag say their names. I dusted off that old the original Little Susie that I have, which is a company that I won't say, it's also a little convertible, converts into a embroibordery machine. What I want to do is piece, but I'm gonna go ahead and piece it all, and I'm going to quilt it. But on the border, before I do that, I am going to embroider not just some of the names, but how many at this time, the children 1.6 million children living in poverty, just the name of my elementary school and the despair, all of those things that are affecting why, we as a society, why we as Black people can't breathe right now.

Jeresether 0:59:35

Is what I want to embroider, all of those facts around, 'cause you know it’s all systemic, so all of that around the border of this quilt. Even just doing the lettering and the wording which... Wow, this thing kicks your butt, I was like, “Okay, I'm not gonna be able to make an A, but finally I did. So that is my big project, I've gotten the lettering done, now I've laid it out a couple of times and looked at it, so I'm gonna figure out the rest of the piecing I wanna put around that, and then pulling out that little embroidery machine and using that to put the names and put facts around the border, and then finishing his quilt in something that is... and finishing it to a point that I can send this off to one of the quilt festivals. I think us documenting where we are, and this is not a new movement, but documenting this moment in this time is so critical  and wherever we can do that, and so whatever outlet we have to do it, so that's my big project right now.

Lisa 1:01:15

That sounds so powerful and so important, and I know that this is following in a tradition of amazing quilt artists, Black quilt artists who have done this kind of work, and have spoken this kind of truth. I'm really glad to know that this is gonna continue with this work, and I can't wait to see the quilt. Jeresther, thank you so much for you joining me today this has been such a wonderful conversation. We did not get to talk about everything we wanted to talk about y'all, so we're gonna have to have you come back on the program, but thank you so much, I'm really grateful and tell us where people can find you on social media.

Jeresther 1:01:55

I am so sweet CB on Instagram, find me on Instagram, I'm there. We'll be launching my blog page from so sweet CB Instagram soon.

Lisa 1:02:08

Fantastic, thank you so much.

Jeresther 1:02:10

Thank you.

Lisa 1:02:22

You've been listening to the ‘Stitch Please’ podcast, the official Podcast of Black Women Stitch the sewing group where Black Lives Matter. We appreciate you supporting us by listening to the podcast, if you like to reach out to us with questions, you can contact us Blackwomenstitch@gmail.com. If you'd like to support us financially, you can do that by supporting us on Patreon, P-A-T-R-E-O-N, and you can find Black Women Stitch there in the Patreon directory. For as little as 2 dollars a month, you can help support the project with things like editing transcripts and things to strengthen the podcast. And finally, if financial support is not something you can do right now, you can really, really help the podcast by rating it and reviewing it anywhere you listen to podcast that allows you to review them, so I know that not all podcast directories or services allow for reviews, but for those who do, for those that have a star rating or just ask for a few comments, if you could share those comments and say nice things about us and the ‘Stitch, Please’ podcast that is incredibly helpful. Thank you so much. Come back next week and we'll help you get your stitch together.

Hosted by Lisa Woolfork

Lisa is a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast who learned to sew while earning a PhD in African American literature and culture. She has been sewing for more than twenty years while also teaching, researching, and publishing in Black American literature and culture.

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