THE QUILT MAKER
Tamsin and Rick, Elliott’s mom and dad, are responsible for a residential trailers park in Tucson, Arizona.
When we went to visit them, Tamsin told me I had to take a look at the quilts of one the residents. “She’s a famous quilt maker!” she said excitedly. Just that sentence made so very happy! We walked across the street and knocked on the door.
A short, smiling lady opened and Tamsin promptly introduced us to each other, her name is Susie Weaver.
Yes, Weaver. We walked in, and another lady was sitting on a little stool in the middle of a very crowded room. She was holding a shopping bag with a quilt on it. “I did this!”
I asked Ms Weaver if I might come back before I leave town to take some pictures of her and to hear her story.
Three days later I’m knocking at her door holding my camera.
“It has my business logo on it,” she says while stretching her t-shirt downwards and pointing at it with her nose, “because my sewing machine is what makes my heart beat!”
I tell her that I love her logo, it really is the cutest thing. She giggles.
“Thank you! well…it’s who I am! Really! It truly is who I am, so…”
We walk outside to take some portraits and I tell her that my camera was my grandfather’s camera and that it’s what makes my heart beat.
“Yes yes! You can have one of these! You can go online and find a heartbeat!”
She suggests me enthusiastically to search the drawing of a photo camera ‘ on the internet’ and add the ‘heartbeat’ to it.
“ When I first saw this it was in a craft show and my girlfriend had it on a coffee cup and I said - oh that would be perfect if it had a sewing machine on it! - while one of my other friends was standing there and they got together and made this. Next time I went out there teach a class they came with this little bag and it was in there, and I have it on aprons that we wore at the quilt show and we had a booth, you know we all had aprons that had this across it!
We walk back in. Susie keeps the door open to let some light in.
The house is full of quilts and fabrics rolled up in every corner. She explains that she does not sell them, she sells the patterns to make ones just like hers.
She goes in her room to unfold a deep blue quilt on her bed.
“The front of this quilt is on Pinterest, all over the place! A lot of my quilts are on Pinterest…and If you want I can give you a couple of my patterns!…I’m just sayin..”
“These are the directions, how to make a quilt, this is how I make my money, and I am a teacher, and I give lectures. You don’t make any money selling quilts. I’m not working for 10cents an hour, so I don’t sell the quilts. They just live in there and they come with me on my trips so I can show them to other people, then I sell the patterns. But teaching classes and all that is how I make the money.”
“I can open these…a little. These have not been open since a while…you can tell!” She says laughing while pointing at the small windows in her bedroom.
There’s very little light in her trailer home, and all the window blinds are covered in dust.
“Well I’m highly allergic to dust, that’s why I’m not cleaning anything, like this it doesn’t fly around. I went through 6 months of eye surgery and I couldn’t make dust happen, so I’m way behind with everything, but I don’t even care!”
“Cut-out my mess.” she chuckles. “I moved that box in 24 years ago and is still sitting there!” It’s a cardboard box on her side of the bed. EGGS is written on it in capital red letters.
“You see, I was thrown out of a four-story building and a lot of things got broken and so parts of my body don’t work but you know what? I lived! and the guy who threw me out is gone! Yeah! So, I’m stronger than that. But it has done things to my body… as my chiropractor loves to remind me - I am paying for my wild and reckless youth!”
We laugh together.
“I’m alive, I’m well, and I’m happy! Isn’t that the most important thing? That I’m happy?
This is what saved my life. These guys! - she points at the quilts with both hands with the palms pointing upwards and shrugging her shoulders, elbows together as if she was trying to hold herself.
“They have literally saved my life. If I didn’t have my quilts I don’t think I would have survived loosing my dad and my mother.”
I ask her is she has any siblings.
“My brother is disabled and the only things he wants from me is money. We used to be really, really close but his life set us apart. He calls himself a recovering…uhm…he is a drug addict. His wife was a drug addict. His kids are spoiled to the point that I don’t want to have nothing to do with them. They don’t take care of their daddy…”
“Oh I put up this one for you so you can look at it….It’s hot in both sides…” She says before bursting into a laugh and unfolding a red quilt on top on the blue one.
“You know what?” she questions me suddenly with a serious tone, “Why not have some fun?! I’m 71 years old and I just want to have fun!”
The quilt has sexy cowboys, wearing only jeans and cowboy hats, with red pick up trucks.
I ask her if she can sit on the bed with her boys.
“I can…How’s this? Is that ok? Me and the boys! Me and the boys!”
She asks me if I have had Mexican food while visiting Tucson. I tell her that I love it and that If I have to choose only two foods to eat for the rest of my life it would be Italian and Mexican.
“Oh I hear ya! I cook Mexican food! I used to work in Mexican restaurants, cause I was a waitress for 43 years. I won contests!”
“Now shall we turn over to the other side? She turns the quilt - This is the side that confuses people. They’re gonna look at this and think, ‘Why is that called Big Red Pick Up Truck?’” the sound of her laugh is adorable. “At the quilt show it will be hanging and there will be ladies with white gloves on, that will open the back for you.”
“This has just one more process to go through: Blocking and cleaning.
You lay it out and you get it soaking wet and then you take your ruler and you make sure every part of it is exactly perfectly straight, and then you leave it over night and let it dry. And then it hangs like a picture, instead of waving. When you see a quilts that waves at you it has not been blocked. That’s the difference.
It’s the very last thing I will do before putting them in these pillow cases, with a label and folded carefully.
You always fold a quilt from the bottom to the top, in thirds if you can, or as many times as you can this way before you start folding in the other way.
Because the weight of the quilt will take out the folds that are this way.
You never, ever, ever fold a quilt this way because that crease will stay forever and it’ll ruin your block.
There was a show coming in Sierra Vista and they fold their quilt that way so I won’t enter my quilts in their show. Because I don’t want to have my quilts ruined.
And the other thing right before you do all that, is the roller, the sticky roller, you know what I mean, the little thing with sticky pads. You gotta roll everything to get it as clean as it can possibly be. Yeah…”
“Oh I can get that little guy out. Let me put it in the other room on that board.”
She walks back to the living area, and starts searching for a quilt.
”Oh, this is where that is! Ahahah! Sometimes I double roll them and find them.
This is one that my friend made, this beautiful hand-dyed fabric, I don’t particularly like marigold yellow, so I needed to work with it in order to make my self get over not liking it. And this fabric was so perfect to use to make this little quilt.
This was one of my biggest learning curves to get me over not liking this color and now I am fine with that color but sometimes you have to make your self get over things, and now it’s a big part of many things working successfully.
You wanna take a picture of the back? I love the back!