Move over hip-hop fans ... shop-hop singer big hit
“The end of Day One, we had three huge bags
Day Two, we filled the van
We shipped some home Days Three and Four;
And then it just got way out of hand.
“I spent 2,000 bucks for a chance to win a $200 machine.
Fifty shops later I broke the bank,
No more shop hoppin’ for me.”
This little ditty about a binge spending spree is written and performed by folk singer and guitar player Cathy Miller and her husband, John Bunge, at quilt guilds, shows and festivals all over the world.
She coaxes her audiences to sing along, quickly captivating an amused and vocal crowd. They relate to Miller’s lyrics about this creative pastime (career for some), which consumes 30 million stitchers around the world (according to Quilters News Network) and makes us salivate at the thought of shopping for new fabric.
Miller and Bunge, who accompanies his wife on the harmonica, live in Victoria, British Columbia. They have performed at more than 700 quilting events for more than 60,000 quilters since 2000. The five CDs they’ve produced include songs such as “Little Crazy Quilt,” “No Such Thing as an Ugly Quilt” and “100 Ways to Hide Your Stash.”
Now the couple is headed for Grand Junction, where they will sing at a Wednesday morning meeting of Sunset Slope Quilters at the American Lutheran Church, 631 26½ Road. Miller also will present a trunk show of quilts she has made.
On Thursday, she will teach a 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. workshop on “Notan — Exploding the Square” at the Clarion Inn.
Notan, Miller explains, is a Japanese concept meaning “darkness and lightness,” and the belief that the first cannot exist without the other.
“So in art,” she says, “the negative space is as important as the positive space.”
In her workshop, students will flip whatever fabric they remove from the center square to the outside of the square.
“The possibilities are endless,” Miller says, adding that the class will play with the Notan technique to create a small quilt. “New, exciting patterns emerge” in the process.
As part of this exerise, she’ll instruct participants on her Mock-Mola technique, a quick and easy raw-edge reverse applique by machine.
“Reverse applique is central to the mola work of the Kuna Indians on the San Blas Islands of Panama,” Miller says.
The Indians stitched by hand, whereas Miller uses a machine, so she labeled it “Mock Mola.” She uses a black overlay that makes each piece distinctive.
Despite her machine work, Miller is not opposed to sewing by hand. In fact, she pieced 3,000 quarter-inch hexagons into a small quilt she titled “Insanity.”
In November 2011, it was juried into the miniature category of the “World of Beauty” contest at International Quilt Festival in Houston. Rather than quilt the piece, she tied the layers together with colonial knots. The quilt was a reproduction of the center of one at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont; that vintage quilt is dated 1810–25, but it is not a miniature, Miller says.
You can see this quilt on her website, singingquilter.com.
Quilting time is precious to Miller, as she and her husband travel to venues seven to eight months of the year. That often precludes having her machine handy, but when they drive in their travel trailer, she brings along a machine and quilts whenever she can.
“If we’re home for 10 days, I can be in the sewing room for 10 days, eight hours a day,” Miller says in an interview recorded for Quilters’ S.O.S. — Save Our Stories, a Quilt Alliance project.
The stories of quilts that Miller sings about often reveal fascinating history, she says, and it’s important to her to tell those stories of women’s lives that often don’t make it into history books. She’s always looking for more of them, “those human moments, where quilts happen to play a part,” Miller says.
The Singing Quilter not only has a good ear for music, but she listens carefully for the next idea to compose into a melody. And her sense of humor, quite naturally, leaves quilters in stitches.
Email Sherida.Warner @GJSentinel.com.