Scent of quilting overpowers nose for numbers
Laura Pedge may have a head for numbers, but her fingers gave up calculator keys for needles and threads.
This rural Grand Junction resident took her first quilt class in 2005, soon decided to leave a successful career as a chief financial officer and, for the past five years, has worked and taught quilting classes at the downtown shop Quilters’ Corner.
Now Pedge has started a new venture of her own, designing and selling patterns and kits for felted wool art, a top trend in today’s fabric industry and home decor. The rich texture of this natural product appeals to her.
Made from 100 percent hand-dyed wool and sewn by hand with cotton embroidery stitches, her kits feature “bright, clear color” palettes that are popular now, rather than past wool designs that “were more muted, plaids and darker colors,” Pedge says.
Starting small last December, she published a Holiday Ornament Collection, a series of six pieces that hold a gift card on the back and can hang on a Christmas tree.
An Appliqué Anytime Collection of floral designs followed, which can become table toppers or pillows.
Directions with the floral designs, such as sunflower and violet wood sorrel, “teach basic techniques and three embroidery stitches — the blanket stitch, stem stitch and French knot,” Pedge explains.
Even larger designs feature seasonal motifs as wall hangings or table runners, and she plans to offer a different one for each month of the year. A large and lush Thanksgiving cornucopia is a customer favorite.
Pedge will open her own showroom/shop and teach classes regularly in the Blue Star Building, 2350 G Road. The business is called Laura’s Home. An open house is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. The shop is located in Room 228.
A third-floor classroom accommodates 20 students, and Pedge plans to serve lunch from an adjacent kitchen during all-day sessions.
Her class schedule for October through December will be available at the open house. Her retail shop will be open at least two days a week during classes and some additional afternoons. Pedge says she’ll also carry other designers’ products, kits and books. Her designs can be purchased as kits with precut wool, thread and embellishments or as patterns only. At this time, she buys her wool from a company called WoollyLady in Wisconsin, although she aspires to dye her own wool in the future.
Encouraged by brisk sales at the Black Canyon Quilt Show in July in Montrose, Pedge plans to be a vendor at the upcoming 34th annual Utah Quilt Guild Exhibition and Festival at the Dixie Center in St. George, Utah. The festival is Sept. 18-22.
She also hopes to have Laura’s Home designs to sell at the annual Houston quilt market in fall of 2013.
Being invited to teach on a national level would please her as well.
“I really love teaching,” she says. “When I see somebody getting excited about a new technique, that makes it all worthwhile.”
When working with wool, Pedge fuses pattern pieces to the background with Steam-A-Seam 2 Lite. Sometimes she mixes her wool patterns with cotton, flannel or batik fabric for variety. Valdani cotton is her preferred thread.
“The stitching is meant to enhance the design,” Pedge says, noting that the size of the stitch should be in proportion to the size of the overall project. The edges of appliqued wool are sewn with a blanket stitch, and “the bite (or perpendicular stitch) should be the same length as the space between those stitches,” she explains.
Other tips she imparts to her students are how to keep those stitches even, how to prevent thread from rolling up around corners and how to anchor thread at sharp points “so that your work is nice and flat and consistent.”
Because wool is a hot commodity today and sells for a whopping $90 a yard, the expense can be a deterrent for some. Pedge says she understands this, pricing hers under regular retail for $63 a yard.
“I don’t have a huge overhead, and I don’t feel comfortable charging too high a price. I charge what I think is fair, because I want wool to be accessible for more people,” she says.
Her kits contain small pieces of wool, which also helps reduce the price, she adds.
Her husband, Barnaby, deserves a good share of credit for the Laura’s Home enterprise, Pedge says.
He encouraged her to try her hand at designing her own patterns, and he takes care of the artwork, graphic design and web design.
Enthused with her newfound creativity, Pedge says her head is full of ideas. More combinations of wool and cotton, with even more hand embroidery, are taking shape in her mind’s eye.
“I want to design a large quilt with Rocky Mountain wildflowers and birds, and another with all 50 state birds and flowers,” she says.
Pedge definitely has said her goodbyes to those stodgy, button-down days of spread sheets and budget forecasts, and hello to wool gathering, creative play and the joy of art.
“I feel like I’ve escaped,” she says happily.