Archive for Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Quilter extraordinaire brings craft to Basehor workshop

April 11, 2007

Quilting is more than just a hobby for Jodi Barrows.

It's fond memories; it's an important part of history; it's a way to reach out to others -- it's her life.

"I don't remember sitting down at the sewing machine for the first time, I was so young," she said. "Sewing was just so much a part of our life."

Barrows, a friend of First Baptist Church of Basehor pastor Duane McCracken and his wife, Trena, for about 25 years, stopped by the church Tuesday to teach a quilting workshop on her way to a large quilt festival in Chicago. Giving a quilting workshop is something Barrows does often for her friends.

A native of western Kansas, she now resides in Keller, Texas, and has a unique claim to fame -- she invented a method that has simplified the art of quilting called Square in a Square. The technique uses a special ruler and involves sewing squares and strips together, then cutting them with a rotary cutter to create blocks or parts of blocks quickly and accurately. Square in a Square makes the most difficult quilts easy to make, Barrows said. The system has become so popular, Barrows spends much of her time traveling to spread the word.

"I'm only home about 120 to 190 days a year," she said. "So I'm on the road about two-thirds of the year."

Armed with their personal sewing machines, about 15 area women attended Barrows' class Tuesday afternoon and settled in to hear how the Square in a Square method came about.

Barrows said quilting was an important part of history, especially for women, because pioneer women used to get together to help make the traditional 13 quilts a new bride needed to start her home. Before more modern transportation, if a woman were to move west, she knew she may not ever see her family again, Barrows said, so the quilts were not only decorative and practical, but also held sentimental value.

Growing up, Barrows said she was surrounded by about 21 women. All children born on her mother's side were female, all the women were widowed at a young age, all of them lived long lives and they all passed down the quilting tradition.

Barrow's grandmother was a fast seamstress, which allowed the women to enjoy the items she created right away. However, her mother was a perfectionist. Barrows jokingly said her mother had "a whip in one hand and a seam ripper in the other."

Barrows said Square in a Square was inspired by the combined methods of the two women.

"We want to do it right, but we want to do it speedy," she said.

Barrows has gone a step beyond quilting, too. She took the stories she heard growing up about the women and their quilts and combined them with her love of history to create a series of novels. Each novel has a pattern book that goes with it, as well as fabric, specially designed by Barrows, so readers can make the quilts in the novels. Once complete, the series will have 12 to 15 novels and pattern books. The first two, "Leaving Riverton" and "Liz's Mercantile" are now available and "Abby's Schoolhouse" will be coming out this fall, Barrows said.

"As people sew and quilt they share stories about their lives; their joys and sorrows," she said. "Quilting is just woven into their lives."

Several "ohs and ahs" could be heard from the group of women as Barrows showed each option from her Square in a Square method and example quilts she had made from those options.

She said she saw quilting not just as a passion and a career, but a way to reach out to women, be involved in their lives, encourage them and be positive.

"Once they see how I put a quilt together they realize they can do it," she said. "It helps build their self-esteem and, as I say, it helps them go up the quilting ladder of success. It's just a good way to minister to women."

For more information about Jodi Barrows and the Square in a Square method, visit www.squareinasquare.com.

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