Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Interview With Michelle (Dragonfly Stitches)

I have often thought quilting mimics life in that disparate pieces (cloth, moments in time) are sewn together to make something wholly unique and wonderful. Sometimes, every stitch and movement is planned. Sometimes, it feels like a struggle to get the right fabric or color to fit the pattern. Sometimes, intuition takes over and it is as if the quilt stitches itself together.

A while ago, I joined the Quiltsy Team on Etsy. This is an enthusiastic and generous group of people who share my love of fabric, color and technique. It is my distinct pleasure to interview Michelle of Dragonfly Stitches. Michelle has been quilting for 20 years and shared with me some insights on how quilting is truly the fabric of life.

"I take pieces of fabric that don't go together or have been discarded by others," Michelle tells me, "and put them together to make one unique and beautiful gift. My quilts are useful and made to love."

Michelle makes handmade one-of-a-kind quilts to snuggle up in, take to a dorm, put on a bed, create a memory or decorate your home. "Rarely artistic on purpose," Michelle continues, "my practical quilts reflect how I have blended my family together the right way and how life takes determination to use what we do have. Our children really influence me. They don't hesitate to ask mommy to buy a favorite piece of crazy fabric or try a new quilting design. Our youngest son, when he was four, challenged me to design what is now one of my most popular free motion quilting designs, Ziggy."

Michelle's passion for quilting began as a hobby when she was a child. For the past five years, she has transitioned her hobby into a business. "I sold my first quilt under the name Dragonfly Stitches in 2002. Each one of my quilts are unique. I do custom work and long arm quilting for others." She opened her Etsy shop in January, 2008.

Michelle is a stay-at-home mom of four, plus one. Hers is a blended family with three teenagers, one five year old and four year old. "I feel like being the mom of a blended family drives my work."

Along with quilting, Michelle is very concerned about and involved with children's mental health issues. "I have been an advocate for children with special needs for going on 16 years. My oldest son struggles with several disabilities and mental health issues. Fighting for him has become a way of life that has blossomed into an overall drive for children's rights. My step daughter has also inspired me to do more with children's rights due to the horrible mental situation she has gone and is going through."

Before Michell became a stay-at-home mom, she was a special education assistant for her local school. She spends a lot of time advocating for children and speaking to parents about how to better advocate for their child. "All my friends know that they can give a struggling parent my phone number and if possible I will drop everything to help them through their crisis."

Michelle has faced some difficult decisions and challenges in caring for her own children and these experiences help her understand and support others. It was especially difficult to leave her old support system when she moved and to establish new friends, services and networks. "They know how we struggled to allow my step daughter to become part of our family permanently and how disappointed we were when we lost."

Last year Michelle and her family made the hard decision to enroll her oldest son in a therapeutic living community out of state. "Helping other parents gives me strength to understand what it really takes to be the parent that special children need," Michelle offers. "I felt like I had let my son down until I realized that I had done what was best. A struggling child has become a successful child. My husband and I have dreamed about being foster parents for special needs children but that is a dream not realized yet as our own children have kept us plenty busy."

Michelle volunteers at Lifeline Pregnancy Center as a clothing sorter. She also spends a lot of time volunteering at her children's school--"Most other parents think I work there!"--and spends time with her middle son's Young Marine unit working to encourage youth to be their best. "The last two years I have received a Presidential Gold Award for community service."

"My biggest inspiration," Michelle continues, "is our youngest son. He is the best child a mother could ever have. He is never naughty and has this inner drive to be his best at everything he tries. Recently he wanted to learn to tie his shoes. It took many days but he would sit for hours trying to tie his shoes. The day he learned how, he untied and tied his shoes for anyone who would watch. He was so proud! Being our son's mother is so motivating because nothing is too big of a challenge for him and every obstacle is met with a sunny-get-it-done attitude. He was the reason I turned my love of quilting into a business. Being able to stay at home with him and not miss a thing is the best inspiration to make my business grow."

For further inspiration, Michelle listens to music and reads. "I love old school Alison Krauss. Her music is so uplifting and calming. I also enjoy Enya and Massive Attack, especially when I'm long arming. I can really get into a groove. I love to read Jane Yolen's dragon series to my boys before bed, but I especially love to read excerpts of her book, Not One Damselin Distress to our little daughter."

As to what shoes Michelle wears? "I'm a no shoes kind of girl so my favorite shoes are leather slip ons. That way they can come off every moment possible. You will also find me in a pair of bare nothing flip flops during warm weather. When I have to wear shoes that tie you can bet they will be my no frills white tennis shoes."

More information may be found about Michelle's work in her shop and online gallery.

Michelle is a member of the Quiltsy Team and Idaho Indie Works


Kim said...

What a great article! It was so nice to hear dragonfly's (michelle's) story! Very well written!

Peg Wentworth said...

A very great and inspiring article. Thanks for sharing Michelle's story!

Lisa and Willow said...

She makes some beautiful quilts (I especially like the aquarium one) and it's always nice to hear the story behind the artwork and the artist!