We’ve reached a milestone here; we’re at the halfway mark in this monthly blog series! Hip-hip-hooray! I’ve learned so much from interviewing my fellow coworkers who have endured my questions and have been brave enough to allow me to tell their stories to the blogging community. Although we are a group of very unique individuals with diverse backgrounds, the common bond that brings us together here under the Clothworks roof is our passion for the job. After all, as Gail, our former beloved employee who worked the front desk would say, ‘Clothworks is the company with a heart.’ The next person I’d like to introduce to you has a big heart and a love of sewing, quilting, and all things connected to fabric (how could you not love fabric if you work at Clothworks?!). I’m pleased to introduce you to Toni!
Like a few other current employees at Clothworks, Toni began volunteering here before she officially signed on with the company about a year and a half ago. As you might have gathered if you follow us on our blog The Works, or any other Clothworks social media, it can get a little hectic around here especially before Quilt Market. With so many things to tackle in preparation for our booth display at Market, we sometimes have to call on extra troops of volunteers to get the job done! Toni, with her expertise in quilting & sewing, rose to every occasion and conquered every odd job that was asked of her. She enjoyed the work so much, and the people here at Clothworks too, that she asked about employment opportunities when they became available. And soon enough, Toni had become our Sample Room Extraordinaire! She cuts sample & collection orders for designers, maintains the fabric archives, and puts together the Clothworks fabric collection display boards. Putting together and keeping track of those display boards is no small feat, I must add. Toni makes many sets of sales boards (too many, I lost count) that are sent to the sales force which includes our U.S. fabric reps, and our domestic & international distributors. Priorities are constantly shifting in the Sample Room, so there really is no typical daily routine for Toni. For as much fabric that is housed in the sample room (it’s like a candy store for quilters) and as many sales boards as she creates, she has some amazing organizational skills to pull it all off! All in all, Toni has discovered a method to the madness and has one of the most light-hearted, laid back attitudes of anyone I’ve ever known.
Firmly rooted in her upbringing, you can appreciate where Toni’s attention to detail & a love of fabric, sewing, and quilting come from. She comes from a long line of crafty ladies: her mother & aunt were garment makers, while her grandmother was a quilter. In fact, her grandmother made Toni a quilt top just as Toni started college at the University of Washington. Toni’s grandmother figured that since Toni knew how to sew, she would have no problem finishing the quilting. Already loaded with a full roster of courses & a part-time job, Toni took on the quilting project which was soon put on the back burner. Toni’s grandmother finally took back the quilt which had not progressed much, and actually ended up removing all the stitches and finished it for her. Forty years later, Toni still owns this keepsake quilt. Then there’s another ‘sister’, one of the holy kind, who made an impact on Toni’s sewing skills. In high school, Toni was able to take a full year of sewing taught by Sister Mary Evangelista. Sister Mary was a sewing perfectionist – the kind that frowned upon not-so-straight seams and ill-fitting garments that were not impeccably constructed. Still to this day, her rigid training makes an impression on Toni’s sewing.
Reading through Toni’s impressive life story, one phrase that comes to mind is ‘variety is the spice of life.’ After graduating from the University of Washington with a BA in History, she has held various positions such as the Customer Service Manager at a bank, a manager in a real estate broker office (and has a license, too), is certified to teach K-8th grade, has taught adults, and has probably done almost anything else you could think of! To top that all, she raised 5 wonderful children. But to double top that with a cream & sugar on top, she is an amazingly talented & prolific quilter! This is the point where I bow down and say ‘I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy.’ Toni didn’t start taking quilting seriously until leaving the banking job when her youngest child was in grade school. At this point, she could finally ‘play’ and explore her creative side. Her first creative project happened by word of mouth through the school parents. When they found out she could sew, she lead a group of 4th through 8th graders who enthusiastically made Baptismal Quilts for babies. With the re-introduction of quilting in her life now, Toni found new gadgets to use, like the rotary cutter (no more scissors for cutting patches), and a new found passion. And man, did she run with her passion! She started taking loads of classes from local quilt shops, where she honed in on her quilting, design, and color theory skills; even learning how to dye fabric. Though Toni is a traditionalist quilter, she has dabbled in contemporary and art quilts and the new modern quilting trend has started to peak her interest. She belongs to the Northwest African American Quilters Association which has allowed her to display her quilts at the Tacoma Art Museum, Northwest African American Museum, and the La Conner Quilt Museum. Her group even had a few shows at Fabric of Life in Edmonds, WA as a fundraiser to build shelters in Africa. And several of her quilts have been entered into local quilt shows, winning awards. Along with family, you could say quilting is a large part of Toni’s life. If she were ever stranded on a desert island, she could not live without some handwork and a good book.
Oh…and check out this selection of quilts made by Toni. Some are hand-pieced, some are made with African fabrics, some are made with 1930s feedsack prints, some are quilted by Toni, and all are made with love!