Story last updated at 2/25/2009 - 11:36 am
Have you ever heard strange noises emerging from a neighbor's cabin on long winter nights? A sort of chug-chug, thump-thump-thump, followed by a metallic pop and then silence? You may have moved in next door to a nocturnal cabinetmaking fanatic, but more than likely your neighbor is addicted to a craft shared by 27 million others in the US: quilting.
If you're lucky the chug-chug sound next door is emerging from one of the Singer Featherweight sewing machines owned by Judy Hopkins, author of 18 quilting books, professional quilter and lifelong Alaskan.
Judy, a career quilter for the past 23 years, started quilting with her family (her grandmother, mother and aunt), and for her family, in the form of a wedding quilt for her daughter. She crossed into professional quilting after getting laid off and consequently having the time to make "Liberty," her winning entry in the Statue of Liberty Quilting Contest in 1986. Since that milestone, Judy hasn't stopped quilting and writing patterns. She has hosted many all-night mystery sewing sessions, which she says over ten years turned into "turning off the lights at midnight instead of 6 a.m."
As a lifelong Alaskan, Judy has a particular love for the mix of quilting and cold nights.
"Long daylight hours in summer - and short daylight hours in the winter - are very conducive to thinking about quilts, making quilts and napping under hand-made quilts!" she says.
And she has certainly experienced her fill of Alaskan nights. Living between Anchorage and Juneau since the age of nine, Judy has seen AK become a state (in the same year she graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School) and she has seen broad changes in the quilting industry.
She says the biggest development she's seen is "the broad acceptance of machine quilting (as opposed to time-consuming hand quilting), done both on home sewing machines and on longarm machines specifically designed for the purpose."
Whatever your preference as a quilter, you are bound to find something of interest among Judy's many titles. The clear, concise directions help quilters of all levels while books like "Design Your Own Quilts" provide challenges as well. One favorite, "QuiltALASKA!" covers 36 block patterns based on our great state. Plus, if you smile nicely a fun bonus Statehood Anniversary pattern is thrown in!
Judy's most recent book, "Cooking Up Some Quilts" sounds a bit dangerous, but upon inspection does not involve sautéing fabric. Three quilt patterns are served up with several seafood recipes, so if you're a multi-crafter you can whip up dinner and a quilt at the same time.
If you're a longtime quilter looking to step up your game, or a novice seeking advice, you're not alone.
"Make as many quilts as you can," Judy suggests. "If you make 10 or 12 quilts a year, you are bound to get a few good ones."
If you're a bit intimidated by the quilting scene and its $4 billion a year industry Judy recommends taking the advice of Mary Hickey: "Relax. This is not brain surgery."
Now, get quilting!