Handmade: Quilter gets creative to make room for hobby
Dan Markey of Burtchville Township recently moved into a two-bedroom apartment and found himself faced with a bit of a problem -- how to fit his long-arm quilting machine into the second bedroom which he has set up for quilting.
After talking with the manufacturer, he was able to make it fit by using a smaller frame -- downsizing from his 14-foot model to a 10-foot size.
Markey, 54, probably never imagined he'd ever be faced with such a dilemma, but nearly four years ago he accepted a "double-dare" from members of the Macomb County Quilt Guild, and he's been hooked on quilting ever since -- not only piecing fabric, but doing the actual quilting and binding, as well.
"They kind of double-dared me by saying, 'We can make you a quilter in a weekend.' They had a quilting retreat and double-dared me to sign up. I took their dare, and they gave me a list of things I should purchase, (including) a sewing machine. I showed up and said, 'Here I am.' They were very patient and showed me the ropes."
Markey, a licensed contractor, compares quilt-making to constructing a house. "I've built lots of things, and basically I can do a quilt, or put one together, in a weekend," he said. "It's like building a house." So far, he's made about 15 quilts, and has three or four that are pieced and waiting to be quilted, including one with "a lot of pieces," which he started a year ago as part of a class.
When Markey first started quilting, he said he thought quilts were simply a bed covering to keep you warm, but after attending a quilt show last year in Grand Rapids, he now sees them as a form of "artwork."
As the only male member of the Macomb County Quilt Guild, Markey said he enjoys being part of the group so much that he became a board member. "I just finished my first year, and I'll be back on the board this fall."
But being a man who quilts isn't always easy, yet, Markey had no problem dealing with the opinions of others. Asked how his male friends reacted when they learned he had an interest in learning to quilt, he said, "When I first started talking about buying a sewing machine, they said, 'You can lose your man card.' I said, 'Well, I'm not too worried about that. I'm quite secure at being a man."
He's now up to four sewing machines, not to mention his long-arm quilting machine. And, they're his alone because his wife, Mary, "doesn't sew at all." He once tried to teach her to quilt, but said, "We got going in one direction, but I ended up finishing the project."
Markey, who likes giving his quilts away as gifts to friends and family, said making a quilt is "a labor of love," and he "sews lots of love into them." And, like most needlearts, he finds quilting is far from being a cheap hobby. He said just to make a baby quilt, he has spent about $80 on supplies. And, let's not forget the time and energy involved.
His choice of fabric is definitely quilt-shop quality, unless he's working on a couple sample blocks or a row. "I'm partial to the little quilt shops because they have good quality (fabrics) and good prices. I also like to patronize the small quilt shops because they're my friends. If I have questions, they can help solve my problem and give me ideas." His quilts are made with all cotton fibers, including the batting, to allow for even shrinkage.
Markey is passionate about quilting because it's "very relaxing and rewarding." He said, "I can sit down and put the pieces together like a puzzle. It's also rewarding when you give it to someone because it's something special."
Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, email@example.com or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.
Contact Dan Markey at firstname.lastname@example.org.