Stitching is a Part of My Life:
An Interview with Kansas Crazy Quilter Julie Craig

Dakotah M. Davis © 2010

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"A day without stitching is like a day without breathing," says Julie Craig, owner of Attic Heirlooms, a needle art embellishment shop, in Wichita, Kansas.

Attic Heirlooms' Julie Craig shows off an assortment of ribbons and laces in her crazy quilt shop.

As a crazy quilt-inspired business owner for more than fifteen years, and through raising five children, Craig has lived by this motto: "I've been stitching all of my life, ever since I can remember. I just always loved it."

Self-taught in all the needle arts, Craig has a knack for creating inspiring designs using fabrics like rich velvets, over-dyed silk embroidery thread, and finely-crafted glass beads. She teaches all over the country and has been a featured artist in national magazines. This past year she designed all the costumes for the Wichita Grand Opera's production of Carmen.

“It was wonderful,” says Craig of the costume making. “It was a huge cast and a ton of work, but a neat experience.”

Crazy quilting remains Craig's true love. Around her shop are many examples of the way she has melded the crazy quilt format into a wide variety of projects including jewelry, purses, quilts and shadowboxes.

“Crazy quilting can adapt to anything,” says Craig.

Despite Craig's penchant for all things crazy quilted, she began her textile-oriented career in interior design. She stitched as a hobby until admirers begged her to teach them what she knew. Once she started teaching, she launched herself more fully into the needle art world, says Craig. "It became so successful I gave up my other business."

At her shop, located at 1705 W. Douglas Avenue, Craig offers classes for the beginner, as well as instruction for advanced-level stitchers. Students can learn skills in crazy quilting, purse making and ribbon embroidery, but Craig's real specialty as a teacher comes through in her project-oriented classes and kits.

"People love to be able to see a project through with some instruction," says Craig. "Kits and complete instruction have always been the majority of my business."

One of her early kits, a Hussif Needlebook, was featured in an article in in 2004.

In its interior, the Hussif Needlebook features a strawberry pin keep that has turned into a highly favored project of its own at Attic Heirlooms. Customers there are enjoying a series of Stitcher's Strawberry kits designed in luscious holiday-related themes such as “Irish Cream” for St. Patrick's Day and “Peaches and Cream” for Easter. Covered with copious amounts of delicately-worked stitches and artfully-placed beading and silk ribbon, Craig's rich design of the Stitcher's Strawberry has transformed a functional stitcher's tool into tempting display art.

"My customers tend to think of them as decoration," says Craig. "You want to collect them in a glass jar or a glass dish."

Craig's spin on the classic strawberry pin keep is a perfect example of the way her mind works as a designer. Inspired by antique crazy quilts and fashions from a by-gone era, Craig loves to draw from old styles and recapture some of the Victorian charm found in handiwork of the past. In particular, Craig admires the 1860-1900 period of Queen Victoria's reign in England and its theme of "the more the better" as seen in lace making and ribbon work at that time.

"I love studying antique things and trying to reproduce that effect," says Craig. "That's really what I love."

Even Craig's favorite stitch draws from the past.

"Almost weekly I see a new Feather Stitch combination on an antique crazy quilt or in a book," muses Craig. "There are always new combinations you can come up with using Feather Stitch."

Besides classes, Craig's shop is a unique source for quality crazy quilt embellishments. Attic Heirlooms offers creators hard-to-find items such as hand-dyed silk ribbons and laces, specialty fabrics, ornate trims, threads from cottons to silks, and a wide variety of buttons and beads.

As she pulls ribbons and beads from her store during her own process of creative brainstorming, she is already thinking up other projects. New kits including mini beaded handbags and petite cakes that serve as pin cushions are already in the works.

One thing customers can be certain of is ideas are always flowing at Attic Heirlooms, and Craig will always be stitching.

"I stitch every day," says Craig. "It's part of my life."

A collection of Craig's Stitcher's Strawberries make a wonderful display.

This peaches and cream Stitcher's Strawberry designed by Julie Craig is sold as a kit.

Craig offers other ready-to-go kits like this crazy quilted heart attached to a small strawberry pin keep.

For more information about Julie Craig and Attic Heirlooms, call (316) 265-4646.

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