Thursday, September 5, 2013

10 Questions - Cindy Conner

When you first join a group there are always a handful of people who make an immediate impression on you. Cindy Conner was one of those people for me in CSQ. She makes all of her quilts out of recycled clothing or other fabrics and she shares lots of stories about her sustainable garden and lifestyle. I was impressed from the beginning.

Today we will meet Cindy and get a peek into her sewing room.

If you live in Hanover (or the area), how many generations of your family have lived here and how did they come to settle here? If you moved here, where are you from and what brought you here?

My husband and I are from Ohio, having met and married while students at Ohio State University. He got a job in Columbus, Ohio as a computer programmer after graduation in 1973. We moved to Richmond in 1977 as a result of a new job offer and bought our 5 acre farm near Ashland in 1984. 

When you were young what did you plan to be when you grew up and what happened with those plans?

Before I was even old enough to go to school I would tell people that I wanted to be a mother when I grew up. (Jarod was born 10 months after we were married, followed by Travis four years later, then Betsy after another four years, followed by Luke five years after Betsy.) By the time I went to college I had decided to major in home economics and become an extension agent so that I could help people become more productive at home. I have used everything I ever learned in college and expanded on it. I never became an extension agent, but I do help people be more productive at home.
What do you do when you aren’t quilting?

You can usually find me in the garden. I learned to garden organically because I wanted a healthy family and that interest has grown tremendously. Beginning in 1992 I sold vegetables for 10 years, helped start the Ashland Farmers Market in 1999 and taught at J. Sargeant Reynolds from 1999-2010, establishing the sustainable agriculture program there. I’ve produced two garden DVDs with the help of filmmaker son Luke. We offer them for sale through our website at I write a blog at which is free continuing education for folks following my work. I’ve written a book—Grow a Sustainable Diet—that will be out in March 2014. It is being published by New Society Publishers.
What hobbies or activities do you do other than quilting? Where do you do them? How did you get involved with them?

In my exploration of fiber I began growing cotton in my garden. I’ve written about it at .  Presently when I speak at sustainable agriculture events I wear a quilted vest. I use it to represent diversity. Also, it is distinctive and no one else has one like it, making me easily recognizable. I’m learning to spin my homegrown cotton on a hand spindle. I still need to learn to weave. My goal is to make a vest from my homegrown cotton that I’ll wear when I give presentations.

As a child what was your nickname and how did you get it? Do people still call you by that name?

No nickname, although I have a twin sister (not identical in any way) named Sandie. People would mix up our names, even though I was taller and we didn’t look alike. I was in college before I was only known as Cindy.

What saying best describes how you like to live your life?

My current favorite saying is “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, but how to dance in the rain”. 

Show us a photo (or photos) of where you create.

I have been making changes in my sewing space over the course of the past year and am excited to talk about it. In 1988 I made this cabinet myself by putting a top on my childhood desk. The cabinet opens up to one space behind the two left panels (which fold open). My sewing machine was stored there. Behind the right panel are shelves to hold patterns and such. I would open the cabinet doors and bring my sewing machine forward to sew. There is a hole in the back of the cabinet for cords for the electric and foot pedal to connect to the machine. My notions and supplies were stored in the drawers. This cabinet has been all over the house in the years since 1988. When it was in a corner of the kitchen cookbooks were on the top shelf.

Once our children were all out of the house, I realized that I could actually have the large bedroom (last one vacated) for a sewing room, but I still needed space for guests. There were two bulky twin beds there that were originally bunk beds that my husband built for our boys in 1981. I had fabric stored in plastic bins under both. I took those beds out and painted an old twin bed that had been in our family almost forever. I wanted to keep the extra long mattress left from our 6’4” son, so I bought extra long bed rails for that bed. I bought a pop-up trundle that slides underneath. We put the little bookcase on wheels so that it can be easily moved to bring out the trundle. The quilt on that bed is the one I made for our grandson in 2010. Although he’ll probably take it eventually, he has chosen to leave it at our house for now, maybe because it establishes a place for him here. He’s 16 now.          


I had eliminated all the storage space I had under the beds, so I found this large used blue/tan cabinet at the Boaz and Ruth thrift store in Richmond. It is a cabinet with shelves that fits over a chest of drawers. The top drawer is skinny and just right for storing my quilting rulers in. To put things in proper perspective, the ceiling in that room is only 7’ high. Until I get my stash down, I still have fabric stored in bins. Actually, some of that is old clothes intended for quilts and some is denim. There is a quilt frame that I’ve acquired and I’m beginning to accumulate spinning/weaving things that need a resting place. You can see those things under the window to the right in that photo.

My homemade sewing cabinet is gone now and my sewing machine is in the closet. The wooden boxes under that window contain fabric and batting. (There is another closet to the left of the wooden boxes.) When we were working on the garden plan video in 2009 Luke needed studio space for his computer while he did the film work. He didn’t need to live here, just his computer and equipment did. We made this closet over for that purpose and I kept in mind that maybe someday I could put my sewing machine there. I got him to take the last of his things out of there this spring and moved my sewing machine in. The sewing machine can be moved back and table extension folded down so the closet door can be closed, turning the room back into a guest room.

I’ve had the dress form since about 1976, but it was stashed away in a closet for years. I brought my grandmother’s shadow box down from the attic. I’ve had it for many years but had no place to put it. I have photos of my grandparents and other little odds and ends that are meaningful to me on the shelves. Now if I could only find time to sew.
 Show us a photo of the quilt that’s on your bed right now.

 I made this quilt using lap quilting methods-one square foot at a time. It took two years from 1995-97. It has polyester batting which is thinner than the cotton filled quilt I made, so this one is on the bed through the summer. I call it Summer Sunshine. I had a lot of yellow cotton fabric to use up and this project accomplished that. I had mostly blue scraps so you might notice that alternate rows of nine patches all have blue in them. The rest of the rows are mixed colors. That evenly spaced the blue in the quilt. Other than the yellow, it is made of scraps left from my sewing projects over many, many years. I made clothes for the children when they were growing up and still make my own clothes. I started to quilt to use up the fabric leftovers. (Our bedroom is larger than it appears in that photo. The head of the bed is in an alcove.)

What quilt is your least favorite quilt. Not necessarily the ugliest but the one that you liked the least or struggled with the most or just plain hated making. Why did you choose this one? Do you have a photo of it?

Everything has value to me and is special, so I don’t have a least favorite.
What is your all time favorite quilt and why? Do you have a photo of it?

I like so many things I usually don’t play favorites. However, I’m partial to my grandson’s quilt that’s on the bed in the sewing room.

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