Quilter’s Texas City home reflects years of honing her craft and skills
It all begins in Donna Matheson’s sewing room in her Texas City home.
The sewing room is where she ponders what she’ll create next. As a long-time quilter, Matheson relies on the fabric to dictate what pattern she chooses, or in some cases, the pattern she designs herself.
“I’m drawn to fabrics that are bold, bright and wild, but I like the muted shades as well,” she said. “A lot of quilters like to buy kits that contain the pattern and all the materials, but my favorite part of the entire process is picking out the fabric.”
Quilts hanging on walls, atop beds and folded on various racks all are fabric-driven. Autumn leaves, teapots, baskets, cacti, ginger jars and Japanese geishas demonstrate the versatility and craftsmanship.
“I liked to sew when I was a kid, made doll clothes and even made my own clothes as I got older,” Matheson said. “I started quilting in the early ’70s when quilting started coming back in vogue, but there were not many books available, so I bought a thin pamphlet and taught myself. That was 40 years ago.”
Matheson started out with traditional quilting by hand and made baby quilts for relatives, she said.
“The first time I saw a quilt that was machine-quilted, I thought that’s not really quilting, but now that’s the norm and I do have a sewing machine and a longarm machine, but still pull out a needle and thread,” she said.
With so many quilts on display, a walk through her home almost is like being in a museum. Matheson estimates she has sewn hundreds over the years, but hasn’t kept an exact tally.
She’s drawn to fabric makers like Kaffe Fassett and used his fabric to make the Hawaiian quilt block pattern that graces her dining room wall, she said.
Edyta Sitar’s “Country Fair” design is a particular favorite of hers, and hangs in her sewing room.
Matheson’s latest creation is a Dresden plate quilt that resembles a kaleidoscope.
“The Dresden plate quilt pattern was one of the most popular in the 1920s and ’30s,” she said. “According to research, it was inspired by porcelain plates made in Germany that were decorated with elaborate designs like flowers, fruits and leaves.”
Matheson has used such classic patterns as Log Cabin, Pinwheel, Eight-Pointed Star and Grandmother’s Flower Garden. But she is also pretty savvy when it comes to making her own patterns.
“I get an idea and write down the steps as I go,” she said. “Most of the ones on the ladder near the kitchen I created with my own pattern. The one with baskets is my favorite and it took about a week doing an appliqué design.”
There are many stitching techniques, but blanket stitch is a favorite when applying appliqué, because it’s neat and holds down the edges, she said.
An example of blanket stitch can be seen in Matheson’s cacti quilt featuring cacti of all shapes, sizes and colors. The backside is full of smaller cacti with prickly spines that you want to reach out and touch.
Another show-stopping quilt is one featuring brightly colored ginger jars with pink flamingos and blue herons gracing the backside.
Although the walls are covered with Matheson’s exquisite handiwork, the guest room houses those that are of extraordinary quality, most with an Asian theme.
“My husband, Bill, and I have lived in many places and have taken our sailboat to many ports of call, and I was always quilting, even on the boat,” she said. “We also lived in Hawaii for 10 years, so that had a big influence on me and inspired me to quilt the Hawaiian Sunbonnet Sue and Sam.”
A typical quilting time depends on the quilter, Matheson said. She can knock one out in a week or two, and the longest she ever spent was an entire year on one that was completely sewn by hand.
She keeps her skills up to par by meeting up with a group of women every Thursday at Pinwheels & Posies, a full-service quilt store in Dickinson.
Matheson also donates several quilts to Bay Area Pet Adoptions. The donations sell quickly at the organization’s fundraisers.
“I have a lot of material waiting to be projects right now,” she said. “The fabric speaks to me, but I am addicted to quilting for sure. Every week, when I go to the quilt shop, I tell myself I’m not buying any fabric this week, but I never get out of there without buying something.”