By Patricia Belyea
NEIGHBOR SERIES I wonder what LeeAnn’s home looked like 8 years ago. That’s when LeeAnn started quilting and she hasn’t stopped. Today quilts fill every room of her house—all colorful and exuberant.
Yesterday morning I visited LeeAnn of Nifty Quilts to learn more about this well-known Ballard quilter. Born and bred in Salem, Oregon, LeeAnn’s paternal grandmother taught her to sew as a kid. She made a baby quilt for her son, Sam, 23 years ago but didn’t quilt again until she turned 50.
At that time LeeAnn’s father, her last blood relative, died after a year-long illness. LeeAnn signed up for a quilting class at In The Beginning with Sandy Bonsib and focused on something other than her grief.
A gal who doesn’t eat gluten, LeeAnn whipped up breakfast muffins for us with no grains or sugar. Our treats were made from almond meal, mashed pumpkin, bananas, olive oil, poppy seeds, lemon zest and unsweetened coconut.
LeeAnn’s quilts are just as eclectic as her baking. Her materials are “found treasures”—clothing and fabrics from thrift stores, and giveaways from other quilters. Her favorite department at Goodwill is the men’s shirt racks.
Old utility quilts speak to LeeAnn—quilts made by women who had to make do with what they had. LeeAnn doesn't believe that you have to have it “just right” but instead make what is on your heart.
Some great teachers have influenced LeeAnn, including Gwen Marston. From Gwen, she learned to study and copy concepts from vintage quilts. Working with her learnings, LeeAnn aspires to add something unique to her own quilts.
I wondered how many quilts LeeAnn works on at one time. Right now she has five in progress and almost 20 quilt tops ready to be finished. On the design walls of her studio hung two quilt tops in progress made with lots of orphan blocks—one subdued, the other bold.
Other mentors and quilting friends are Denise Schmidt, Freddy Moran, members of the Gee’s Bend quilters, Sherri Lynn Wood and Victoria Findlay Wolfe. LeeAnn had lots of stories to tell about her buddies and her projects as she showed me a collection of quilts and flimsies piled high in her guest bedroom.
When I finally left LeeAnn’s home, I looked at my watch. I had been visiting for three hours and we’d just gotten started. I’m so pleased that we are neighbors so LeeAnn and I can get together again sometime soon.