Over the six months or so I’ve discovered several sewists who are also writers like me and Deanna McCool is one of them. Deanna had a career as a journalist before becoming a craft blogger and she continues to write magazine-style articles for her blog and other publications in the sewing and craft industry. She’s the also the author of 50 Ribbon Rosettes and Bows to Make, published by St. Martin’s Griffin Press.
One of the things I like most about Deanna’s story is how she continues to stay true to her interests and has allowed her career to evolve over time.
I’m excited to have Deanna visit the blog today to tell us about the pattern that changed her life.
I was always a writer, and knew by age 13 that I wanted to be a newspaper reporter. But I also drew portraits, painted, and completed other crafts, so art was a major part of my life. That’s why, when I went to college, I minored in art in addition to getting degrees in journalism and criminal justice. I knew I couldn’t leave my art behind.
But I had never, ever, been interested in working with fibers or sewing.
I had just left my job working as a reporter covering the crime beat at a mid-sized newspaper before having our first daughter…I loved the job, but the pay (and the hours) left little to be desired. At the time I also started volunteering at our local Audubon chapter by working with a publisher to buy birding books at cost to sell to our members and the community. It was one of our chapter’s fundraisers.
In one of the shipments I received a quilt book by accident – “Quilts from the Quiltmaker’s Gift” by Joanne Larson Line. I rolled my eyes and set it aside, and it was soon buried under an ever-growing stack of baby and parenting books.
I didn’t look at it until months later – about 4 a.m. while nursing my daughter. Exhausted and bored, I picked it up for a reason I’ll never really know.
But it turned out to be the book that changed my life.
I started sewing quilt tops during my daughter’s brief naps, learning from the book and from recording Alex Anderson’s “Simply Quilts” on HGTV (this was in 2001 so I recorded the shows using – gasp – a VCR). I watched the shows during nursing sessions…because I needed nap time to quilt!
Here’s my second quilt from the book:
And I kept quilting exclusively for five years, making quilts for all of our beds, for friends, family, neighbors, “just because…” going to quilt shows and even starting a quilt show in my city. I was obsessed.
But when my second daughter was born I knew I wanted to make an income again, and realized that quilting was my *hobby*. I didn’t want to turn it into a business. So I became involved with the eBay community and started making hair bows to sell. After awhile I knew I needed to get back to writing in some way…and started selling tutorials on how to make the bows. This was the area of my greatest success, and resulted in landing a contract for my first published book, 50 Ribbon Rosettes and Bows to Make, in 2014.
I imagined that my delight in publishing my first book was similar to the feeling that Joanne Larson Line must have felt when she wrote “Quilts from the Quiltmaker’s Gift.”
But after a few years, I knew I needed to sew again. Away from quilts for some time and with two daughters to dress – and under the influence of all those cute boutique clothing photos of girls that had inundated me for so long – I decided to design garment patterns for girls, in addition to my hair bow tutorials, and added these to my Etsy shop, Birdsong Patterns.
Like many people in the arts, I’m someone who follows my muse. After awhile I realized that my greatest skill – while I love sewing – is my writing and editing ability. After my book was published I turned all of my attention for a year to my blog, SewMcCool.com. I re-discovered writing…the organization of it, my love of finding the “right word;” my desire to describe processes in the clearest way possible.
After many years of crafting, writing tutorials, and selling my wares in one fashion or another, I’m ready to settle back into a solid writing career. I have two new patterns coming out in August – and I’ll be keeping up my blog and writing feature articles – but I’m turning most of my attention back to writing and editing for others. I’ve recently started working for different clients in the sewing and crafting field as a writer and technical editor. I’m so excited for these new opportunities.
I hope to quilt and sew for fun. I hope to keep up my blog for fun. I’m excited that I can remain in the field of sewing and write at the same time.
A dream career.
*Before writing this post, I decided to contact Joanne Larson Line to share how her one book, read in the wee hours of the morning while nursing my baby girl in 2001, changed my life.
But this was not to be.
Joanne passed away in 2006, after a long battle with melanoma. She was 68. An accomplished businesswoman with an MBA and love for public service, she discovered quilting as she neared retirement, according to her obituary. She followed her muse and wrote two best-selling quilting books, and “believed that by providing basic guidelines and clear instructions, anyone could make beautiful quilts.”
Nearing the end of her life, she persevered through her treatments with the belief that every additional day we live is precious. I’m honored that her book was the inspiration for my career…and am so blessed that I’ve been able to follow my muse as Joanne Larsen Line followed hers.
Quilts from the Quiltmaker’s Gift by Joanne Larson Line was the pattern that changed Deanna McCool’s life.