Quilters looking forward to Anderson's visit
Popular TV host and author to appear at Weber's Inn Monday
Alex Anderson, a well-known quilter, author and TV personality, will be at Weber's Inn in Ann Arbor from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday for an event that is expected to draw close to 500 quilting enthusiasts.
Anderson has been highlighted in numerous magazines, penned more than 18 books, designs her own line of fabrics and threads, and is the national spokesperson for Bernina of America. She was chosen as recipient of this year's Silver Star Award by Houston's International Quilt Festival for her far-reaching and positive contributions to the quilting community.
In the morning, Anderson will give a lecture on her journey as a quilter accompanied by a virtual trunk show of her quilts and a light continental breakfast. Participants will hear about her early experiences with quilting, the ups and downs of being a TV host, and her newest endeavor.
In college, Anderson completed a quilt as part of her coursework toward an art degree and that experience jumpstarted her deep relationship with quilting.
Anderson hosted HGTV's "Simply Quilts" for 11 years before the show was canceled, and fans today still look for reruns of the popular show.
Her latest project, "The Quilt Show," is an interactive online video/Web magazine whose mission is to educate, inspire, entertain, connect and grow the world quilting community. The site offers subscribers hour-long episodes with charismatic co-hosts Anderson and artist Ricky Tims.
"The Quilt Show" also offers a place for quilters around the world to share ideas, view quilts, list global events, read newsletters, learn quilting techniques and get projects.
Anderson cites technology as the biggest change she's witnessed in quilting over the span of her career. She refers to "The Quilt Show" as "The Ultimate Cyber Quilting Bee" with its live audience, special guests, opportunities for learning and the interactive aspects of the site.
The Silver Star Award recognizes Anderson's impact on the quilting industry, but she has also touched the lives of many individuals throughout the world.
"I appreciate the stories, but it really doesn't resonate," she said. "I consider myself as just another quilter."
She describes quilters as a unique community of good people who support each other, despite coming in different packages.
"It's the nature of quilters," she said. "If everybody in the world quilted, there would be less fighting."
Although she has been quilting for more than 30 years, Anderson said she never gets bored with it. Anderson credits her energetic co-host Tims and "The Quilt Show" for her current enthusiasm and points out that there's always something new to learn about quilting.
She believes there are several misconceptions about quilters, including that it's "a little old lady sport," quilters have to be patient and quilters have to be good to join a guild.
A self-proclaimed impatient person, she authored a book for younger quilters titled "Kids Start Quilting with Alex Anderson" and acknowledges TV shows like "Project Runway" that emphasize sewing help to captivate a younger audience.
Anderson has always sought to educate and encourage quilters of all levels and offers advice to newcomers.
"Take a class at your local quilt shop, put on your blinders and don't look at the others or you'll get discouraged," she said.
Along with that, she tells quilters to pursue the types of quilting that best suit them and don't try to quilt in a style that isn't a good fit.
"Do what makes your own heart sing," she said.
According to Anderson, quilts are a part of American history and most people have a quilt in their family, making quilting a generational connector.
"It gets us in touch with our ancestry," she said.
The sponsor of this event, Viking Sewing Center, is celebrating 40 years in business. Kris Houghtaling first learned to repair sewing machines at the age of 13, when his parents owned the business. It's now co-owned by Kris and his wife, Doni, who live in Dexter along with 11-year-old Kristin and 9-year-old Mitchell.
The owners and their staff attend conventions to keep up to date on the sewing industry and it was at a convention in 2007 when Doni first met Anderson. The Houghtalings' daughter, Kristin, had entered a quilt into a competition and won honorable mention.
Anderson looked over Kristin's quilt, shared her own story, and offered words of encouragement.
"It impressed me that she took time out of her day to come and talk to my daughter," Doni Houghtaling said.
She describes Anderson's presentation style as upbeat and funny.
"Alex is one of the most personable, down-to-earth people. You wouldn't know she's as popular as she is, because it's like talking to the girl next door," she said.
Following a lunch break, Anderson will be available to meet participants, sign books, and pose for photographs. Attendees will be able to purchase Anderson's line of fabrics, patterns, books, quilt kits and DVDs.
Susan Vaughan, a quilter from Chelsea who likes Anderson's fabric and patterns, can't attend the event because of a new baby. She said she believes that Anderson took an activity that is considered to be solely for grandmothers to one that is enjoyed by all ages.
"She took quilting to the mainstream," Vaughan said.
Ethel Polsdofer, a quilter from Saline, said she looks forward to hearing what Anderson has to say.
"Alex Anderson has been an inspiration to a lot of quilters, especially new quilters like me, because she makes difficult things look easy," Polsdofer said.
Dexter resident Kathy Willis is looking forward to the event because she feels she always learns something new from Anderson.
"I'm very excited about seeing her. You can take everything you learn from quilting and apply it to other sewing projects."
Willis believes that Anderson has good color sense and a vast amount of knowledge.
"I'm anxious to learn what she has to say," she said.
Judy Gordon, Saline Township treasurer since 1988, quilts for pleasure and swears that quilting lowers her blood pressure. She teaches at Viking Sewing Center and will be staffing the event on Monday to discuss clubs and classes.
"I think Alex has so much information. It will be neat to see her in person," Gordon said.
Additional Viking Sewing Center staff will be on hand at various booths during the afternoon to provide activities while attendees wait in line to meet Anderson.
Michelle McCalla of Manchester and Kathy Reed of Plymouth will handle sales and share their knowledge of sewing machines. Bernina sewing machines purchased at the event can be signed by Anderson in the afternoon.
Cindy Hunter of Dexter will cover embellishing techniques, a service technician will cover the proper care of sewing machines and Crystal Smythe of Tecumseh will be assisting with fabric selection, check-in and questions.
Nanette Weaver, a Scio Township resident who has designed her own jacket pattern, will demonstrate machine quilting. She looks forward to showing off the store, as well as getting Anderson's autograph at the event.
"It will be fun to hear her story," Weaver said.
Two Saline residents also will be working at booths. Sylvia Coleman will demonstrate machine embroidery and Nancy Lindemann will assist with fabric selection and the cash register.
This will be the second time that Coleman will see Anderson and recalls that at a Toledo event Anderson was interested in seeing the items that participants had made.
"She's very personable, down to earth and just adorable," Coleman said.
Coleman finds Anderson to be an inspirational individual.
"She is really the person who is responsible for getting so many people interested in quilting," Coleman said.
Tickets are $25 and are available by calling Viking Sewing Center at 761-3094.
By Alison Marable, Special Writer PUBLISHED: June 19, 2008
Alison Marable is a freelance writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.