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Work of Her Hands
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Ben Lochard
HOME FEATURE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2017
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West Des Moines stitcher and quilter has a special place to create.

Carolyn Hosier of West Des Moines only has to go downstairs in her lovely townhome to get to her happy place. It’s a colorful and cozy sewing room, where she’s surrounded by details that give her inspiration.

She comes to her passion honestly. Her mother, the late Virginia Lee Kurtz, operated the Roosevelt Fabrics store in the Roosevelt Shopping Center for 25 years. Carolyn worked there, and “I got the best education on so many levels,” she says. When her father died, she took on the job of helping her mother in every aspect of running the fabric store.

Carolyn always has projects going, including quilts of all sizes, counted cross-stitch embroidery, painted watercolor scenes, gardening, and cooking.

She started young, she points out, making dresses for dolls and dollhouses from boxes, adding mini curtains, of course. Out of that Lilliputian world, it’s not surprising that to this day, she is partial to little fabric prints. “I’m a scrap quilter, meaning that scraps from one project likely go into another one,” she explains. She has been self-taught for sewing and quilting, doing and redoing until she got it right. It’s in her genes, too; her great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, and sister all sewed, and she picked up and adapted what they knew.

She admits that she likely drives other fabric store owners crazy. “Because I love tiny fabric prints, and because I love to make small quilts, often doll size, I often order only ¼-yard increments of fabrics, just so that I have a lot of choice for my work.”

For 10 years, she also designed and produced patterns—24 in all—to inspire other seamstresses. Her favorite motifs were chickens, prairie women, hearts, and Dutch designs. “Each pattern had designs for a little quilt, an apron, and a kitchen towel,” she says. She marketed her patterns at area fabric and quilt shops, such as Creekside Quilts and the former VandeLune Fabrics in Pella. For that shop, she did a custom line of Dutch-inspired patterns. Patterns also featured an accompanying story, which she wrote.

In her sewing room she has been creative about her use of space. In one double closet she has set up her sewing machine. In the adjoining double closet she stores her fabric pieces in wire- basket shelving.

Around the room are antique pieces, such as a vintage wooden ironing board and an old baker’s rack, which has new life as a cutting table, along with vintage details. A tall cupboard holds miniature sewing supplies and toys. Various doll beds with miniature quilts and dressed dolls form some of the many vignettes in the room. A wooden wagon holds alphabet blocks, and baskets keep sewing tools in easy reach. Over the cutting table is a painting of The Mender, a peasant woman who stitches. It was a gift from her late mother-in-law.

Quilt pattern books by her favorite designers, Kathleen Tracy and Kim Diehl, are at hand for ideas for future projects.

She’s a member of Questers (antiques study group) and a quilting group, which meets weekly at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in West Des Moines. Both keep her interests intact. The quilting group’s members range in age from 35 to 96, she says.

In her spare time throughout the year, she makes projects, such as fabric and cross-stitched pieces, to sell at two holiday bazaars, one at the Market on 39th Street at Central Presbyterian Church in Des Moines and one at Edgewater Assisted Living in West Des Moines.

Plus, since 2010, she has written a blog called Lee Prairie Designs. A fun part of that venture is that she has become virtual friends with like-minded stitchers around the world, especially in the Netherlands. She has exchanged ideas and fabrics with several fans over the pond.

In her previous home in the Waterbury area of Des Moines, Carolyn also had a sewing room. “When our younger son moved out, I immediately moved into that room,” she says with a smile. So it was only natural she would have a similar spot in the townhouse she and her husband, Gene, moved to four years ago.

And what does he think of her sewing obsession? “He comes and sits to watch what I’m doing sometimes, and I ask his opinion.”

“After 52 years of marriage, I might not know all the details, but I do know what I like,” he says.

 

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