EXPO’s featured quilter this year is Lissia Laehn
If you looked at the number of quilts Lissia Laehn has completed, you would think she’s been quilting since she could walk, when in reality, Lissia picked up the hobby as an adult.
And now, Lissia and her quilts have been recently recognized at the Southern Minnesota Woodcarvers and Quilting Expo as the 2019 Featured Quilter.
“One day I just walked by Michele’s Quilting and Sewing Center and saw a quilt I wanted to do, so I went in to see what I needed to do it,” says Lissia. “Turns out you need a sewing machine to quilt.”
Once Lissia got her hands on a sewing machine, which is different from her huge embroidery machine at her place of business, Heartland Embroidery, she was on her way to starting her quilt.
There are lots of reasons why Lissia enjoys quilting, one of which is giving the gift of a quilt to others.
“Giving something you put so much time and intricate work into for someone feels really good,” she says, having given many quilts to her family members. “The appreciation of it, the comfort of it, the thought put into it it’s a labor of love.”
She remembers specifically a quilt she did for her grandmother. The duo went and picked out grey and purple fabrics together that would match her grandmother’s room, and decided on a pattern together, as well.
“I gave it to her for Christmas and just seeing the joy on her face when she saw the finished product was something that I’ll never forget. I love giving gifts that have special meaning to them.”
For a mom of three active kids, and a woman with not one but two businesses, Lissia admits that finding time to quilt is difficult. So what’s her secret to getting so much accomplished?
“I go to like three or four quilting retreats each year,” she says. “It’s my time to get away from the busy work of regular life and get to the busy work of quilting and hanging out with my quilting friends and learning new things, and swapping blocks.”
Retreats have grown in popularity over the past few years, and it’s because of a change in the feminine culture of quilting.
“Well, if you think back 40 or 50 years, women would get together at church groups or visit each other at their houses and do quilting together. Now that there are women with careers, that atmosphere is disappearing, so many of us, including myself, are trying to regrow that atmosphere of quilting circles and fellowship for everyone.”
And Lissia hopes more people will join in on quilting.
“It’s very creative and very fun work to do,” she says. “It’s colorful, it’s intricate, there are so many different designs and possibilities. It’s also a challenge, and getting a quilt completed is its own reward. You just made yourself a beautiful, huge, snuggly blanket. I think that’s pretty cool.”
Even Lissia’s 10-year-old daughter, Emmalee is getting into quilting, by using her mom’s unused scraps for her own homemade projects.
“Just try it,” says Lissia. “What could go wrong? And if things do go wrong, or you don’t like something, you can undo the stitching and try it again. Modify your patterns, make your quilt unique. I don’t like to use patterns very often, I use my own twist.”
Lissia says it takes very few components to actually begin quilting. You just need a sewing machine, thread, scissors, fabric, and a pattern.
“You can find a lot of these things in our area, with lots of knowledgeable people, like the girls who visit Michele’s, who can help you get started. There are ample resources everywhere.”
Lissia says she’s made many new friends and connections by starting quilting. She’s in a number of quilting groups, including the Block Swappers, who each make the same blocks for quilts, and then swap the blocks.
“We make all different quilts from the same exact blocks, it’s really fun to see how unique each quilt is from the same blocks,” says Lissia.
And Lissia hopes to add another place where quilters can gather together in September, as she continues to work on her retreat center in Elmore.
Until then, she still likes to help quilters at Heartland Embroidery where she can help folks add names and designs to quilt patches with the use of her embroidery machines.
“Honestly, I just really enjoy being creative through quilting,” she says. “I’m so very honored to be the featured quilter this year. I’ve had gobs of support from so many people in our area, and it’s truly something I’m going to treasure for a long time just like my quilts.”