As a woodworker hobbyist, I started making things that made daily chores easier around the house. Step stools, cutting boards that fit in a small space, coffee cup holder, shelves, cabinets . . all just happened out of necessity.
Quilts were a big part of my spouses' obsessions. Building/making quilts every day of the week all year long. I could not sit on a chair, couch, bed, table, or floor without interfering with a quilt. The aggravation it caused became unbearable. I had to have a place to eat, sleep, sit. When the garage started to be invaded, I took action to stop the encroachment.
I just sat on one too many quilt blocks.
“Pick-'em up, Put-'em away,” I would say. After all, those blocks were lying around on the furniture, backs of couches, chairs, tables, and ironing boards. If there was a flat surface it most likely had a quilt block on it. Even completed quilts were taking up space on dressers, beds, and shelves.
One or two quilts on a cold night are just fine. When you get up to six on each bed it is time to do something about the storage problems.
My inventor's brain went to work.
I bought a quilt rack to store the quilts on. Six quilts on one rack. The rack broke. I needed more racks but had no place in the rooms to put them. So, I built a quilt rack, it held 12 king-size quilts. Problem solved, almost.
“Can you make another one that can ….” she asked. OK. Together we designed a quilt rack that could be used as a storage place to hang strips of quilt blocks ready to be sewn together, lay the stacks of blocks, and audition fabric combinations, with an ironing board and a design wall. It only took up a 6ft x 3ft area when opened up and 3ft x 1ft when closed. When not in use it could be rolled into another room. Ideal for small apartments like ours.
The quilt rack we made worked very well. Sitting on a quilt block was a thing of the past. No more tears.
Her lady friends and quilters liked the rack and wanted one as well. I made a couple more and then thought of doing it as a hobby for myself. My hobby needed space to work. The garage was just too small. I moved some of the benches and tools to the patio. We quickly put the tools and materials back into the garage, when it looked like rain.
I can’t work in the rain, so I made a quilt. I learned how to use a rotary cutter, sewing machine, and ironing. It was a lot of hard work. No wonder she got so upset when I sat on a quilt block or two.
My first quilt was made from 100% sheer silk. I used 9 in diameter doilies (leftovers) as the batting since we didn’t use the doilies for anything. I used silk sashing to hold the blocks together. For the quilting, I followed the doily pattern. This quilt took almost a year to make.
The Pacific International Quilt Festival was our first introduction to viewing quilts on a large scale. That is when I decided to try my hand at making a quilt rack to sell at one of these shows. What should we call our quilt rack for next year's show? The name of our product became a “Working Quilt Rack.” After all, it is mostly used to keep the quilts organized and handy. Our first show was at the 1999 International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas and we have been doing shows every two years since.
My wife (Cinda Olsen) has been sewing since she was in high school (1962) and taught our neighborhood kids how to sew in the late 70’s. We have recovered our household furniture twice, made wedding gowns, bathing suits, dresses, pants, shirts, blouses, dolls, crochet tablecloths, doilies, and knitted blankets and dozens of sweaters. If it was in fashion, I think she made it for our children. Well, the kids are gone on their own now. What to do.
Cinda has been quilting since 1982 and has been teaching for almost as long. She only makes California King quilts. She has designed several quilts and I have written the instructions as she explained the process to me. We have 5 patterns to choose from currently and have 3 in the planning stages.
I made a quilt rack that would hold 12 king-size quilts. I made two of the King Size Quilt Racks. One to hold the quilts under construction and one to hold the completed quilts. I in turn now had a place to sit.
The spouse's friends saw the quilt rack and wanted one as well. I sold the second one and used the money to purchase material to make another. Made and sold 10 of the racks and called them "Working Quilt Racks." The racks held the fabric for audition in color matching and stopped the back of the couch from being congested.
My kitchen table was still being used as a cutting table. I added a cutting table to the Working Quilt Rack. The large Olfa cutting mat (24x36) fit and it folded up and out of the way and the back side of the table could be used as a retractable design wall for building quilt blocks or a bulletin board.
The table could also be used as an ironing table. I made additional products for quilters to use that would make the quilting process easier and organized.