Linda McGehee brings more than 40 years of sewing experience to her garment and handbag designs. Her work has appeared in the Fairfield Fashion Show and other venues. She has also authored several books, and is the owner of Ghee's mail-order sewing and notions company. See the website at ghees.com.
How did you get started in fiber arts?
Sewing became a passion for me when my bride doll needed more clothes. That was 50 years ago. I immediately started making my own clothes, because that way my garments could be different from everybody else's. I could choose the pattern and change it to meet my desires, and I could decide on the fabric too.
2. What are your favorite kinds of projects? What inspires your designs? In 1980 I opened a business sewing for others, but quickly discovered that I preferred to be surrounded by those who wanted to learn to sew rather than those who wanted me to do it for them. At that point, I changed my business to a sewing school.
With each of my patterns, I include 3 decorative stitching ideas. After designing several patterns, I began to run out of straight stitch design ideas. One day, in the late 1980's, it dawned on me that all designs do not have to use straight lines. I started stitching with jeans thread and sewing wavy lines. This opened up a whole new world. Broomstick skirts became popular around that time. The wrinkles intrigued me, so I placed interfacing on the wrong side of the wrinkles to maintain the texture. This technique that I originated is called crinkling, and it has become the basis of much of my texture work.
The market, with all of its threads, yarns, beads, buttons and fabrics, has made it fun to be creative. Sometimes a button sparks an idea. Other times it's the fabric. Nature also plays a big part in my choice of design, color and combinations.
What led you to focus your talents on creating bags?
When I changed my business to a school, Ultra Suede was very big in fashion. After making a suit, there was always a good-size chunk of fabric left over. With the price of Ultra Suede, I didn't want that large piece of fabric to go to waste. This was the beginning of my bag business. I found a source for handbag hardware and the rest is history.
Handbags are a nice-sized palette for play. You can experiment with designs, piecing, appliqué, heirloom techniques, embroidery or threadwork, and have a place to put it. Bags are also a great venue to learn techniques like corded piping, zippers and to use feet to make the tasks easier. All this fun and you don't have to worry about fitting a body!
If you could offer one piece of advice for fiber artists and quiltmakers today, what would it be?
Learn to run your machine properly. Know the rules, but use this information as a guide to play with your machine. Relax, experiment and enjoy the adventure. There are so many threads to play with, and each one creates its own character, depending upon the stitch or way it's used. There is wonderful fabric to choose from. Machines are fantastic with all the options and accessories. Enjoy the experience and remember that we still make lemonade from lemons!
Linda McGehee, appears in the July/August '08 (No. 122) issue of QUILTMAKER magazine.