By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
Kathy Carney, who lives in Lincoln, loves to quilt. She loves it so much, it is now her business, Kathy Carney Design. Her job is to do custom quilting for her clients, both in the design of the tops and the actual quilting.
Carney perfected her trade over the years, but it all began when she was growing up in Kansas.
“I spent summers with my grandmother, Mary Lewis, in Clay Center. She hand quilted for others,” said Carney. “I would sit with her and do small projects, but when I asked for advice, she always said that my quilts, my projects were perfect, even if they weren’t.”
What Carney did learn from her grandmother was what colors went well together and about different textures.
When Lewis died, Carney called the people she knew in Clay Center who had her grandmother’s work. She had them donate the quilts to show during the funeral.
When Carney left home for college and to start her own life, she sort of dropped the quilting. In 1982, she moved to Minnesota and met a group of women who quilted together monthly and they asked her to join.
“It was a huge change from what I knew,” said Carney. “They were strong quilters who turned me into a ‘good quilter.’ It was at that moment I learned it was what I wanted to do for a career.”
Carney started taking classes with the best in the quilting world. She started traveling the country to attend these classes whenever possible.
In 1993, she met and married Craig Carney, a pharmacist. He opened his own business in St. Cloud in 1996 and the couple lived at their cabin on Lake Alexander. Craig eventually tired of the daily drive and they moved into town where Carney got a job with both Gruber’s Quilt Shop and Associated Sewing. She taught classes at both for several years.
In 2006, the pharmacy was sold and the Carneys moved back to the lake.
“I got a job with Cherrywood Fabrics in Brainerd. It was a great job. I traveled around the country attending quilt shows, selling hand-dyed fabrics,” she said.
In 2009, Carney purchased a 12-foot, long arm sewing machine, made just for quilts. The quilt back, batting and top are stretched onto rollers that keep the material taut. The needle moves across the material, quilting the pieces together in a design of choice.
At that time, she quit her job at Cherrywood.
Carney now quilts for others full-time. She can do, on average, two or three a month.
“If they were all easy, I could do one a day,” she said. “But no one brings me easy ones. I have to spend time deciding on what design best enhances the look of the quilt.”
Carney said it’s important that the quilting does not overwhelm the design. Or vice versa. The two need to balance.
Carney also dyes her own cloth by taking a plain piece of fabric and manipulating it with different paints and dyes.
“I use a variety of instruments to get different designs,” she said. “I’ve used screens, clotheslines, sponges and credit cards that scrape the paint. I also use freezer paper to cover what I don’t want dyed, sprayed bleach, feathers, different brushes and shredded paper. I even used gutter protectors once.”
Carney will take a piece of cloth, stretch it onto a wooden frame and paint it with different colors or tones. When dried, she can cut out the pieces she wants.
The quilts she constructs are always filled with the finest batting. Some are cotton/polyester blends, while other are wool or silk blends. She also uses cotton.
Carney also designs quilts for others, but does more quilting than piecing tops. She also works with the quilters at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cushing to create quilts for those in need.
“I still piece quilts for myself,” she said. “But I haven’t got them on the machine as yet. I find it hard just to keep up with my customer’s quilts, let alone mine.”