The Art of Homemaking Exhibit

(Originally published in SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW #73.)


Every month, Rita Farro gets to write for SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW. She loves telling other people’s stories. The whole point of SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW magazine is, of course, to revel in this hobby we love . . . to inspire YOU to sew!

In this issue, Rita shares her own story, a remarkable exhibit, and a thoughtful look back at the homemakers who came before us.

Here’s the press release she sent in November 2019:


Homemaking: A mostly North American term to describe the creation and management of a home, especially as a pleasant place in which to live.

In 2002, Rita Farro turned her love of vintage bed linens into a book, Dress Your Dream Bed (Vintage Linen Inspirations for Today’s Elegant Bed). Rita is an avid collector of many things. Besides bed linens, she also loves (and collects) aprons, spooners, toast racks, embroidered linens, cookbooks, Singer Featherweight sewing machines, 7-Day-a-Week Dishtowels, napkin rings, quilts, cross-stitch samplers, and, well, you get the idea.

What began as a love of vintage bed linens became an obsession with homemaking arts. Through the end of January 2020, Farro will curate an exhibit of her personal collections at the beautiful library in Bettendorf, Iowa. She is calling her exhibit The Art of Homemaking. Her intention is to fill both floors of this stunning library building. Every showcase and/or blank wall space will be celebrating The Art of Homemaking.

Farro says, This exhibit is about what women have done, through generations, to make their home a welcoming haven for their family and friends. It’s about the love they put into setting the table or making the family beds. The traditions they create by using Grandma’s soup tureen on Christmas Eve or Aunt Rozella’s silver for Sunday dinners. Every homemaker hopes their personal family traditions will create lasting memories for their loved ones.

Homemaking is an art, and every woman has her own way of doing things. This exhibit features some ordinary and extraordinary handiwork of mostly anonymous homemakers.


So, you might be asking yourself, “how on earth did Rita come to own all those tubs full of vintage linens?”

To answer that question, she has to take you back to 1996.

Click HERE to read the full story at


Singer Featherweight

(Originally published March 2015 in SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW #15. Article written by Rita Farro.)


The Singer Featherweight is to sewing machines what a 1957 Chevy is to cars. Both mass-produced, both considered masterpieces of engineering for their time, and both became classics — coveted by collectors 50 years after their manufacture.

I knew the Featherweight was a highly prized vintage collectible. But I had no idea how relevant it was in today’s sewing world — until October 3, 2014, when I visited the Grout Museum in Waterloo, Iowa.

The Museum was hosting a quilt retreat to coincide with their annual quilt exhibit ( The 2015 exhibit was What’s In a Name: The Soul of a Quilt. I stumbled into a room of women — all sewing on Singer Featherweights. I felt like a time traveler . . . .

They looked like modern women. Their smartphones were sitting next to them . . . . But why were they all sewing on little antique black sewing machines? The Featherweight cult let me sew on one of their machines. The purr stayed with me. I did some casual research . . . I Googled it.

I also bought the book Featherweight 221: The Perfect Portable And Its Stitches Across History. According to the author, Nancy Johnson-Srebro, the Singer Model 221, the Featherweight, made its debut at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. ”The midst of the Depression was an odd and risky time to introduce a new, revolutionary model of anything….It should have flopped, but it didn’t. Singer’s Featherweight caught on, built its reputation, and the little marvel endured.” The Featherweight was in continuous production until 1964 and Singer produced over 3 million units.

The history was fascinating — but it didn’t explain why the Featherweight was still resonating with TODAY’S quilters. I called Robin Venter, the Exhibit Curator, at the Grout Museum, hoping she could explain it to me.

Robin was attending the retreat with Featherweight owners who call themselves the “Vintage Sisters.” Robin said, “It only weighs 11 pounds, so it’s the perfect portable. Quilters covet the impeccable straight stitch, and I love the sound it makes when I’m sewing . . . .”

With Ritaluck as my constant companion — one month after meeting the Vintage Sisters — I walked into an estate sale and saw a Featherweight, priced at $150. I screamed — “SOLD!!” But I was afraid to sew on it. I needed more information. Once again — TO THE internet!

The first website was: However, on the front page, it says that the website has been sold to April 1930’s Featherweight Shoppe. I called the number on that website and met Carmon and April Henry.

Ten years ago, April was a homemaker in Idaho who loved collecting vintage things from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, and finding a use for them in her home. Over time, she started selling her overflow on eBay. A Singer Featherweight soon found its way into April’s sewing room. She developed a niche selling attachments and accessories. Her husband was a mortician and after coming home from a long day at the funeral home, he would work well into the night, adjusting and cleaning Featherweight machines and attachments. Eventually, he quit his job so they could devote themselves to their internet business.

They realized there was a huge demand for education. Carmon started teaching, and at his all-day Featherweight Maintenance Course (, his students learn how to disassemble, oil, adjust, troubleshoot, etc.

They now operate a full-service Singer Featherweight Shop. April says, “It’s definitely a family business. When we find a Featherweight, Carmon spends 8-10 hours to clean and check everything. I sew the samples on every machine before it goes to its new owner, and our 11 year old daughter sews machine bed cushions. Our son, 15, is apprenticing with Carmon and loves it!”

April said, “Graham Forsdyke was the main Featherweight purveyor for over 15 years — his name will go down in history books as the one that made owning, collecting, and servicing the Singer Featherweight a hobby all its own. He retired in 2014 and sold his remaining parts inventory to us — as well as his domain name ( which has been the number one Singer Featherweight website for years. Graham felt our family was the perfect match to keep his purveying alive for future generations. We are very grateful and honored to be provided such a privilege. In the next few months we will be combining the two websites to build an exhaustive online Singer Featherweight Shop.”

During my internet research, I also met Nova Montgomery ( Nova is a quilt teacher/historian who is devoted to preserving and protecting Singer Featherweights. She sells a full line of parts and accessories, as well as beautifully serviced Featherweight machines.

Nova’s mission is to keep these little engineering marvels in working order for generations to come. She recently taught her highly acclaimed maintenance workshop ( at the International Quilt Market in Houston. It’s an intense six-hour PowerPoint Presentation with approximately 300 slides.

People from all over the world ship their Featherweights to Nova for servicing. She has also developed a number of unique products. Nova created her Sew Straight Guide specifically for the Featherweight (though it fits and works on most sewing machines).

Nova herself is an avid user and collector of Featherweights. She has a badged machine from the Century of Progress Chicago World’s Fair of 1934, and she is the proud owner of 13 other historic machines. Two of her machines get very active use. One lives on her farm in Arkansas, and the other is at her home in Texas.

So — 81 years since its introduction — why is the Singer Featherweight still such a relevant, successful sewing machine? Maybe because it makes a sturdy, perfect straight stitch — as good today as it was in 1933. Some quilters believe they can look at a quilt and know if it was stitched on a Featherweight.

The Featherweight also owes its unprecedented, continued popularity to the internet. Prior to the 1995 launch of eBay — finding a Featherweight in working condition was like looking for a unicorn. You could spend your life going to estate sales/garage sales/flea markets and NEVER see one. But, thanks to the internet — with a few clicks on a computer — anybody can find and buy a Featherweight.

Also, thanks to the internet — Featherweight parts and accessories are widely available on many reputable websites. The internet also provides a place for devoted owners from all over the world to share information. The Singer Featherweight Facebook Group ( page, started with 300 and now has nearly 5000 members.

Many Featherweight devotees are looking to the future and buying Featherweights for their grandchildren. It is the perfect little machine for a child to learn to sew on. My own Featherweight obsession could not have come at a better time because my Granddaughter is five years old, and she just started to sew.

Lilly’s first project on the Featherweight was a ragged edge flannel quilt. As I watched her sew the squares together, I wondered about the woman who bought our Featherweight when it was brand new. What did this sewing machine mean to her? Where did she live? What did she sew? Who did she love?

Because for me — sewing is love. Women who sew make things so they can give them away. And teaching a child to sew is a gift that will last a lifetime.

Mark Lipinski — Marching to the Beat of His Own Drummer!

(Originally posted October 11, 2015)


00Mark-upside-down-3Mark Lipinski lives his life with joyful exuberance.  His magazine, Quilter’s Home, became a runaway hit because it was unlike anything the quilt world had ever seen.  Quilting enthusiasts embraced his wild conversational style.  Every page made you feel like you were inside Mark’s head (where very little editing goes on).  He writes exactly like he talks and he revels in humor and unpredictability.  Swimming upstream is how he gains speed and strength.

Teaching a class in Chicago.

Teaching a class in Chicago.

After starting his working life as a social worker, Mark became a successful television producer — eventually producing Oprah and The View.  Although quilting started out strictly as a hobby — Mark was soon invited to teach and speak at the biggest quilting events in the country.  Not only did he became an accomplished quilter — he designed patterns, and created his own signature line of fabrics.  He wrote just about every word in his stunningly successful magazine, Quilters Home.   Labeled the “bad boy” of quilting  because of his candor, honesty, and unfiltered opinions — he was the most entertaining speaker to ever hit the quilting circuit.  By any measure, Mark Lipinski’s career in the quilting industry was a huge success.   Always listening to his own drummer — he was marching on the very top of the quilt world mountain.

Mark with his kidney donor, Mary Eichler taken just minutes before being wheeled into surgery.

Mark with his kidney donor, Mary Eichler
taken just minutes before being wheeled into surgery.

So here did he go?  What happened to Mark Lipinski?

Mark’s  “cupcakes”  (his term for his fans) were shocked and saddened when he quit Quilter’s Home in 2011.   We continued to follow him on Facebook and were sick with worry when he had his life-saving kidney transplant in 2013.  Mark couldn’t travel and he had to be very careful about crowds and people contact.  Although his recovery has had its ups and downs, Mark’s attitude is incredible and now — one year later — he looks healthy, his eyes are bright, he is burning with nervous energy.

After a three-year absence, Mark considered himself an outsider in the quilt industry. He simply moved on.  His weekly internet radio show, Creative Mojo, is a live two hour chat with guests from all over the world.  Mark discusses the actual process of inspiration and creativity with traditional artists, quilters, mixed-media artists, sewists, designers, crocheters, knitters, fiber-artists, etc.

The BIG question was — “When are you coming back to us, Mark?”  His answer might surprise you.

Mark with Rita Farro.

Mark with Rita Farro.

Mark has no interest in making another quilt-under-a-deadline.  He doesn’t want to crank something out to go with a new fabric line or magazine or book deadline.  In the last three years, he became troubled and disillusioned with the focus of his personal patchwork and stitching journey and that of the fiber and quilting industry, too.  “Everything, including my own work, became about FAST AND EASY.  Visit a bookstore or newsstand and look at the current book and/or magazine covers — they are all packed with the same words:  FAST, FASTER AND FASTEST . . . QUICK AND EASY.   In an effort to appeal to the internet mentality, patchwork and quilting has been dumbed down and this trend has all but eradicated our creative process.  When designing  for a book or magazine we are urged to keep it simple so the pattern pages don’t waste valuable real estate.  Is it any wonder we see Rail Fence or Square in a Square quilts in just about everything we buy? We have lost that soulful level of creativity and stitching and process and excellence that made quilts matter.”

One of Mark’s art journaling pieces.

One of Mark’s art journaling pieces.

Mark went on to say,  “I am getting rid of my fabric stash. I gave away over 1600 books and magazines to people who may actually need what I am not using. I am finally, after 20 years of quilting, going to make a quilt that matters, an important quilt, just one quilt that will mean something and  be reflective of my life and the time in which I lived. There won’t be a deadline, and I plan to drown in my individual creative process, new techniques, and excellence in execution.  Maybe I’ll add some appliqué, some words or text, and definitely embellishment. I’m going to take my time with it, buy the very best fabric and notions I can afford from my local shops first (called ”ethical buying”), lay out a pattern and carefully choose the colors, designs, and techniques that will tell my story. It will be my legacy quilt.  Don’t we quilters deserve to make just one ‘important’ quilt in our lifetime? A legacy quilt that will say who we were, what our lives were like, and celebrate the original, creative art we leave behind . . .?”

On the QNNtv set.

On the QNNtv set.

Mark went on to say that while speed should probably never be the point of any art or creative endeavor, he still thinks there is a need for “fast and easy” patterns and projects.  But this time, he wants to take it slow, live and create in the moment, perfect his skill, and appreciate the process of making an excellent quilt.  He referred to his new way of thinking as “The Slow Stitching Movement.”   You might think of it as the difference between fast-food eating and a fine dining experience.  There is a time and place for everything — but you should ask yourself which one will you remember ten years from now?  The Big Mac and fries from McDonald’s?  Or the perfectly cooked fillet mignon and delicate chocolate soufflé from Morton’s Steak House?

The “Slow Movement” is not new.  The Slow Food Movement was created by Carlo Petrini in Rome in the mid 1980’s.  Journalist, Carl Honoré, wrote his international best seller, In Praise of Slow:  How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed, in the early 2000’s in which he suggests the concept of “slow” can be applied to everyday life.   It was over a regular lunch meeting several years ago with close friends, Liza Prior Lucy and Meg Cox, that Liza brought up the “slow” issue and how she thought it might relate to patchwork.  She urged Mark to develop the idea and run with it. He has.

Mark says, “First of all, Slow Stitching does not mean hand stitching.  Slow Stitching does not mean turning down the speed regulator on your sewing machine.  It means you should take your time and pay attention to the process of your art, allow yourself the space to make something that matters, on a deeper level than just having a finished project.”

Mark with Eleanor Burns on her Quilt in a Day webinar.

Mark with Eleanor Burns on her Quilt in a Day webinar.

Why?” he continues, “Because your creative time matters. Because what you do and how you create matters.   Because what you learn about yourself and your place in the world by being alone with your thoughts while you create, and reflecting on the life experiences that have formed you, and are continually ‘re-forming’ you into who you are, while you create matters.
YOU matter.”

“I’m simply urging quilters, and needle-pointers, embroiderers and rug hookers, tatters and crocheters, knitters, long-armers, apparel sewists, and all fiber artists to ‘create in the moment, to organize your workspace and your projects consciously, and stitch with focus and intention.  Make your work and creative process benefit you on both internal and external levels.  Don’t just sew or stitch or knit or embroider, but put your whole heart and attention into it, for the benefits of personal growth and increased creativity.  Build a community of like-minded slow-stitchers around you.   Buy the very best quality of supplies you can afford and create while celebrating the process – not necessarily the result.”  

“If you take your time to choose and study new techniques, pattern, design, color and textures you want in your quilt or stitching project — then work toward excellence as a long term goal, through your focus and commitment to your art and to yourself, there will be rewards beyond just having the completed project at hand.  If you invest and practice the process of The Slow Stitching Movement —  intentional,  focused, and soulful work — you may reap the health, emotional, financial and spiritual benefits that have become limited at best, or eliminated altogether by the rushing through and/or the dumbing down of your creative process.  The point of slow stitching is more than just quality versus quantity.  It’s about leaving behind work that actually means something, not just a piece of fabric and stitches.”

Visit The Slow Stitching Movement website at

Rita Farro – Our Favorite Wordsmith

Rita Farro,
Madeira Beach, Florida.

Just three miles from the Mississippi River, in the Iowa cornfields, you’ll find Rita Farro at home. If it’s Monday, there are sheets drying on a clothesline after being laundered in a hand painted washer & dryer (doesn’t everyone embellish home appliances?), enticing chocolate peanut butter cake baking in the oven, and Grandma Camp activities in progress. Mix in a laptop and a cell phone, Rita rocks my sewing world with heart and enthusiasm sprinkled with sarcasm.

Who is Rita Farro? If you have been reading SCHMETZ Inspired to Sew since issue #1, then you have read Rita’s writing. Rita interviews the feature talent each month. Her mission is to tell their sewing stories in writing for publication. With countless classes from the Des Moines Writers’ Workshop, Rita has honed her craft. Rita is a writer.

Rita and our own Rhonda Pierce met over 10 years ago in Las Vegas at the Vacuum and Sewing Dealers Trade Association (VDTA) wholesale show. They exchanged pleasantries. Rhona was a bit intimidated by Rita’s confidence and boldness. They have mutual industry friends. Their paths crossed at the now defunct American Sewing Expo in Novi, MI. As a vendor, Rhonda was interacting with Rita, public relations director for the show. Again, their paths crossed with Rita as publicity director for the Sewing & Stitchery Expo in Puyallup, WA.

Funny, Rhonda doesn’t remember the exact date that she called Rita asking if she would like to come on board as an advisor for product placement and marketing, although Rhonda is certain she could document the conversation in one of her work journals. That was 10 years ago, and their brainstorming and conversations now are just as spirited and insightful as our first.

Click HERE to read the full story at


Inspired to SEW, Five Years in Review

Inspired to SEW, Five Years in Review CoverIt’s true . . . time flies when you’re having fun.

When SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW was first created in 2014, we committed to a year. After the first twelve monthly issues, how could we stop? Readership and shares are strong. More importantly, we see stories to be told. SITS is not about techniques and how-to’s. Instead, we focus on the creative spirits contributing to our sewing and quilting community. We are surrounded by compelling stories revolving around the love of sewing. Our list for future interviews and features is so long, we will never publish everyone or every topic.

Issue #60 was a celebration of five years. We created an index so you can review sewing stars and discover new talent. SITS is a collaboration between friends and colleagues, Rhonda Pierce, Rita Farro and Paul Ragas. We enjoy shining light on the talent and stories that make our community great. We hope time flies as you are Inspired to SEW!

Click HERE to view and read 5+ years of SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW!