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I was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, lived briefly in upstate New York, then moved to New Jersey until my ninth birthday.  Seeing as I am American, this is not very unusual; one has to be from somewhere. But then my life took an interesting turn:  my dad was transferred to Brussels, Belgium, and my entire family gladly went.  We were told it was for 18 months to 3 years.  Well, 3 years turned into 10, and it was marvelous. After college, I went to Houston, TX, where my family had moved.  I was only going to stay a short while, not being “Texan,” but I met my husband, and here we are.  I am probably still not Texan, but one can’t be everything.  Houston is a great place to live, especially for a quilter.  The Houston Quilt Festival rolls around every year, and we are ready for it. Quilting is also a very popular pursuit here, so there are lots of great shops and the community of quilters is phenomenal.

Back to Brussels... Besides just the mere fortune of  living overseas for an extended time and traveling a lot, I was very, very lucky to be educated by Irish nuns for 4th through 8th grades. These wonderful women were so generous with all their gifts.  Yes, we had to read, write, and learn math and science, but we were also given the opportunities to sing, dance, sew, swim, travel, ski, and more.  My favorite was the hand sewing that we did every Tuesday afternoon.  All the girls from 4th through 8th grades gathered to hand sew, while the boys were taken elsewhere to do sports.  My only conflict in this class was that I couldn’t do everything at once. Each girl had to select ONE project!  I did usually end up finishing my sister’s project along with my own and anyone else’s... It was wonderful because it removed any fears I might have had about hand sewing.  I remember buying a needlepoint canvas at a little shop (I was about 10 or 11), and not having a clue how to fill it in.  I figured out how to do the continental stitch going from left to right, but then couldn’t figure out how to come back right to left, so I made up my own stitch.  I don’t think it could be called needlepoint, but the yarn was on the canvas.  Later I did learn the various needlepoint stitches and thought it amusing that I didn’t think to turn the canvas upside down to stitch the row in the reverse direction. 

My mom was also an incredible seamstress and teacher.  She was very patient with me as I sewed my own clothes all through high school.  My prevailing attitude was, “I can fix that later.”  As long as the garment held together and looked fine on the outside, I was satisfied.  My mother’s pieces were gorgeous inside and out!  She made curtains, coats, suits, just about everything.  She didn’t like hand sewing much, so I usually sewed her hems and buttons.  It’s funny how one gets the sewing gene from someone, but it isn’t necessarily expressed the same way.  I have since realized that my paternal grandmother liked and did lots of hand sewing, although she did not do machine sewing.  Oh, and for the record, I am very grateful to my mom and think of her whenever I am shaving 1/64th off a piece to make it as accurate as possible.  I did learn from experience that accuracy is better from the start. 

Hand sewing has always been a part of my life.  While my boys were small, I smocked little shirts and rompers for them.  I learned heirloom sewing techniques and made lovely dresses for my nieces and daughters of friends.  I stitched lots of counted thread samplers; I love the variety of stitches and the lovely piece one has when finished.  When I started quilting, I didn’t realize at first that it could also be a venue for hand embroidery.  I was trepidatious about trying hand applique, as so many people call it the “A” word.  What was I thinking?  I loved it immediately.  I wasn’t great at it, but it is hand sewing and quiet and centering.  I have never looked back, and I will never call it the “A” word, unless that is a good thing!

Once I became comfortable with hand applique, I realized it was a great stage for hand embroidery and all sorts of embellishment.  The bridge had been crossed.  Now a hand applique piece does not look finished to me unless it has some embellishment.  Would it be fair to warn you now?  Once you start this amazing process of applique, embroidery,  and embellishment, your world will change.  You will see it differently.  Beads and ribbons become a necessity, not an indulgence!

For the last 10 years, I have been teaching hand applique, hand embroidery, embellishment techniques, and color theory to quilters.  I love it all, and I want my students and you to, as well. 

I mentioned that I only have boys.  My husband and I have 6 boys, aged 19 to 29.  All fabulous.  All incredibly talented.  And all the pride of my life.

Thank you for taking an interest in me and reading this little piece. If you have any questions, please email me.  I will do my best to answer them.  Best of all, I hope I will have the pleasure of meeting you in person one day soon. I would love to know what brings you to this world of quilting.

Cynthia Williford






une belle amitie

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