Northwest NEWS

September 23, 2002


Beware, quilting fever has a hold in Woodinville

By Bronwyn Wilson
   Senior Staff Writer
   Anyone who enters Martingale and Company risks catching a bad case of quilting fever. I knew I was in danger of catching it after strolling through the front doors. In every direction I glanced, quilts warmly greeted me in the lobby, throughout the offices and hallways. With the popularity of comfort crafts like quilting continuing to grow since 9-11, I was curious about the Woodinville-based publishing house that specializes in quilting and craft books. I was invited to take a tour.
   According to president Nancy J. Martin, who co-founded the business with her husband Dan, people have sought comfort through calming art forms since the national tragedy a year ago. Historically, women have sought refuge in quilting during times of high stress as a way to cope and create significance. And many women-and men-have returned to quilting. As they do, they want the books that inspire ideas. Martingale has plenty with the majority of the company's books covering the A to Zs of quilting. Recently, however, the company expanded to other craft books. Says Martin, "We're also looking for books on other comfort types of crafts." Knitting, a craft that soothes the soul, has made a huge comeback since 9-11 and Martingale publishes a dozen knitting books each year.
   Viewing the quilts during the tour was enough to soothe my soul. They dazzled the walls, whether rectangle or free form, chintz or cotton batik, Turkey red or mustard yellow. Each made a statement of color. Some expressed soft pastels or earth tones, but many blazed in striking wild colors like a blinding yellow sunflower quilt and a delightful birdhouse quilt radiating hot orange and pink hues. Some sported fun themes such as the sewing implement quilt showing spools of thread and scissors in green squares. Others boggled the mind in a mesmerizing display of geometric designs. The Noah's Ark quilt told a Biblical story through a paper-pieced work of fabric cutouts, a design of the ark, rainbow, and a myriad of animals including pink flamingos and white polar bears. A magnificent patriotic quilt hung reverently in the entry. Holding history in its fabric, it contains the actual signatures of women members of Congress in a red, white and blue star design.
   Everyone, those in the editorial, sales and technical departments, were obviously delirious with quilting fever. Each spoke enthusiastically about quilts during my tour. And why not? Many have quilt projects of their own, each displaying their individual creations in their office. Some also teach quilting classes and a number of them have written their own quilting books. "Everyone here quilts. Or they become quilt collectors," says Martin. "It's really interesting to see their involvement."
   Nancy Martin's contagious joy of quilting has become a way of life for her staff. Quilts may not provide a cure to life's tough times, but their comfort helps. When a co-worker began chemotherapy, the employees offered their support by presenting her with a comforting quilt they had made. Life's good times—weddings, baby showers and other special events-also call for a quilt. When a Martingale employee reaches a 10th anniversary of service, he or she earns a special quilt made just for them. "Every employee who has been with our company for 10 years receives a 10 year anniversary quilt to commemorate that special day," Martin says, adding that she personally sews each quilt, customizing it to the employee's color and size preferences and intended use.
   In addition, the staff donates their quilting talents to help cancer patients outside the company. Says Martin, "The employees get together and make lap quilts for women in chemotherapy and donate the quilts to Stone Soup, [a ministry that provides quilts to patients at Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center]."
   She explains how her love of quilting began. "I've always been a sewer. I made my entire wardrobe all the way through college." Her enjoyment of sewing led to her interest in quilting when she resided in Oakland, New Jersey in 1976. Back then, her town planned to observe the bicentennial with a community quilt. Martin decided to participate in the town's project. "My first experience working on a quilt," she recalls. Later, she and Dan decided to blend his financial expertise with her creative sewing interests and start a business. "I felt there was a great opportunity for a craft area specializing in quilting," she states. After incorporating their company, the Martins moved to Woodinville. "There's a great crafts climate here. And, high quality crafts. I was quite impressed when I moved here."
   The couple sold crafts and fabrics out of their home at first, and then later moved their business to the Hollywood Schoolhouse. After teaching quilting classes, Martin realized that books could reach larger numbers of people. A former elementary teacher, she penned her first book 'Sew Easy Strip Quilting' in 1980. The book did well and Martin began to write more books to meet her readership's needs. About six years ago, the company moved to its present location on 144th Ave. NE where it currently publishes forty to sixty books per year, selling over 12 million books worldwide. Also, many of the company's authors are leaders in the quilt and craft industry.
   To date, Martin has written over 40 books with many noted as bestsellers. Her latest book 'Make Room for Christmas Quilts' showcases her exquisite handiwork and decorating skills through vivid color photos of her home, utilizing easy instructions on how to make the quilts illustrated in the photos. One chapter called, 'Potting Shed Fun' highlights the holiday décor in Martin's own potting shed. A photo of her sun-filled shed lights up the page with paper whites, a red farm table, and a green Adirondack chair draped with a 'Christmas Bulbs' quilt.
   "I use quilts intensively in my decorating throughout the house," she says. She coordinates the quilt's color and design with the colors in the room where the quilt will go. She likes working with pastels and lately has especially favored yellow. "It's a sunny, cheery anecdote to our gray days," she says. Her unique quilts have earned her worldwide recognition in major magazines. Plus they have taken her to countries around the globe where she's invited to teach classes on quilting. "Quilting is an American folk art," she says. "American fabrics and American teachers are wanted by quilting groups around the world."
   Quilts Inc., sponsor of the International Quilt Market and Festival, recognizes Martin's international influence on quilting and will honor her with their prestigious 2002 Silver Star Award at a dinner in Houston, November 2002. The honor, only given to a few others, acknowledges her artistry, enthusiasm, and promotion of quilting. President Karey Bresnahan notes the reason she was this year's chosen recipient, "She built a tiny pattern company into an outstanding publishing company. Because of Nancy, quilters everywhere gained access to affordable, detailed books on all aspects of quiltmaking, and interest in the art grew tremendously because of that widespread access."
   Martingale invites the community to tour their office gallery of quilts. For more information about one-hour tours or to reserve a space, call (425)483-3313.