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Sewing Passion Leads To Book Deal



WHEELING - As a child, Sandi Blackwell of Wheeling would take pieces of material and sew clothes for her Barbie dolls - little did she know her lifelong passion for sewing, and eventually quilting, would evolve into her signing a book deal with a national publisher and offer her a chance to sail the Caribbean on a cruise ship.

"I always felt sewing would be part of my life," said Blackwell, whose first book, titled "Square-agonals; A New Angle on Quilting," is being published in September by Landauer Publishing Co. of Urbandale, Iowa. The book is based on her quilting technique that is now gaining her national attention - and landing her a chance to teach her unique quilting method during an eight-day Caribbean cruise scheduled for early next year with Carnival Cruise lines.

"The book itself is based on a new technique, which I call 'Square-agonals,' which I did have trademarked," Blackwell said while sitting in her home surrounded by an assortment of colorful quilts.

She said the quilting method is based on a branch of mathematics called disection - a technique she said is obviously not new in the math world but is new when applied to the world of quilting. Blackwell said her work on her book has been more than a year in the making.

Along with the book deal, Blackwell said she has designed a masking tape that serves as a cutting guide for quilters. She said the tape, which is currently being manufactured, has the potential for major distribution.

"It's surprising how one thing leads to another," she added.

Blackwell, who is a West Virginia Artisan and has her work displayed around the state in places like Tamarack, Stone Wall Jackson Resort and the Wheeling Artisan Center, said she was interested in sewing for as long as she can remember. She said she began sewing smaller things when she was a child, and by the time she was a teenager she bought her first sewing machine. Blackwell said as a young woman, she even sewed her own wedding dress.

"I just got real interested in sewing," she added.

"When my kids (Jonathan and Jessica) were small, I decided now is the time to start making quilts out of their clothing," Blackwell said.

She said it was at that time in her life that she began teaching herself to quilt, obtaining information from magazines and books.

"I just kept making things and giving them away as gifts," she said. "People started asking me, 'Could you make me that?' or 'Why don't you do craft shows?'"

Blackwell said it was around that time that things really began to take off for her. She made contacts with other artisans around the state and began teaching at a quilt shop on GC&P Road in Wheeling. She also gave demonstrations at local schools and for Girl Scouts.

Blackwell said she first started quilting in 1992 and since has received more than 50 ribbons for her work. It was in 1996 that she began her own quilt business, named "Stitched Buy."

Blackwell organized a local group of about 20 women quilters about seven or eight years ago that she calls the "BOM Squad." BOM stands for Block of the Month, and she said this group of women has been extremely supportive of her work. She said the group gets together once or twice a month to learn more about quilting and to socialize. It is sort of like a "quilting bee" she said.

Blackwell said many members of this group helped her make 14 different quilts from her Square-agonals designs in only about six weeks to make the deadline for her book.

"So they are my quilt angels from the BOM Squad. ... If it wasn't for these ladies, I wouldn't have made my deadline." she added.

It wasn't until later in life that Blackwell found out both of her grandmothers were very skilled at sewing and quilting. She said one of them even made aprons and other items that she sold to workers at Bloch Brothers Mail Pouch in Wheeling.

"When my kids were in grade school and high school, I was a very hands-on mom, very active in whatever activities they were doing," Blackwell said.

But now that they are grown and through college, she said she has a lot more time to dedicate to quilting and writing more sequels to her soon-to-be-published book.

She said her desire now is to be recognized as a famous quilter and hopefully give lectures, provide demonstrations and do book-signings. Quilt Magazine has published several of her quilts and patterns, and her work has also been featured on the cover of Miniature Quilts Magazine.

"You have to put yourself out there. ... You have to be willing to be rejected," Blackwell offered as advice. "It's like anything else, you have to be passionate about it. ... You have to devote time to it. You have to say to yourself, 'I'm going to do it,' and you have to believe in yourself," she added.

Blackwell said along with Jack, her "very supportive" husband of 36 years, several of her friends have already committed to attend her quilting cruise to the Caribbean next year.

For more information on Blackwell's book or business, call 304-281-6458 or visit www.stitchedbuy@AOL.com.