Member Spotlight: Rebecca Roach

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At the age of twenty-four, health issues kept Rebecca Roach at home. She suffered from gallbladder complications and often felt very ill. There were occasions when Roach couldn’t do much at all and relied on crafting shows on HGTV to quell her anxiety, pain, and nausea. During bedrest, Roach discovered complicated techniques, like Hawaiian appliqué, through watching Simply Quilts with Alex Anderson, and she felt particularly inspired because Anderson, like herself, was left-handed. When Roach was eleven, she’d taken quilting class during the summer, but quickly bored of templates, hand cutting, and thick, waxy thread. She only tolerated the class because the teacher allowed her students to jump on the trampoline in her backyard once they completed their projects. Roach never imagined picking up quilting again, but episodes of Simply Quilts were a revelation to Roach, a lifelong crafter who was faced with a new challenge.

Roach grew up in a crafting family in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Her aunt carried a bag of craft supplies: glue, felt, puff paint, and puff cleaners. She brought Rebecca along when she went to visit friends to craft, and amidst the group of adults was Roach working on her own small project while eating snacks. As young as she was, Roach learned crafting was a social hobby to carry with you even once you grew up. “My great grandmother and my great aunt were quilters,” says Roach. “In fact, I still have one of my great aunt’s fab polyester quilts from the early 1980s sitting on my couch.” When Roach started making her own quilts, Sharon Schamber’s videos and books were her foundation for learning technique. “ I’ve added my own twists to everything, but I always go back to her books,” says Roach. Currently, she relies on a combination of techniques based on Sharon Schamber’s Paperless Paper Piecing. Roach pieces with freezer paper and starch based glue. “It allows me to be precise without the need for rulers or even quarter-inch seam allowances.” Fittingly, Roach loves the puzzle of turning illustrations into tangible objects, and techniques like paperless piecing provide the freedom to piece any shape without fear. 

Austin, Texas has been home for Roach since college, and the city continues to be a vital source of her creativity. “ Austin is fun and quirky,” says Roach, “I think it helps that the city has such a robust art scene, with museums and art crawls and public works, that influences quilters from the area to incorporate techniques from different mediums—fabric dyeing, screen or block printing, painting, weaving, embroidery— into our designs.” In her work, Roach combines imagery from her Native American heritage with the clean lines from the modern era. “I’m constantly thinking about my mother and my grandmother,” says Roach.“Their style and aesthetic have deeply influenced my taste, and Austin has taught me to appreciate unlikely pairings.” If Roach discovers a new interest that regularly occupies her thoughts, she makes it into a quilt. It wasn’t a surprise then when she finished a Game of Thrones quilt during the last season of the show.

In 2012, Roach was inspired to start a blog. “It was a place to share my voice and my art,” says Roach, “but it took so much time and effort to properly maintain a blog that I lost hope.” Today, she mainly shares her work on Instagram; if she’s stuck on a quilt with a problem, she reaches out to her Instagram friends and followers to help guide her through. “ I love the online quilting community, but I’d also like to see more variation in the voices we hear from, especially considering individuals without resources or connections.” says Roach. “I know there is a rainbow of quilters and quilting enthusiasts, but the online world only seems to show a small slice of reality.” Roach considers herself a classic introvert, and the internet does help to bridge that gap, but she does attend a few meetings for her local chapter every year.  “I go because of the people. Quilters are the best! I always feel refreshed when I go see everyone and we’ve had incredible teachers come to Austin.” 

Photos by Rebecca Roach