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Biggar, Saskatchewan Fabric Artist

“Things happen on the sewing machine, you know, things that make me feel like dancing when I’m done.”

Cindy Hoppe is a fabric artist — a term, she says, that leaves the field open to a whole lot of things. “I’m not a quilter because I equate quilting to careful, precise stitching, and the materials I work with are not conducive to precision piecing and stitching,” the Biggar, Saskatchewan farmwoman says. “I use recycled material and make them into wearables.”

The bulk of Cindy’s work is in recycled wool and silk fabrics. “I marry knitting with patchwork, and use thick threads to lay down the bulky seams which don’t behave like nice, neat cotton seams.”

The wearables she creates include jackets, vests, shawls and liturgical stoles. Her jackets are characterized by their knit sleeves, collars and bindings. “One reason I knit is because I don’t like zippers. They can break and when they do, the jacket is done. I like to hand finish my jackets with buttons. They can go on forever, as does the wool.”

One of Cindy’s specialties is pictorial jackets. Sometimes, she says, people have definite ideas about what they want. “A friend wanted a ponderosa pine in her backyard memorialized. I did it with patchwork and lots of machine stitching.”

Her designs tend to be abstracts with quilting accents. “I find that abstract-themed wearables are more versatile because they can be dressed up or down. You can wear one of my jackets with jeans, or pair it with a long black skirt and go to the opera.”

She likes the idea of having her art “walking out among the people rather than hidden away on a wall.”

Cindy’s Memory Jackets are also very popular. “I made one for a widow using her husband’s ties and his wool pants,” she says. “The logo from his golf cap went into the lining. All this was very meaningful to the wife. I have also used parts from men’s blazers including the pockets. It brings a lot of comfort to a woman to put her hands in her husband’s pockets.”

Cindy especially enjoys using her recycled materials to create Prairie landscapes. “I live in rolling bush, tree, rock and hill country near Biggar,” she says, “where you see old machinery aging in the landscape. I like to incorporate what I see in front of me in my fabric art. When I interpret Christian images and symbolism in my liturgical stoles, I incorporate things like a beached boat on a northern lake, or chokecherries instead of grapevines, or stalks of Prairie wheat.”

In 2008, Hoppe won a Merit Award at the Saskatchewan Crafts Council Dimensions Show, for her John Deere combine liturgical stole. The stole, which would be worn over an alb by a minister or a priest, has a picture of harvest on the back and a 1970s combine coming down a swathe.

“I created the field with elaborate machine embroidery,” Hoppe says. “Things happen on the sewing machine, you know, things that make me feel like dancing when I’m done.”

While much fabric art is created from images scanned into a computer, Cindy confesses to being “something of a Luddite when it comes to that. Besides,” she says, “I want to replicate what I see as faithfully as I can on my own. I want people to see the hand in the art.

“Because I work with piles of patchwork when I’m working on a scene, I generally get enough for two or three jackets. They are cousins to each other,” she says, “but you won’t see any identical jackets walking down the street. Each one of them is unique.”

Cindy Hoppe can be reached at [email protected]or phone (306) 948-2947.

Darlene Polachic writes from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

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