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Farm woman creates and restores quilts

Hopes her handmade creations will become family heirlooms

Leeanne Omit feels that increasingly the younger generation is appreciating the value in old-time crafts such as quilting. “Handmade quilts can become heirloom gifts passed down from generation to generation,” she says.

Leeanne and her husband Ian and their two children, Kiera and Jayden, hobby farm near Asquith, west of Saskatoon. They have horses, chickens, dogs and ducks. They also have a large garden and grow much of their own food. “It’s important for us to know where our food comes from,” says Ian, who works as an electrician for Agrium.

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“I enjoy doing all the old farm housewife tasks such as gardening, preserving food, sewing, and taking care of our two children,” said Leeanne.

After their daughter was born in 2006, Leeanne returned to work as a special care aid for Home Care in Saskatoon. That was about the time she began quilting. She and a friend decided to make memory quilts of their daughters’ baby clothes. “Neither one of us knew how to quilt, but I had learned to sew from my mom and grandma. I fell in love with quilting,” Leeanne said.

The couple moved to their farm in 2008, and shortly thereafter their son was born. Leeanne returned to work with Home Care, but found the 45-minute commute not to her liking. “I also didn’t want our children growing up with someone else,” she says.

By this time Leeanne’s quilts were beginning to get noticed, and she decided to become a stay-at-home mom.

“I particularly love doing quilts and have made a lot for family members. Every new niece and nephew gets a quilt. Every newly married couple gets a quilt; also people who have impacted my life. It’s a way of saying thanks.”

She purchased a long-arm sewing machine and she and several friends began attending community craft shows, selling picture quilts, table runners, memory pillows and catch-all baskets. Last summer she and a friend started up a local town market. “That’s when I decided, OK, let’s get super serious about this. Since then it’s taken off to the point that some days my door’s getting banged down with people interested in projects.”

Leeanne also does some restoration work where people have old quilts they might have received as baby presents and want them fixed up. One she recently repaired was originally made in 1922. There was machine work as well as hand sewing involved to restore the item.

While she continues to attend several annual craft sales, Leeanne prefers doing custom work. “Everyone’s tastes are different. I like doing pieces that someone has specifically asked for with the colours they want.

“A quilt is such a personal item. I like to meet face to face with my clients, either at my home or at a quilt shop, to discuss colours, patterns and other details.”

Leeanne has a natural eye for combining colours that you might not think would work together. “In quilting, however, it works because there’s such a spectrum to blend them together.”

She says she’s learned to price her custom quilts to reflect the cost of fabric and her labour, preferring to use quality fabrics that will last. She has to include the cost of maintenance of her machine, needles, patterns and her time, and knows she has to manage her home-based enterprise as a business.

Leeanne has taken several quilting classes and enjoys teaching the craft, especially to the younger generation, having done some work with the home economics class in Asquith.

About 90 per cent of her business is done through social media and word of mouth. “I joined the world of Instagram and discovered there’s a huge world of quilters out there, so I’ve had orders from as far away as Australia, Germany, China and Britain.

While Leeanne grew up on an acreage, Ian did not, but they both appreciate the freedom and opportunities acreage life affords their family. “It’s a wonderful place for our children to grow up,” says Ian.

For more information, visit Leeanne’s website.

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