Lorraine Torrence
Lorraine Torrence
Madison, WI

I have been a quilter and creative clothing maker since the early 1970 and now teach innovative quilting, clothing and design on the national circuit. After living 45 years in Seattle, my husband and I moved to Madison, WI in 2012 where he is happily retired and I am happily not retired! I invite you to visit my website at www.lorrainetorrence.com.


A little more about Lorraine . . .


How did you learn to sew?

My mother facilitated my learning to sew by encouraging me whenever I showed and interest. She sewed, but chose to have someone else teach me. She had a seamstress she know help me make my 8th grade graduation dress. She signed me up for Singer teenage sewing classes. I also learned a lot in 4-H. Of course, when I was in high school, home ec class was mandatory for girls and I learn there too. By 15, I was making most of my own clothes; in college I made money by sewing for others.


What other types of hobbies do you do?

I always drew and painted and was an art major in college. Of course, I did an enormous amount of drawing and painting then as a senior in college, I started doing more sculpture and was introduced to bronze casting. A few years later, I got an MFA in sculpture and did most pieces in cast bronze or welded steel. Now, after devoting all my creative energy to quilting and creative clothing, I don’t do those other things any more. Of course for me, this is my business, not a hobby.


What is your favorite storage tip for your creative supplies? fabric?

In my studio, I have open shelves with all much of my stash exposed. I like to be able to see it all and know what I have. I do have plenty more fabric in boxes and bins and I recommend going through it regularly so you are reminded of what you have. I also believe in getting rid of the things that no longer interest you to cut down on wasted space.


How did you get into teaching, writing books and drafting patterns?

In 1971, just after I got my MFA and had started making quilts, I had a booth selling quilts in the Pacific Northwest Arts and Crafts Fair. A Seattle Park Department Recreation Center Director came into my booth and asked me if I would teach a quilting class at her center. I agreed and taught the first class there in 1972. At the time the quilt revival had just barely begun and there were no quilt shops, classes, books or TV shows on quilting. I pretty much made it up as I want along, encouraging students to design their own.

Teaching grew from there and became my primary occupation. I didn’t write my first book until 25 years after that first class, thinking naively until then, that everything I knew was already in a book. In the late 90’s I realized that there were hardly any books that even contained a little bit of design principles and elements for quilters. That’s when I started writing.

As I became consumed by quilting, my garments started incorporation more and more of my quilting skills. In the early 90’s, I made a sample garment for a friend who had started a business selling her hand-dyed silk to quilters. After her first show she told me I could have sold “a million” patterns of the vest, if I had had one. I made a pattern for it and then realized that a pattern business with only one pattern didn’t make sense, so I published more. I was not trained in patternmaking so I usually just modified existing patterns to make them look the way I wanted. Ultimately, I hired a professional patternmaker/grader to perfect my prototype designs.


Are you the kind of quilter that plans everything out ahead of time? Or do you just dive in and start playing with fabrics?

I work both ways, depending on the technique I use. I do lots of sketching of ideas usually, though, especially when the designs require making patterns.


When you are in your creative mood, do you listen to music, watch TV or do you prefer a quiet spot? If it is music, what types do you listen to? If watching TV, what kinds of shows?

I listen to NPR a lot when I’m working. Sometimes I just like it quiet, though. I only do mindless handwork when I watch TV. Watching TV doesn’t work for me when I’m engaged in creative work. I don’t have a TV in the studio.


Do you have a favorite tool to help you succeed at your projects?

Aside from my sewing machine and serger, the rotary cutter has to be my all time favorite tool. The entire top of my 38″ x 60″ cutting table is a cutting mat. All that said, I have a seam ripper within arms reach anywhere in my house!


Anything else you’d like to share?

Yes. Discipline propels me to get started working. Once I’ve started, creativity, productivity and ideas come easily.

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