A new HCAM-TV series called “Sew Many Possibilities” is showing viewers how fun and creative quilting can be.
Program host, Marathon Quilters Guild president and longtime Hopkinton resident Nancy Burdick shares what’s going on in the local fiber arts scene and provides some “How I did this” tips with the hope of inspiring people to try a new project.
“I’m absolutely not a teacher,” Burdick insisted. “I am just a maker. It’s just like, ‘Here’s something cool that I tried, maybe you’ll give it a shot’ type of thing.”
Said HCAM production coordinator Ashley Simmons: “[Burdick] makes such cool things, and she really makes it seem so easy. Whenever I do the show I’m always ready to go home and try it too!
“I have to say, I went into the show thinking, ‘Oh, it’s just about quilting,’ and I didn’t realize how interesting, how intricate and amazing it really is.”
Burdick has been practicing her craft for 15 years, experimenting with unexpected materials and offbeat ideas — such as making sacks out of chip bags.
“You just take vinyl sticky stuff and iron it on the chip bag, and you can then sew on top of it just as if it were fabric,” Burdick said. “It’s such a novelty — I’ve made Tootsie Roll purses, Fritos, Hershey Kisses, and I love it, because it’s trash, but it’s cool!”
She recounted making a zipper pouch for her brother out of a burnt pretzel bag (his favorite snack), which he proudly uses to carry his cigars. “That’s what brings me joy — when I come up with something that’s really exciting to me, and then somebody else admires it or values it,” Burdick mused.
She also likes to personalize by incorporating items with memories attached. “It’s a way to preserve and enjoy things you don’t want to throw away but didn’t really have use for,” she explained. For instance, the show’s third episode, airing in April, features a how-to segment on making T-shirt quilts — a great idea for end-of-school-year and graduation gifts.
“The best part is that it’s something that was so sentimental, you don’t want to get rid of it …but if you don’t do anything with it, it just sits there,” she said of the T-shirts. “They’re important. They mark achievements, milestones or periods in one’s life, and you want to keep them, but you don’t know how to display them.
“And that’s what these blankets are, they’re basically like yearbooks — photo albums of kids growing up, or the building of a business, or the end of an athletic career.”
Burdick — whose work can be viewed on Instagram at BuildItBehindYourEyes — noted one of the great things about quilting is that it doesn’t require a lot of special equipment to get started.
“I don’t want anyone to feel like, ‘Oh, I couldn’t try that because I don’t have the stuff,” she said. “You can use any old fabric you want just to start, and any machine you can get your hands on should be a good way to begin.
“I think a lot of people, myself included, are concerned that they would need to amass a huge number of things, and if they spend the money for it and it’s hard, they might not continue with it, and the money would be wasted.”
She hopes the show will help alleviate this and some other common concerns she sees holding back people from their creative endeavors, such as the fear of making mistakes or wasting materials.
“Another hesitancy … is because once you cut fabric, you can’t uncut it. So, measurement is important; but the fear that you’ll waste or lose something that you bought because you didn’t plan right is sort of a stop sign for people.”
Others, she said, can end up with a stash of treasured fabrics because they don’t want to let it go. “People will think, ‘I love that, and I don’t know what to use it on.’ But you know what, there will be more beautiful fabrics in the future, so use it now, enjoy it now.”
Burdick speaks from experience in overcoming such self-imposed creative barriers.
“One time during COVID, I said to myself, ‘You keep stopping yourself from trying; why don’t you just do something like Why Not Wednesday, even for just an hour … and at the end of the hour, if you don’t like what you did, you don’t have to do it again, but you at least got it out of your system’,” she recalled, then added, “I was a psychologist in a previous life! It’s just giving yourself permission to invest time or money into something on a very small scale.”
She quoted the quilting mantra, “Done is better than perfect,” and said her goal for the HCAM show isn’t to be perfect but just to share something she’s tried and encourage others to try it, too. She also appreciates that imperfections are what make the end products special.
“These T-shirts have been worn, they’re not perfect, they’re not pristine,” Burdick said. “But you say, ‘I remember when I got that shirt’ or, ‘I remember when we were at a party, and that’s not actually my shirt, it’s my friend’s shirt that I never gave back’ — you know, they have a story, and that’s the point of it.”
“Sew Many Possibilities” can be seen on HCAM or HCAM’s YouTube channel.