Strip Poker is Just One Way to Radicalize the Womanly Arts

Angie Lamoree’s quilt mission is on the cutting edge. Photo by Matt Rose

Angie Lamoree, a long-time member of Asheville Quilt Guild, holds first-place awards in local and national quilting competitions. “I learned to crochet at 7, started cross-stitching at 10, and I haven’t stopped yet,” she says. Now Lamoree is co-owner, with her husband D.j., of user-friendly 5 Little Monkeys Quilt & Sew (named for the number of offspring she and D.j. share via a Brady Bunch-esque union, including one of their own). Being laid off from a real-estate job when the recession hit in 2008 pushed Lamoree closer toward a lifelong dream; her fabric shop/instruction venue has been open just over a year.

Beyond handwork, the maker uses a 12-foot-long, vaguely steampunk-looking contraption called a long-arm sewing machine to complete commission projects. “It can sew all day, every day,” she says. Because when the once-called “womanly arts” become acts of social justice, stamina is key.

The DIY movement is a crucial part of the design.

What fuels your love of quilting?
It kept me sane with two toddlers and a newborn. I’d scrapbooked a lot, but the quilting store replaced the scrapbook store as my preferred hangout. After taking a quilting class, I got a cheap sewing machine and started sewing when I lived in Nevada.

Your model is tied to the DIY movement’s empowering message.
There’s evidence that humans have quilted for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptian tomb art indicates a quilting tradition, but since it was done by women, the work was less valued than art created by men.

But quilting can be intimidating to the uninitiated …
We host fun events aimed at minimizing this. Our bimonthly “Strip Poker” nights are a big time — folks bring leftover 2.5-inch fabric strip “cards,” or buy some from us. There’s a pot, and whoever wins goes home with the strips and makes a quilt top for charity. I finish the quilt, which we donate. To fight the stereotype that quilting’s strictly “women’s work,” D.j.’s starting a men’s group, Do You Even Sew, Bro? We meet people where they are — I love the teaching part, the creating part, and we seek to be a community meeting place too, like Cheers but for quilters.

You have great passion around supporting community organizations.
We love giving back. Every third Thursday, we have a charity sewing event. We’ve donated to Project Linus, Quilts of Valor, made Brother Wolf dog beds, and veterans from the VA came out and sewed weighted blankets for PTSD sufferers with us.

Can quilting be subversive?
Yes! During the Civil War, a “quilt code” was developed to secretly communicate information about the Underground Railroad. Today there’s a traveling quilt exhibition called “Threads of Resistance,” which is a response to the current social struggles the U.S. is dealing with. On the local level, we have a steady customer, a man, who comes all the way from Waynesville. He bypasses the closer shops because he doesn’t feel “weird” as a male quilter here. That, to me, is progress.

5 Little Monkeys Quilt & Sew, 32 North Main St., Weaverville. A “Christmas in July” event happens Saturday, July 28. For more information about classes and events, call 828-484-7200 or see fivemonkeyquilts.com.

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