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Vickie Tobin
By Rita Vainius

Stocking Detail - from Vickie's first Crazy Quilt Project

Vickie Tobin describes herself growing up, "I was - pure and simple - a 'Navy Brat. 'Born in Norfolk, VA on a snowy March day, I lived there for only a few weeks before starting my life of travel." Following Vickie's father's assignments in the Navy, the family moved from base to base for most of her childhood. When she was a teenager, they finally settled down in the San Francisco Bay area. There, her father retired from the Navy and started his second career - as a banker. Vickie's mother followed the traditional path of homemaker, supplemented by being a Brownie and Girl Scout Leader for many years.

Mardi Gras Block

As a child, biology, animals and medicine absorbed Vickie. She adds, "Naturally, this led to a strong desire to become a Veterinarian - a path I pursued for many years. But marriage and motherhood somehow intervened and I never did add that D.M.V. behind my name. But the animals - well, I kept them. I have owned horses, dogs, turtles, cats, parrots, lovebirds, doves, parakeets, pigeons, chickens, ducks, geese, fish, hamsters, guinea pigs - you name it - over the years. And I did work in a Veterinary Hospital for a couple of years, as a lab technician."

Palestrina Stitch using 3 plies of Watercolours

Vickie has also always harbored a fascination for textiles and fibers. Where this originated, she doesn't really know. Vickie elaborates, "I was compelled to work with my hands. Even when I was very, very young, I wanted to work with very tactile materials... I just wonder why it took me so long to realize that stitching was what I wanted to do in life." She continues, "My grandmother made a few Sunbonnet Sue type quilts, but I did not live near her in my youth, so I can't claim that she taught me. My mother sewed clothing, primarily from necessity. She tried embroidery but had no patience for it."

Herringbone Stitch using one ply of Watercolours

Vickie has experimented with many different types of fiber art. She reminisces about these pursuits, "When I was about 8, I 'embroidered' a pillowcase. Although it would probably have some sentimental value for me today, it has mercifully been lost along my journey! In my 20s, I tried knitting and crocheting, and was terrible at both! But I still wanted to work with my hands to create something. A chance encounter led me to weaving - a craft which I pursued for many years and still love."


Vickie began weaving because she had purchased a horse and needed a horse blanket. None available commercially were exactly right. In looking around for the perfect one, Vickie encountered a woman who wove her own blankets and she became interested in the process. She was referred to an elderly teacher who might be willing to accept a new student, "I met with Rosie, she accepted me and I was on my way!" Rosie was already approaching her late 90s when she took Vickie on. Vickie then spent nearly two years absorbing everything Rosie could find the strength to show her. Rosie had been weaving from early childhood and loved every kind of fiber, weave, loom, and occasionally, even people. Vickie was entranced with the stories Rosie recounted to her about her life on the outback, in Australia, during the 1800s, while she sent the shuttle back and forth on her loom. Vickie adds, "I still enjoy weaving and occasionally indulge myself. The entry to my house is two stories high and on one wall is a HUGE backstrap loom made just for that space from mahogany. I keep a partially woven carpet on it, art in progress, you could say From time to time, I will add a few more inches. I also have smaller 4 harness looms and even a bead loom." She concludes, "But I suppose that I should confess that I never did make that horse blanket!"

The Rich and Ritzy Block

From her first pillowcase, Vickie knew that she loved stitching, even though that first project was far from perfect. Several years ago, she decided to make a traditional quilt. She explains, "I thought that hand quilting would be a good way to try my hand at stitching again. After making about 10 quilts (mostly bed sized) in my first two years, I spotted a "crazy" quilt. At the time, I was feeling that I needed more room for creativity than the rather rigid designs of traditional quilting allowed. Crazy Quilting was the perfect blend of everything I had sampled in the past! And it was irresistibly beautiful. I had to try it." Vickie's first crazy quilting project was the stocking she now uses as her logo and trademark for the Pepperell Pepper Patch (both a "brick and mortar" and online store.) Vickie adds, "Color, texture, innovation, beautiful fabrics, glorious threads, beads, charms, buttons, feathers, bits of lace - everything combined to make one wondrous package. How could I resist? I was hooked from the beginning."

Heart using Palestrina Stitch

Vickie has been absorbed in crazy quilting for about 5 years. She is inspired in her design ideas everywhere - in nature, technology, everyday living. She explains, "I often cannot sleep because so many ideas are thrashing around in my head. I hope I can live long enough to get at least a small percentage of them out of my head and into reality." Vickie describes her artistic style, "As a crazy quilter, I am often referred to as an 'encruster,' which means that I can get carried away! And I love to use 'unusual' materials, so you will find bits of leather, feathers, rocks, twigs, and a plethora of other things in my work."


In the beginning, Vickie was less willing to experiment with unusual materials and combinations of things. But now, she says, "Anything goes. I would use a plastic bag in my work if it were the right color and texture!" Nature is an endless source of inspiration, "My home is in the middle of a forest and we are surrounded by wonderful plants and 'critters' of all types. Just looking out my window on a snowy morning can be an inspiration for another project." She is a big fan of the Caron threads, remarking, "Now, I would find it difficult to work without them. The variety of colors and textures is unbeatable." She also enjoys painting and dyeing her own fabrics, threads and ribbons.

Feather Stitch using Emerald Wildflowers

Vickie's work is always on exhibit in her retail shop, the Pepperell Pepper Patch. It is also
exhibited on the shop website and she sells kits that feature her work. Vickie also accepts commissioned work. Her pieces have been displayed at quilt shows throughout New England. Vickie is also a dedicated instructor, teaching at the shop, quilting guilds and for other groups on request.

The Feather Stitch Seaweed takes full advantage of Wildflowers thread

Vickie Tobin currently writes a regular column, called Ask Vickie, where she provides words of advice and encouragement to the crazy quilter. Ask Vickie appears in the premier issue Quilting Arts and will be a staple in all subsequent issues. If you have a quilting related question, drop her a note at Quilting Arts Magazine, P.O. Box 685, Stow, MA. 01775 or send an e-mail to her at vickie@quiltingarts.com

Little Dragon stitched with Soie Cristale

Additionally, Vickie is the founder of CRONES (Crazy Royalty of New England Stitchers), a group that grew from a handful of crazy quilting enthusiasts to a membership of nearly 50, over the last 18 months. Vickie explains, "The CRONES are a wonderful group of friends who meet at my shop every other month to share a pot luck lunch, enjoy a show-and-tell of member's work and have a good time. It is my great pleasure to know these wonderful stitchers." Vickie has firm plans to host a Crazy Quilt Conference in October 2002, in New England.

Collage of Vickie's Kits

In conclusion, Vickie shares her philosophy about life in general, "I just try to be a good human being. That's all. I view life as a glorious ride -- one I am everlastingly thankful to be able to experience."

Vickie Tobin
Pepperell Pepper Patch Works
152 Main Street, P.O. Box 345, Pepperell MA 01463
978-433-3377 Toll free: 888-597-7771


Image desriptions:

Mardi Gras Block: When Vickie created this colorful crazy quilt block, she was attempting to capture a special moment in time ­ "just AFTER the party is over." The floor is littered with
discarded streamers, doubloons and dropped throw beads. There is no one left on the balcony, although the chandelier is still lit and the room retains the golden glow. The king's crown has been abandoned or lost and sits in the garden under a rose bush. The last joyful bursts of fireworks are raining down over the town.

The Rich and Ritzy Block was created as a result of a Pepperell Pepper Patch contest last year. At midnight on the evening of December 31, 1999, Vickie drew this theme from the hat and accepted the challenge to create a black and gold block to be released as the March, 2000 PPPatch Embellishment Kit of the Month. In keeping with the theme, she used an abundance of silk and metallic threads in the block's embellishment. Soie Cristale was her first choice in silk.

The Cacti were created using Watercolours threads in a combination of overlapping Fly Stitches and Stem Stitches. The scruffy looking bushes in the gulch are Straight Stitches, loosely laid on the work and couched down using Watercolours.

Heart - Palestrina Stitch using 3 plies of Watercolours, which Vickie feels are perfectly suited to this beautiful stitch. The Heart was was stitched by Danell LeBlanc.

This Tree was created from a single stitch, the Feather Stitch, heavily overlapped on the trunk. Threads used included single and double plies of Watercolours combined in the same needle with Pearl 8 cotton or Wildflowers. The branches are made from Wildflowers thread.


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