When you think of quilts, you might think of colorful handiwork from the 1700s – simple squares and diamond shapes sewn together in interesting patterns – but nothing could be farther from today’s reality. Just spend a few minutes with award-winning quilter Heidi August of Lynnfield, and you will learn why she’s one of the “scrappiest” quilters out there.
August considers herself an artist, and each quilt she creates a work of art. Her quilt that won the Judge’s Award last year at the prestigious Vermont Quilt Festival was composed of 70 10-inch squares, each of which consisted of 37 individual pieces of material – a labor of love for August totaling a staggering 2,590 individual pieces of fabric. Most of her quilts feature novelty fabrics, with funky, or quirky patterns, reflecting August’s own offbeat style.
When she’s not seeking out the closest fabric store – a favorite travel activity – she spends hours on the Internet scouring websites for so-called fabric scraps.
“Many shopkeepers will get rid of their scraps by mixing them together in plastic bags, and selling them for just a few bucks,” says August. “These can provide all kinds of inspiration for future projects.”
It’s a far cry from August’s day job. Having trained as a CPA, she is now a production accountant and supervisor on local television and movie projects, working alongside such celebrities as Steve Carell (“The Way, Way Back”), Woody Allen and Bette Midler (“Scenes from a Mall”), and Macaulay Culkin (“The Good Son”).
August was living in New York City in the 1980s. She credited Woody Allen’s producer for her big break into the Hollywood movie scene.
Still based in the Big Apple, she ultimately made her move to Boston in 1995 when she tired of maintaining a commuter marriage with her husband, Lew Freedman, and decided to start a family. August and Freedman are longtime members of Temple Tifereth Israel in Peabody.
As she raised her son Ian, now 22, August put her sewing on the back burner, still accepting local accounting positions on movie and TV projects. Sensing something missing in her life five years ago, she began to investigate quilting and slowly became involved in the quilting community.
Meeting in old-fashioned “sewing circles,” August would travel the quilting circuit, learning as much as she could at every opportunity and meeting a great group of women along the way. Their “show-and-tell” sessions and warm advice eventually helped August hone her quilting skills to compete at the elite, award-winning level.
At many quilting shows, it’s difficult to be accepted, let alone win. But now, August feels she can challenge herself by entering the most difficult and prestigious shows around.
These days, August divides her time between work on a local television documentary and her quilting, which usually absorbs about 20 hours of her week. Her recent projects have included a golf quilt for her husband, a Tuft University “Jumbos” quilt for a current student, and a Chanukah quilt that’s been in the works for a while.
August’s quilting “bucket list” has become so long, in fact, that she’s worried she’ll never get a chance to see all her visions through to fruition.
“I never had a medium for expressing my art. “Now I have so many ideas, it’s like the agony and the ecstasy,” she jokes. “I have to get it all done before I die!”