interview, quilt, quilt shop, Superior Threads, thread

An Interview with: Tracy Lee of Sew Thankful

At Fall Market while looking for another quilter I met Tracy Lee, owner of Sew Thankful. We had a bit of a mutual admiration society with each other. We’ve both been following each other for a long time. And quilters she’s someone I’d always wanted to meet. How I came to know Tracy’s business, Sew Thankful, I don’t remember, what I do know though is their customer service and the products they carry. When in the middle of working on @play a particular color of Superior Thread was having something of a hissy, Tracy made sure the spool was replaced, and quickly.
Following her biking adventures is fascinating as she lives in the mountains of New Mexico, which are higher elevations than this City dweller is accustomed. Please enjoy the interview.

Teri: What bike do you ride?

Tracy Lee: LOL…this is sort of like which sewing machine do you use for those of us that have multiple sewing machines!

I have 3 different bikes that I continue to ride regularly, but they all do different things. So, my answer is…I choose my bike based on what kind of ride I’m planning to do.

  • If I’m planning to do a long, speed/time dependent ride on good road surfaces, I will generally choose my Trek Madone carbon fiber racing bike — though I do not race.
  • If I’m planning to do bicycle touring (like my trip through Oregon in 2015) or if I’m commuting to my other job, I will choose my Surly Disc Trucker because I’m able to carry a change of clothing and other items with me.
  • If I’m riding dirt trails along the river or through the  mountains or if I want to ride the sandy arroyos, I choose my Surly Pugsley FAT tire bike because she can handle all that and more.

My current FAVORITE bike is my FAT TIRE baby. She’s so much fun.

Teri: What is your longest ride?

Tracy Chapman: My longest ride in a single day was about 105 miles. I’ve ridden a few century rides (100 miles or more in a single day). I have done these rides on my Trek Madone.

My longest ride over the course of an event was a Women’s Only Introduction to Self-Contained Touring Ride in Oregon in 2015, which included about 200 miles of riding over 5 days in which we camped and carried all of our own food, clothing, tents/gear and cooking equipment. We climbed mountain passes (riding next to logging trucks on many occasions), pedaled along the coast, camped on the beach and in the woods.  It was an incredible, life-changing experience. This ride was done on the Surly Disc Trucker.

Teri: Do you have any tips for riding at higher altitude?

Tracy Chapman: Yes, if you are not accustomed to higher altitude, allow yourself at least one at the higher altitude before attempting to ride to help acclimate. Be sure to drink water before you need it and take breaks before you get tired. If you start to feel sick, STOP.

Teri: When did you begin quilting?

Tracy: I began quilting when I was 11. I had broken my arm in a fall from my horse and that required 2 surgeries to fix. So I spent much of that summer with my Grandmother, who was a wonderful Quaker lady. One day I was bored so she took me to visit her Aunt Sina who introduced me to quilting  by way of showing us her extensive quilt collection. My grandmother was not yet a quilter but I was immediately hooked by the eye candy and when we returned to my grandmother’s home, I begged Grams non-stop to start a quilt with me. That day visiting Aunt Sina launched my grandmother into quilting too and she made many, many quilts for her grandchildren, family members and friends before she passed.

Teri: Favorite colors?

Tracy: I have many favorite colors and they tend to cycle depending on my mood or the situation. Mostly I prefer bright colors and jewel tones. But often a sweet pastel will do the trick.

Teri: What influences your color choices?

Tracy: The project itself…or the person I’m creating for. If I’m making a gift for someone else, I choose based on their preferences and personality. If it’s for myself, the project speaks for itself most of the time. Sometimes one piece of fabric or a central theme will speak loudly and determine all other choices. Sometimes this will be in my favorite colors, but often not.

Teri: What are you stitching on?

Tracy: Right now, I’m developing new aspects of an old passion: recycling old materials into something new and beautiful. I’m sewing recycled bicycle tubes (and other recycled items) into upcycled pouches, bags, wallets, etc. I recently purchased a commercial walking foot sewing machine to assist me because I nearly killed my sweet Juki TL98E.

For the record, you can sew rubber without a commercial machine, but not very fast and not in the amount I have been wanting to do it. I’ve attached a picture of my most recent creation which I made as a gift for a dear cycling friend. This zippered pouch is large enough to be a cell-phone wallet. I made it out of recycled bike tube and recycled State of New Mexico bike map. I made the bike map durable by laminating and stabilizing, etc.

Simultaneously, I am developing a line of similar sewing patterns geared toward quilters that use quilting fabrics/materials.

Teri: What took you into the retail part of quilting?

Tracy: When I went to a local quilt shop about 20 years ago to pick out fabric, I was completely ignored. Not just once, but several times. And not just one visit, multiple visits. It became clear to me that I was not part of the “club”. That experience made me angry because–for me–quilting is about passion, creativity and friendship and so much good stuff. I view quilting as INCLUSIVE (as everybody is welcome), not EXclusive (you have to be part of the club). I guess I figured that if it happened to me it probably happened to others so I started my own online business sharing my passion. I guess I was right. Next year we will celebrate 20 years in business.

Teri: Favorite beverage? Is this what you sip when you’re quilting?

Tracy: If it’s morning, COFFEE!!!! I love coffee and grind my own beans fresh every morning. Chocolate Pinon roasted beans are my favorite.
During the summer, I love iced herbal passion tea…and the color is so energizing and happy too!

A new favorite beverage for cold days is a “London Fog” which is Earl Gray Tea with steamed milk and a shot of vanilla (there are variations).

Yes, depending on the time of day and the season, you could find me sipping any of these.

Fave dessert?

Tracy: Peach pie. Or coconut cream, strawberry, apple, chocolate or pumpkin pie. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever met a pie I didn’t love.

Teri: What are your top three tips for attending Quilt Market?

Tracy This is what works for me:

1. Take it all in — walk the entirety of the floor without stopping at any booths. Make notes as you walk.
2. Take a break! Walk the quilt show and go to a good, long lunch (review notes at lunch and enjoy the food).
3. After lunch, go back to the booths you noted on your list, talk to the designers, establish a relationship.

Quilters sign up for her newsletter, it’s a good one. Thank you Tracy! I’m so glad we had the opportunity to meet in person.

Happy Stitching,


2 thoughts on “An Interview with: Tracy Lee of Sew Thankful”

  1. SewTracyLee – New Mexico, USA – Cheering quilters on to and through their next creative adventure! YES, you can break the rules. Yes, you have permission. Go DO it! Perfection is paralyzing. Creating is messy and wonderfully freeing. But you have to actually DO it to grow.
    SewTracyLee says:

    Teri, I am so glad we got to meet this year and so excited for your new adventures! I look forward to more occasions where our paths will cross and we will have opportunities to chat in person again…maybe even grab a cuppa together.

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