“Honestly, one of the main reasons why I’m doing this is because of legacy,” says Lindsay Sutton, an Edmonton-based textile artist known for her reimagined quilt designs. “I think when you have cancer, you really think about your own life and what you’re going to leave behind. For my daughter, I want to be able to leave something for her. And I love the idea of all my clients having something that they will pass down as well.”
For quite a dark basement, there’s a lot of colour surrounding Lindsay. She searches through the splashes of coloured fabric spewed onto the floor as the colourful characters of the Housewives emote off the screen. They’re arguing as per usual, but Lindsay doesn’t pay attention to what about—reality shows only act as background noise to keep her company during mornings like this in her home studio. After a few hours of cutting, ironing and getting machine sewing out of the way, Lindsay is drawn upstairs like a lizard desperate to bask in the sunlight.
@hgtvcanada We love how Henrietta Quilt Shop’s designs are so full of meaning and love 💖 #madeinedmonton #quiltshop #edmontonbusiness #shoplocal #businessowners ♬ original sound – HGTV Canada
And though mornings like this can be busy, they never feel like work—Lindsay has made sure of that. It’s true, the last few years have been prolific, having completed dozens of quilts and with a current commission waitlist of three to four months, but for Lindsay, the Henrietta Quilt Shop will always resemble therapy over a business. “It’s a labor of love and I enjoy it so much that I don’t want to think about it like work,” she says. “If I think about it like work, I’m so scared I’ll stop doing it. I try to just think of it as this therapeutic art practice, and if people want to buy it, that’s awesome.”
When Lindsay was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer at the end of 2016, her daughter was just two years old. Life quickly altered into a whirlwind of navigating a mastectomy, chemotherapy, parenting, depression and anxiety. There was no more time or energy to pour into the creative side hustles she had pre-diagnosis. “There was just no time or space for anything,” says Lindsay.
Lindsay has always been a creative. She attended the Alberta College of Art & Design, now known as the Alberta University of the Arts, for drawing. She even took a textile elective course, though she wouldn’t truly embrace the medium for another twenty years. It was in 2020, while Lindsay was facing another round of chemo on top of the uncertainty of the pandemic, that she got back to her creative roots.
“I had a therapist who had given me advice during cancer for when I felt overwhelmed about trying things,” says Lindsay, who was initially trying to get back into exercise. “She was like, ‘What if you just put your shoes on. You don’t even have to go out, just put your shoes on. You’ll probably step out of the house and even just do a short something.’ And I think that really applies to creative stuff too.”
So, that was the first step for Lindsay—make being creative accessible. Rather than leaving all her pieces of hand-dyed fabric and drawing pencils in the basement, Lindsay left them upstairs where she was bound to walk by them and be inspired. And that’s exactly what happened. There was no planning, Lindsay sat down whenever she felt like it, and just started cutting and sewing. The quilt adorned with mountains grew from the centre out, and by the end of the summer, it was finished. “It was life-changing to just be in a creative space again and finally feel like I found my medium,” says Lindsay. “It was so therapeutic. I knew I needed to be doing this all the time.”
Sewing Her Social Fabric
After lunch, Lindsay switches gears to draw, plan and hand-stitch for two other commissions at her upstairs table. Athena, Lindsay’s adored family feline, joins her for the majority of the afternoon. Athena is convinced that the excess of fabric in the house is simply for her benefit, and often helps test out the quilts before Lindsay’s clients.
Shortly after finishing the mountain quilt, Lindsay shared it on her personal Instagram account, and unexpectedly found her first client. “I’d often make things for people as wedding or birthday gifts, but never document any of my work in the past 20 years,” she says. “But then I shared this one and received a lot of really great feedback.”
Inspired, Lindsay started creating small wall-hanging quilts from pure improvisation. “I didn’t really know what I was doing,” says Lindsay. “But I liked the way they were turning out.” And other people did too; people wanted to buy them. Then someone requested a twin-size quilt in the same style as one of her improvised designs. Before she knew it, Henrietta Quilt Shop was born—and there was a waitlist.
A Path Less Travelled
“There are lots of traditional ways to quilt, and many traditional methods, but there’s so many people out there in the quilting community that have just pioneered their own kind of path to create something really unique and different,” says Lindsay, who has incorporated drawing into her process as the commissions get larger in size.
“My practice is just doing little sketches and drawings, and then I try to interpret it with the fabric and figure out how I can make that come to life,” she says. “I think of it, for myself, almost as drawing with fabric.” Lindsay’s designs mix historical elements with a modern spin. “Even with the block quilting I’m still doing, I like adding a layer that makes it my own or modernizes it,” she says.
Lindsay politely encourages Athena to choose a new napping spot as she works on her favourite part of the quilting process: hand stitching the three layers together. “There’s something about the tradition and all the years that women have spent hand-stitching things and being a part of that tradition,” says Lindsay.
Generations of Inspiration
The rhythmic motion makes the time slip away, and before she knows it, Lindsay is called back to parenting duties by her daughter. She was able to squeeze in a solid eight hours of uninterrupted work today, which is not always the case.
Lindsay follows her daughter into her room, which is surprisingly one of the few rooms in their home that displays Lindsay’s work. “I’ve read this about other creators where they don’t have one of their own quilts. You want to make the perfect one for yourself and you’ll never achieve that,” says Lindsay. “But I have made her a quilt for her bed out of some of her old clothes.”
Lindsay sits down on her daughter’s bed; Athena meows and quickly jumps up, cautious not to be left behind. As the trio snuggles, Henrietta pulls the handmade memory quilt over them, the second quilt her mom made.
Lindsay’s legacy is tied to this moment. She thinks of the dozens of families who have her quilts in their homes and will pass them down for generations to come. Then she thinks about her own daughter, who Henrietta Quilt Shop is named after, passing down this quilt one day. “I’m sure I’ll be making her quilts for the rest of her life,” Lindsay says. “It’s honestly what drives me to do this; the legacy aspect of it.”
To learn more about how you can commission a piece from Lindsay Sutton and the Henrietta Quilt Shop, visit www.henriettaquiltshop.ca