Meet Danny Heyen of Gilbert, Arizona.
I’ve never known any place other than the desert. I grew up here in Arizona, having been born on the west side and having spent the majority of my childhood and my entire adult life on the east side. As far as I know, I am a fourth generation native, and lucky to have my entire family close-by.
I began sewing with my Grandma Clara (who I called Grammar-Rock) when I was in 5th grade. I needed a costume for a school play, and being a woman of many talents, my Grammar provided. Grandma Clara wasn’t a quilter, but an artist, skipping around from medium to medium, always finding new ways to express herself through art and craft. We didn’t dwell on sewing long and we never quilted.
Fast-forward 10 years. My beautiful, thoughtful, wonderful Grammar-Rock passed away after a battle with Pancreatic Cancer. It’s a sad story and one I won’t elaborate, but it is central to my journey toward becoming a quilter. Taking her to those chemotherapy and radiation appointments, we met many people, some of whom brought along these gorgeous patchwork quilts (and the beautiful stories of who made them) to help keep them warm during their treatments. I remember thinking, “Wow. I wish I could give something like that to Grammar.”
After she passed, a group formed at my church making quilts for people with cancer. They call themselves Comfort Quilters and they invited me to join them even though I had no experience quilting and only minimal experience with a sewing machine. I decided to take a beginning quilting class at Cutting Edge Quilts, the only quilt store I knew of at the time. I learned the basics and jumped straight into creating Hope Quilts with Comfort Quilters.
I was pregnant with my first daughter when I took that beginning class. I remember hitting people as I passed through the aisles with my big belly (if you were one of those ladies I knocked in the head, I am so sorry!) I brought her with me to Comfort Quilters meetings until she was old enough to start grabbing the ironing board and reaching the rotary cutters. I was sad to leave, but I’m holding out hope that one day, maybe when the kids are in school, I will be able to return to the group and keep helping them with their noble cause!
Clara had some issues with nursing in those early months and would nurse for an HOUR eight to ten times a day. I was bored out of my mind (this was before I had a Kindle) so I passed the time by browsing modern quilting blogs online. I learned so much from those blogs and had inspiration just poured out on me. I pieced and quilted in all my free time, but I still gave away most of the quilts I made.
Now I have two daughters, Clara (3) and Lily (1), and a very understanding husband who funds my quilting addiction. I have converted one bedroom into my sewing studio, although if I’m being honest, there is a lot more glitter and sticker crafting going on in there these days. Little girls are the best! I try to keep my stash well rounded, meaning I like to have a variety of blenders, solids, and mid-size prints in rainbow colors. I try to pull from my stash as often as possible, but I’m not opposed to going fabric shopping if I just can’t find something I need on my shelf! I have one bookshelf and one 3×3 cube shelf from Target (not the big ones from Ikea!) that hold my fabrics. I do my best to not buy more if it isn’t going to fit in my current set-up. I keep all my WIPs hanging on hangers in the closet, and while I prefer not to have too many of them, I usually am working on a dozen or more projects at one time.
My absolute favorite quilt I have ever made is my Heart Quilt. I used over 300 fabrics. I tested. I experimented. I used every substrate I had. Some was pre-washed; some was not. The backing is velveteen and this quilt is the first I ever long-armed. I quilted swirls and heart and stars and flowers and my husband and girls’ names and it is imperfect and cherished and beautiful. It is king sized and heavy and I cannot imagine loving any quilt more than I love this one. It gets me all twitter-patted just thinking about it!
I belong to AQG as a roaming member and I am a member of the Phoenix Modern Quilt Guild. I’ve been with this group since we were just seven, meeting in a house belonging to a friend. Now we have monthly meetings that usually run about 60-80 people. While the PHXMQG is the guild I consider my “home” guild, I find I like to make quilts that fall under Modern Traditionalism best, creating traditional designs with modern fabrics, and maybe changing scale a bit to give it a more modern design flare.
Currently, I am focusing a lot of my attention on the Kenya Pad Initiative (making cloth menstrual pads for women and girls in Kenya) and turning scraps into dog beds for local shelters.
Thank you so much for inviting me to share about my quilting journey! If you would like to keep up on my work, you can find me on Instagram @dheyen, on Facebook as Danny Hambrick Heyen, and on my oft-neglected blog, mommyforreals.blogspot.com.
Danny Heyen Quilt Gallery