Indy DIY: Ask a Sewing Sage

Local needle-and-thread queen Ann Luther answers our burning questions.

Editor’s Note: From raising chickens and goats to knitting a masterpiece to pickling and preserving, we present your ultimate guide to mastering the homespun, do-it-yourself life in Indy. So slip on your gardening gloves, and let’s get dirty. (See all Indy DIY stories here.)


Perhaps you visited Ann Luther’s recent one-woman exhibition of art quilts (pictured below) at the JCC. Or maybe you’ve met her at Quilters Guild of Indianapolis meetings, or the Indiana State Quilt Guild. There’s even a chance you’ve taken her beginning sewing classes at Trade School Indy. But don’t be intimidated: Even Luther regrets some of the projects in her checkered-fabric past.

What’s your day job?
I’m a civil engineer. We can do math in our heads, you know.

How did you get started sewing?
Both my mother and my grandmother sewed, and I’ve been sewing since I was 9 years old. That’s the first time I made anything—a very unattractive little shorts set with a matching top. I knew it was an avenue to having more clothes.

Is that the only outfit you regret?
I’ve made some pretty damn ugly clothes. When you tuck it away, a couple of years later you look back and wonder, “What was I thinking?” No matter what you do, there’s going to be some uglies.

These days you’re focusing on art quilts. Which one is your favorite?
It’s based on the book Range of Motion by Elizabeth Berg, which is about a man who walks down the street, gets hit in the head with an icicle, and falls into a coma. My quilt has 12 blocks, and each block has a silhouette of a man doing something, which relates to his months in a coma.

Quilters are notorious for having hoarder-level stashes of fabric. What’s your biggest splurge so far?
I went to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, and while I was there I bought eight different fabrics. They would only sell them to me in six-meter lengths, which is more than 50 yards of fabric. I was able to get them for $2 a meter, but it’s a splurge if you count the plane ticket.

What advice do you give your beginner sewing students?
I tell them to write down the words “can’t” and “won’t,” and they’re not allowed to use those words. We can all do it. It’s just learning how.


Photo by Tony Valainis

This article appeared in the April 2014 issue.