Sue Dugger’s “craft room” could be a used as a glossy photo layout in “Southern Living” magazine.

The upstairs seamstress’s haven not only contains all the tricks of the trade such as patterns, swatches of cloth, threads, scissors and thimbles, it’s also highly organized. Organized, but not in an assembly-line fashion. Swatches of cloth are paired with knick-knacks and bric-a-brac that speaks to a keen decorative eye.

A bright red and muslin “cheater cloth” - a quilt with a preprinted embroidery pattern - adorns one wall. Bursts of color - primarily red - fill the cheerful workroom.

“Can you tell I like the color red?” asked Dugger. “I worked like the devil to prepare this room, and it’s all mine. Every woman needs a room all their own.”

Single-color embroidery is called, appropriately, “red work” and “blue work,” depending on the color thread used, and Tahlequah resident Sue Dugger is a master at the art.

“Red work simply means the entire embroidery pattern is done in red thread,” said Dugger. “I don’t really know when it became popular, only that it’s been around for years and years.”

According to Dugger, a long time ago, women would use red work or blue work on tea towels, pillow cases and the like to brighten up a room.

“I believe a lot of women used them to cheer things up simply because the rooms back then were so drab,” said Dugger.

Supplies for Dugger’s embroidery are few, but the result is amazing handiwork in the form of quilts, primarily.

“I use muslin or ecology cloth from Serendipity Quilt Shop here in town,” said Dugger. “And really, all you need is thread - embroidery or DMZ - and a design, which can be taken from just about anywhere.”

Dugger prefers regular thread to embroidery thread.

“Embroidery thread is a lot heavier,” said Dugger. “It has a fuzzy texture to it. Women a long time ago used regular thread, and I like to have my pieces look like the older stuff.”

Dugger has collected a number of patterns over the years.

“You used to be able to copy patterns right out of the newspaper,” she said. “The Kansas City Star always had a lot of great patterns. Or you could just go to places like Woolworth’s or the five-and-dime and find patterns.

“Oh, I almost forgot I had these!” she exclaimed as she scurried to a deep closet in the room. “Now you can’t come in here, it’s a mess.”

Dugger returned with a tasseled, floral oval box, similar to a hat box, and gently lifted the lid. Inside was a stack of yellowing paper, which she gently unfolded to reveal embroidery patterns reminiscent of an earlier, simpler time. Patterns were of sailors, rabbits, and a Spanish motif that included a burrow.

“I found this box of transfers,” said Dugger. “These belonged to my husband’s grandmother. I’ve never unfolded them all, so I don’t really know what’s here.”

She continued unfolding papers, running across a particular illustration of hearts and women on a pattern she liked.

“Hmm, I wonder if I could put this on my computer, blow it up and use it as a pattern,” she said, almost to herself.

Dugger picked up the hobby of needlework about six years ago, after spending time being the sole caretaker of her elderly mother.

“My aunt told me I needed to get out,” said Dugger. “So she took me with her to a quilting guild, and I fell in love with the work.”

Dugger spends as much time at needle craft as most people do at work.

“My husband is redecorating his ‘study’ or room,” said Dugger. “He asked that I make him a throw. Well, the other night, I came up here at about 8 p.m. and worked straight through until 4 a.m. and finished this.”

She pulled out a quilt made of rust and gold fabric with intricate animal figures.

“He’s using a safari theme in his room, so I thought this would be great.”

Dugger admits her hobby borders on obsession.

“Some women have addictions,” said Dugger. “I guess you could say quilting is mine.”


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