By Liz Verley, Staff Writer
Nancy Kazlauckas began developing her artistic skills by watching her father letter signs. Many Sunday afternoons she spent learning to draw with her dad, and by the age of 12, she developed an interest in sewing.
Between the ages of 16 and 22, she earned money as a seamstress. She constructed her first bridal party dresses and wedding gown at the age of 17.
Kazlauckas went on to earn a bachelor of science degree in education as well as a bachelor of science degree in clothing, textiles and design with an art minor from the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
She taught at the secondary level for several years and has taught calligraphy in community education and adult education classes for several years.
Eventually, her interest turned to include the art of quilting, and over the last few years, she developed her first quilting book, “Calligraphy with thread — using a zigzag stitch and a regular sewing machine.”
“I knew there must be a way to make letters on my machine,” said Kazlauckas. “One night I was doodling on a sketch pad wondering if it would work. After refining it somewhat, I found it would. By using a variety of stabilizers, I came up with a formula that works for what I wanted it to do, which was to create letters that would lie flat instead of distorting and puckering.”
She did this on a 25-year-old Kenmore sewing machine.
“In 2005, I was asked to try a new bobbin thread by the owner of Superior Thread. I attended and demonstrated at the Houston, Texas, quilt show and was introduced to people from the Bernina sewing machine company,” she said. “They were looking for new ideas at the quilting show, and they found me. It was an unbelievable learning experience. Bernina lent me a machine with the only condition that I make something for them.”
She said, “I was only demonstrating lettering and selling my book and stabilizing packages. I gave them a quilt.”
In November 2005, Kazlauckas was invited to a retreat in Oklahoma City.
A year later, she was invited to a reunion in Switzerland hosted by Bernina.
Participants paid their own airfare, but after that they were guests of Bernina for the next five days.
Kazlauckas said, “We were busy all day long, but it was a good busy. We were fed, educated and entertained. It was a once in a lifetime experience. We were treated as royalty.”
The group toured the Bernina plant where the sewing machines are made. The machines are all made in Steckborn, Switzerland, a small town of approximately 3,500.
According to Bernina’s history, “In 1890, an embroidery workshop was established in the buildings of the Feldbach convent. This was to grow into the Bernina Sewing Machine Factory, now known as Bernina International.”
Kazlauckas said, “During our time with Bernina, we were asked what we would like to see on a machine. Some of those ideas have now been incorporated on the new machines. It is a good feeling that they took the time to really listen to what we had to say.”
Kazlauckas no longer attends quilting shows to sell her creations or book. She said, “I do not regret anything, but now I want to do my own thing. I want to do more artistic quilting.”
She also will continue to do commission work. Kazlauckas said, “Once I get the information from the customer, and we have talked through the expectations, I want to be left alone to create. I do not want to be shadowed.”
She said, “One important thing to discuss when commissioning a piece is where it will be exhibited. No matter what the size, I enjoy the process of creating.”
She has donated several of her pieces to various area fundraisers and benefits. “I like to work with my hands — crocheting, embroidering and cooking, but mainly I love to quilt. The quilting went from a hobby to a business and now it is back to a hobby. I like it that way,” said Kazlauckas.
To view her work, one may go to her Web site at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her work is also on exhibit at the Ivy Brick Inn in Sauk Centre and the physical therapy department at St. Michael’s Hospital.
She also continues to give thread calligraphy classes and some other quilt related classes and also teaches at Ivy Brick Inn in Sauk Centre.
Nancy and her husband, Jim, live in Sauk Centre.