Community editor and columnist Kris Capps is a longtime resident of Fairbanks and Denali Park. Contact her at, in the office at 459-7546 or by cell at 322-6334. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.

Students in Karen Millington’s sewing class at Joy Elementary School discovered last week that the skills they learn at their sewing machines could actually turn into a profession.

They had a chance to meet Patrick Lose, a successful fabric designer, quilter and publisher, who shared how he turned his love of art, design, sewing and quilting, into a successful career.

The key, he said, is loving what you do.

Sewing students, in fifth through eighth grades, listened while Lose told his story. 

“I was an actor and a singer,” he told the students. “I didn’t want to wear what they gave me to wear.”

So he began to design his own costumes. Before long, he was designing costumes for others as well. In college, he studied costume design and theater. He was also a painter.

For a period of time, he designed wedding gowns and dresses for bridesmaids. He once spent nine months creating one wedding gown, he said. Another time, he spent four months in Yugoslavia, designing costumes for a movie being filmed.

He ended up at a trade show displaying his personal creations, when he was approached by a fabric company, which invited him to design fabric.

“That,” he said. “Really is a job.”

Those fabrics then are made into quilts, clothing and home decor, like pillows.

“I want fabrics I design to sell, so I had to learn other skills to teach people,” Lose said. “That’s when I learned how to quilt.”

He displayed a table full of colorful quilts, wall hangings and table runners for students to touch and admire. Some were holiday themes for Halloween and Christmas. Others were fanciful and fun.

He also shares his own designs through a magazine he publishes called Celebrations in Quilting.

His job, he said, combines his love of art, fabric and design.

“I do all the things I love to do,” he said.

He also teaches classes, and was in Fairbanks to lead a weekend quilter’s retreat, sponsored by Amy Logan, owner of That Old Sew and Sew shop. It was Logan who invited him north to Fairbanks, from his home in Phoenix.

For teacher Karen Millington, the visit provided some “real life experience” for students. She also incorporates technology into this class (she is an instructor at the Elementary Academy of Science and Technology) and he talked about some of the math skills needed for sewing and quilting.

Lose visited the classroom filled with sewing machines, admired the class stash of fabric and talked with students about their sewing challenges and successes. 

They shared some of their lessons: installing a zipper, making a pillowcase and keeping track of it all in a personal journal. Sewing on a curve was sometimes hard to do, one student commented.

Iron as you go, Lose advised.

And he assumed they all had plenty of hands-on time with a seam ripper, a tool used to rip out stitches that need to be restitched.

“Don’t call it a seam ripper,” he said. “It’s a seam relocation tool. SRT.”

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.