OffBeat with Bob: Quilting is "HIS" Passion

January 16, 2005-- Posted at 10:00 p.m. CST

JONESBORO-- The sound of the needle and thread piercing the fabric at high speed is the sound that soothes the soul of Leonard Davis. Davis is a rural mail carrier in the mornings and a quilter in the afternoons.

"You just want to get back here and unwind. And go back there and get quilting," said Davis. He's been machine quilting for nine years now, ever since he and his wife Ann opened Quilters Corner in Jonesboro.

"It's been different," said Davis. Different because there aren't a whole lot men quilting these days. But with the invention of the machine quilter, what was once thought of as a woman's hobby, is seeing more men guiding the needle.

"The machine quilting is coming of age," said Davis. "More people are readily accepting it, because fewer people are hand quilting. There's a lot of men involved in it. I think more so today because of the machines." The quilting machines are mighty, with computer components, basting options, plenty of power, and handle bars just waiting for the right guy to grip and sew.

"You have to watch the machine," said Davis. "Sometimes it gets pretty boring, until you step back and look at it. No two are ever going to be the same. I'm still from the old school. Grandma's hand quilted top needs to be hand quilting. Just because I'm a machine quilter, I don't think everything needs to be thrown into my machine."

Davis said when a quilt is complete, he feels a real sense of satisfaction. "The satisfaction of taking a hand full of scraps and making something beautiful out of it," according to Davis. "I think I know a little bit about it, then I get to talking to these old quilters and find out I don't know as much as a I think I do."

Davis says he turns out about 75 quilts a year. Some can be done in a few hours, others can take a few weeks.