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Different type of artist: Mid-County’s Cindy Thomas brings fiber arts to life

Quilting a different type of art

Fiber artists don’t use paintbrushes, wear tap shoes or lug around a cello. Instead, fiber artists use needles, thread and fabric to bring together their masterpieces.

Quilting includes three parts: the top, batting and backing. The first step includes cutting the fabric and piecing it together by either hand or machine to do the top.

Next, you’ve got the batting in between, which is the material that makes it soft and warm, and the third layer is backing to hold it all together. The last step includes sewing all three layers together, which is typically done with a traditional sewing machine or long arm.

Fiber artist Cindy Thomas said her favorite part about the process is bringing all the layers together to make the final product.

“My favorite part about quilting used to be the piecing,” she said. “That entailed the whole math brain of mind and everything was very analytical. Since I got on the long arm, I can’t get enough of the quilting process. It kind of hits that creative side.”

Cindy Thomas is a fiber artist.

Fiber art refers to a type of fine art whose materials consist of natural or synthetic fiber such as fabric or yarn. Fiber artists practice techniques such as knitting, embroidering, sewing, crocheting, weaving and more. Thomas has done it all, but her new favorite technique — quilting.

Thomas’ love of fabrics, colors, needles and thread started out as a hobby from a young age before growing into a full fledge career.

“Honestly, I was one of those weird kids,” she said. “From the age of 6, whenever there was an incentive that if I did something well I got a treat or a toy, I wanted to go to the fabric store. That was my thing.”

The Port Neches native said she began her journey knitting hats and clothes for her and her dolls growing up, but fell out of the practice in college due to a busy school and work schedule.

Fiber artist Cindy Thomas makes quilts of all shapes and sizes ranging in different colors, fabrics and threads. (Cassandra Jenkins/The News)

She received her first degree as a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance before returning to school to obtain a teachers certificate for special education and theater arts. Thomas taught at Port Neches Middle School for 15 years before meeting her fate.

“A few years ago, there was a girl who came up to me and wanted to learn quilting,” she said. “I was just going to take a short sabbatical, but this is my third year away. Now, I find myself teaching in another field. I think this is the stage in my life where it was supposed to happen that way. I’m still teaching but in something completely different.”

Thomas said the girl sparked a desire in her to learn the art of quilting. Together, they taught themselves the trade and joined the Golden Triangle Quilt Guild to learn new methods and types of quilting.

It wasn’t long before Thomas was addicted and turned the hobby into a dream job working at Sew Much More alongside owner and friend Tammy Holt.

“I’ve been buying and dealing with Tammy for about 20 years,” she said. “I bought all of my machines from her — sewing, quilting and embroidering. We’ve known each other for a lifetime. I was on my way to a guild meeting one morning and she said, ‘Why don’t you come by this afternoon, I’ve got something for you.’ I thought it was some new thread or something.”

Holt’s gift to Thomas? — A long arm sewing machine. A long arm machine is used to piece together the three layers of a quilt. The frame typically ranges from 10 feet to 14 feet long.

Cindy Thomas is a fiber artist. The Port Neches native works at Sew Much More in Nederland where she sews, knits, weaves and quilts items for herself, community and customers. (Cassandra Jenkins/The News)

“(Holt) said, ‘I want you to be my long arm person, so she sent me to Missouri for baby lock training,” Thomas said. “I spent a week there, they certified me as an expert and it has just been a joy ride ever since.”

Holt said she chose Thomas to join her team after years of seeing her as a hard worker and friend.

“She filled a niche that I couldn’t do,” she said. “I’ve sold (long arms) over the years but I just learned the basics. So I sent her to training and she just ran with it. It worked out. It’s all about timing. Somebody like her, we go back a long time. She comes in, buys fabric and comes back and shows us these gorgeous things. It’s amazing.”

Thomas said she now spends her days making quilts for herself, the community and her store, sometimes spending long nights underneath the 20-inch throw of the long arm.

“Once it kind of gets in your brain, everything you see is a quilt,” she said. “It can be anything from the size you put your coffee mug on to something you put on a bed. As long as it’s got three layers — it’s a quilt.”

Thomas is a member of the Golden Triangle Quilt Guild, Beaumont Area Fiber Artist and Studio Art Quilt Association.

Independently, she also teaches classes locally from six-week beginner classes to pattern making. For more information, visit Cindy’s business page on Facebook: Cindy Thomas, Quilter, Instructor, Fiber Artist.

Sew Much More is located at 1344 Boston Avenue in Nederland and sells fabrics, thread and more, while also renting out machines of all kinds. For more information, visit holtssewmuchmore.com.