GUERNSEY – Growing up, a farmer’s daughter in eastern South Dakota, Karla Robbins not only had a mind for numbers and order, but learned to create beautiful comforts in the form of her award-winning quilts.
As a child, Robbins’ mom enrolled her in 4-H where she learned to first sew aprons with the rest of the girls from that era. She not only had a knack for the skill, but a passion for it and at 10 years of age took sewing lessons at the local Singer sewing dealer.
“From then on, I was hooked on sewing,” Robbins said. “Also, during high school, home economics class had sewing as a part of our instruction. During high school I made many of my own clothes and sewed my prom dress and also a prom dress for my cousin.”
She graduated from Hazel High School in South Dakota and went on to earn her Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from South Dakota State University in 1970. After graduation, she decided to share the talents that she had in math and brought it down to a level where middle school students could understand it and comprehend it. She taught for over 30 years.
During her career in teaching, she said that she was too busy to sew and put her passion on a back burner.
Robbins was married to Donald Robbins who was the chief electrician at Colorado Fuel and Iron in Hartville and after his untimely death, she traveled extensively to Alaska, England, France, Canada and China.
“I always knew I wanted to make a quilt,” Robbins said. “After retiring I drove to Laramie and bought the book "How to Make a Quilt in a Day" by Eleanor Burns. At that time, I also purchased the fabric, pattern, and ruler to make a log cabin bed quilt. As hard as I tried, I could not make the quilt in a day. That was truly frustrating. Boy, did I have a lot to learn.”
She found out that "How to Make a Quilt in a Day" was the name of the book, not the length of time it would take to sew the quilt top.
“But I persisted and within a couple of months the top was completed and I had it professionally quilted,” she said. “Although I did not know much I was hooked. In order to improve my skills, I joined the local and state quilting guilds, attended several classes taught by local guild members, and national teachers, watched videos on the internet and bought books to improve my skills. Then I practiced these skills aiming for perfection. Practice is the key word here. It takes many hours of trying along with a good seam ripper.”
Her winning quilt this year "Dad's Lone Star" was designed by Ricky Tims of Colorado.
“After attending a seminar by Ricky Tims in Billings, Montana, and seeing this quilt, I bought the kit and made it,” Robbins said. “There were many new skills I had to learn and it was a joy to work on. The quilt was then professionally quilted. In 2020 this quilt also received Grand Champion ribbon at the Wyoming State Fair. I am very proud of it. Also, I feel honored that the judges also liked it.”
The future remains uncertain for everyone in this world that is spinning way too fast lately. For Robbins, she feels as though she is “dancing on a bubble.”
“I have begun another quilt by Wendy Williams and artist from Australia,” she said. “It too is another year long project and requires other skills to learn. Other than that, I will be teaching paper foundation piecing using freezer paper to our local guild early next year. My goal is to improve my skills, and to share these skills with others.”