Written for Mandy Youngblood by her husband, David Youngblood
Hi! My name is Amanda Youngblood, but please call me Mandy. I am a Deaf American living in Rome, Georgia with my husband of almost two wonderful years and a house full of dogs and cats, or my fur babies! I would like to tell you a little bit about my life and what led to me wanting to undertake this incredible personal challenge of collecting and assembling Row by Row kits for every state, and even Canada, for the 2015 Row by Row Experience.
I suffer from a Traumatic Brain Injury that I received two years ago in October of 2013. I tripped over a rug in my bathroom and hit my head multiple times on the way to the ground. I still have occasional amnesia, and I have daily headaches that affect my memory, my mood, and my ability to have a “normal” life. Every day is a new struggle to learn, to achieve, and to stay positive.
My mother-in-law taught me to channel my creativity in activities that would make me use my hands and my brain together. We started with cross stitching and sewing. I began sewing simple projects to get experience with my sewing machine that I received as a present for my birthday. After seeing some positive changes, my doctor encouraged me to continue with these crafting projects, as he believed it would make good mental therapy for me and would keep me challenged and entertained.
I learned about the Row by Row experience when I saw it on my local quilt shop page. I immediately became interested in learning more about it. I felt that I had missed the 2014 Row by Row and I really wanted to get involved with this year’s project. I purchased my first kit that day and made plans to visit other shops in the area to gather those kits. It became a fun day of driving with my husband to quickly visit a few small towns and enter those quilt and fabric shops. We found shops that had many interesting fabrics, patterns, machines, and even other supplies. What interested me the most was the variety of Row by Row patterns and kits we found! They all looked fun, and we wound up buying eight kits that day.
As I started to put the first few kits together, I learned more about applique, quilt blocking, and even paper piecing, although I quickly found out that I was not happy about trying to learn a completely new technique. It was just too much work for me to try to figure out. I began searching for more kits and more shops that were close to my home.
We visited shops in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Huntsville, Alabama, and found some great kits to work with! I became more and more interested in trying to gather kits from every state, but I wasn’t sure how I would EVER achieve that! My husband and I started to look to our friends and coworkers from other states to see if they could help. Many old friends found new kits and began to send them to me. When I realized it would be possible to maybe get a kit from every state, I decided to take the insane plunge into getting the whole country worth of kits!
My mailbox started to overfill with kits as they came in from new places. Most days, my mail lady couldn’t even fit them in the box, and she would have to leave them on my porch bench for me to claim when I would come outside. It was sooooo exciting to find these kits and I started putting them together as quickly as I could.
One day, I realized that posting pictures of my kits on my Facebook and on my Instagram accounts was causing quite a stir. People that I had never even met would comment on my pages and tell me they were inspired and impressed at my work. They felt that it was inspirational to see a young Deaf lady recovering from a TBI trying to complete her first quilt ever. I started reaching out to these followers and asked for help to get the kits that I hadn’t found yet. I was worried at first that I wouldn’t find certain states because I didn’t personally know anybody from those areas, but I noticed that my new friends and followers were able to find many of these kits and they started a new wave of packages in the mail!
Every day or two, I would complete one, or two, or even three Row by Row kits and post the pictures on my social media accounts. More and more followers began to contact me and tell me what it meant to them for me to work on my dream project, and I began receiving kits that I hadn’t even asked for as presents! It was awesome to realize that I was making a difference with people and that my story meant so much to them. They would ship me new 2015 kits, and even older 2014 kits and license plates. I was overwhelmed with excitement to know that these people cared and wanted to show their appreciation and respect for me. I am truly honored and never expected to become an overnight inspirational figure to so many people in the Rowing, Quilting, and Sewing communities!
My working nights usually consist of dinner with my husband and his parents. Then we all sit at my mother-in-law’s kitchen table as my husband reads the directions and checks the kits for the right fabrics. “Mama Bear” sits by, helping me get started, checking the quality of my work to make sure it looks right, and providing encouragement to complete the kit. David does the measuring, cutting, and setting up the applique papers, while I sew the fabrics together and iron out the seams. This really is a team effort. I appreciate the fact that they help me as much as they can, and enjoy the time we spend together rowing!
Once we finish the kit, we take pictures and post them to my social media accounts. I always post the picture with the information about the rowing kit, including what shop it came from and which state it is from. Then I find the Facebook page for the shop where the kit came from. I post the picture and a brief version of my story on their page. Many times, the shop will share the picture and my story, and will comment to me about how they appreciate the post I left for them. This, apparently, is also generating business for the shops because my followers and fans many times will contact the shop to buy their own kits to work on! That’s what the Row by Row Experience is really all about: to help bring in new customers and support our local (and long distance!) quilting shops.
To date [October 3], we have completed 34 unique kits. My personal goal is to have 53 kits completed by my 30th birthday on October 21st. We are doing 53 kits because there will be three Georgia kits and a Canadian kit in the quilt once it is completed. We wanted to make sure that our favorite shops in our home state were included as they were very important in getting me started on my rowing journey.
If you would like to see more pictures and read about some of the kits I have completed, I have a dedicated page at www.facebook.com/myoungblood2015rowbyrow that is updated daily. As we complete the final row kit, we will stop posting pictures. The final assembly of my first Row by Row quilt will be kept a secret from everybody until it is ready to make its debut.
I hope you enjoyed reading my story. Please visit me on my Facebook page.
Studio Note: Mandy has met her goal with 53 rows completed as of October 19, 2015. She completed 48 with the help of her family. Rows 49-53 were completed by social media friend Jodie Porep. These five rows used paper piecing techniques which Mandy struggled with. Kudos to Jodie for volunteering to help Mandy reach her goal.
The Watercolor Paint Box Row is from The Quilt Company in Allison Park, PA. http://www.thequiltcompany.com/
The Seahorse Ballet Row is from Quilty Pleasures in Simi Valley, CA. http://www.quiltypleasures.org/
The Raindrops Row is from Quiltique in Henderson, NV, https://www.quiltique.com/
The Dolphin Sunset Row is from Quilts and Treasures in East Longmeadow, MA. http://www.quiltsandtreasuresinc.com/
For additional row and shop information see Mandy’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/myoungblood2015rowbyrow