Meet Richard Tharp

Recently Baby Lock sat down with sewing enthusiast and Baby Lock Educator Richard Tharp to learn more about his sewing journey. What we found was a delightful and inspiring story about family, resilience, and…Alpacas!

Richard’s passion for sewing began as soon as he was old enough to cut out quilt pieces, so it’s only natural that he would end up a quilter as well—and one with a keen eye for design. Growing up in North Central Illinois, each year he’d travel to Kentucky to see family and spend his days sewing with his grandmother, “Meema,” and nine aunts. It was during these visits that Richard began to understand how one could make a living from sewing.

Quilt buyers would travel from all over to purchase quilt tops created by those in the community. The buyers would sift through stacks and stacks of quilt tops piled like rugs at a rug sale. This was a memory that would stick with Richard as he grew into a more experienced sewist.

Richard also remembers sewing on his Aunt Francis' Treadle Singer Sewing Machine. He loved it because it reminded him of Gilligan's Island, and he imagined he was generating electricity. The first project he made on his own a log cabin quilt block turned into a potholder. He still owns and cherishes the Singer.

Richard’s first job was piecing Quilt Around the World quilt tops at a shop called Quilts by Donna. He was paid $400 per quilt top, and could churn out three a week working 8–12 hours a day for six days. Not surprisingly, he eventually got burned out and went to work in the garment industry. It was in the garment factory where he’d meet his first serger. (Tip for anyone considering a job in a garment factory: avoid the navy pants! Richard has a not-so-fond memory of dye all over his hands and recommends you always choose the khaki.)

Richard went on to get his degree in Textile Art, attending college at ICC Community and Bradley University. For reference, a textile artist manipulates fabric of any kind under the needle of a machine.

A proud moment for Richard was winning the Hoffman Challenge. He dedicated his winning project, sewed on a Baby Lock Tiara, and titled The Sisters, to his Meema and aunts. The quilt shows the family generation of quilters and has served to be a great sales tool on his business trips!

While living in Colorado, Richard owned and operated an Alpaca ranch. At the time of its sale, it had over 200 animals! During this time, Richard began working at a Baby Lock retailer. Soon, he became an Educator and learned the art of spinning and weaving.

Now, Richard loves teaching and seeing the student have an "ah-ha moment"—that moment when it all clicks. He’s adopted a “Learn, Inspire, Create” concept in his teaching and it’s a philosophy he loves passing along to his students. He’s taught all over the U.S. and Canada and enjoys every opportunity to connect with his students.

For new sewers, Richard says, “Prepare to have fun and don't worry about perfection. Mistakes can be covered! (Why do you think they make appliques?)”

When asked where he gets his ideas, Richard recommended everyone keep a pad of paper by their bed. It was in a quilting dream that he got the idea for his winning quilt design. He also relies on Pinterest, his quilting software, and photography for inspiration.

Of all the projects Richard has created, his favorite is what he calls his 12-year quilt. This quilt, made on all his Baby Lock machines, was a healing project for Richard. In 2008, he lived in Texas during Hurricane Ike. His sewing room, that housed 40 years of sewing, was destroyed under 13 feet of water. The pieces in this quilt were the only things he could salvage.

These days you'll find Richard near his homestead in Henry, IL. He’ll most likely be teaching a Baby Lock class, running Quilts By Dael, working on his fabric line, or running his Yarn Shop on the first floor of his home.

If you would like to join Richard in a virtual class check out Quilts by Dael. New how-to videos every week are added to his YouTube channel, and you can find his weekly LiveStream each Friday night at 6pm CT on Facebook in the Altair Angels group.

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12 Year Quilt

Richard used a variety of machines to create his 12 Year quilt, including the Baby Lock Crescendo and Sashiko. Here you see the finished project on display at a Tradeshow.

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The Sisters

RIchard's award winning quilt on display.


Other Talents

Richard creates beautiful scarves at his FiberFaire Studio in Henry, IL.

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FiberFaire Studio

Richard's FiberFaire Studio is located on the ground level of the former Potter Mansion.

Richard's Favorite Things

Thread: Madeira Auroquilt—he uses it for everything!

Machines for Quilting: Solaris and Altair, and…Sergers! “I love piecing but hate winding bobbins, so a serger was a perfect option,” Richard says. His first serger was the Baby Lock Evolution.

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