by Suzanne Labry
Mrs. Bobbins is the creation of
Julia Icenogle.There’s a comic strip tailored for just about every imaginable demographic: cat lovers have Garfield, computer geeks have Dilbert, adventure lovers have Prince Valient, just to name a few, and quilters have. . . Mrs. Bobbins.
If you’re not familiar with this big-haired, green-bespectacled, patchwork-skirt wearing cartoon character, you are in for a treat. Billed as “a quirky, opinionated quilting enthusiast,” Mrs. Bobbins will have you giggling
in recognition. Her antics are relatable and familiar to quilters everywhere.
The fact that Mrs. Bobbins is able to humorously embody so many characteristics of quilters is especially intriguing, given the fact that her creator, Julia Icenogle, who works as an occupational therapist specializing in hand rehabilitation in Eugene, Oregon, has never made a quilt, and starting a cartoon strip
about quilting wasn’t her idea.
“In 2008, I was a part of a group art show in Kansas City, Missouri, and during the show’s reception, I was approached by two of the editors of Kansas City Star Quilts,” Julia explains.
“They said that they liked my style, and they called a few days later and invited me to sit down with them and talk about an idea they had for their blog, pickledish.com. They said that specifically they were looking for an ‘edgy’ cartoon about quilting to post weekly on the blog. When I told them that I was flattered to get a job offer, but that I really had no background in quilting, they handed me a stack of quilting magazines for research and asked me to see what I could come up with in a week. I went home and started researching everything I could about quilting.
“The first time I actually drew something that resembled Mrs. Bobbins was on a bar napkin that same night (I was diligently playing the role of designated driver for my cousin’s 21st birthday). The drawing pretty much named itself Mrs. Bobbins; it just seemed to fit her personality so well. I never did come up with a first name…I wanted to name her for my aunt, and I would have used my aunt's middle name, but she doesn’t have one! So it’s just Mrs. Bobbins.”
Julia’s Aunt Camille is the artist’s touchstone
for all things quilting, although Julia slyly says
that Mrs. Bobbins’ resemblance to her aunt
is “um. . .purely coincidental.”Even though she didn’t prove to be a namesake, Julia’s Aunt Camille is the artist’s touchstone for all things quilting, although Julia slyly says that Mrs. Bobbins’ resemblance to her aunt is “um…purely coincidental.”
Julia also did a lot of quilt research from a variety of sources, including library books, magazines, YouTube videos, PBS specials, and podcasts. “I even spent a week in my aunt’s sewing/guest room in hopes of discovering quilting jokes by osmosis,” she laughs. Quilting fans send in situational suggestions for the comic strip, and Julia says that even her hand therapy clients are a source of humor.
Drawing a weekly cartoon is a demanding task, and Julia has just recently returned to drawing Mrs. Bobbins after a hiatus. “I continued to send in new Mrs. Bobbins cartoons to pickledish.com every week for five years,” Julia explains. “During that time, I was back in school getting my Master’s in Occupational Therapy, and when I graduated and started working full time, I decided to stop drawing new Mrs. Bobbins cartoons, although the old drawings continued to circulate around on the internet.
“About a year ago, Deborah Edwards from Northcott Fabrics contacted me about the possibility of including Mrs. Bobbins in the Canadian Sesquicentennial and to give Mrs. Bobbins her own fabric line. She thought that Mrs. Bobbins could do quite well in fabrics, and I thought, how cool would it be if my first quilt was from my own character's fabric line? I had already been toying with the idea of revamping Mrs. Bobbins’ look, so the Canadian Sesquicentennial seemed like the perfect opportunity to do that. I now have been working on combing through the hundreds of original Mrs. Bobbins cartoons and picking out my favorites to update and post on my new website, mrsbobbins.com.”
If you need a little pick-me-up, do yourself a favor and check out Mrs. Bobbins. You’ll be
glad you did!