Entertainment » Fine Arts

Talking with Dale Allen-Rowse, aka The Quilting Cowboy

by Steve Duffy
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday May 31, 2019

With a name like The Quilting Cowboy, Dale Allen-Rowse invites curiosity. He is a man of multifarious interests, having been a professional ballet dancer for years, a graphic design student, and now, a professional custom quilter. His passion for quilting was borne of the long hours of downtime touring with his ballet troupe, and his persona out of personal hardship.

His quilts have been featured in museums, quilt shows and are even being considered as a set sign for the NBC show "Making It" with Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman. He's also got a new book, "The Quilting Cowboy" out now alongside a series of quilt patterns with step-by-step video guides on his website.

Edge caught up with The Quilting Cowboy himself to catch up on his new business and find out the story behind his intriguing persona.

EDGE: How did you come up with the nickname, "The Quilting Cowboy?"

Dale Allen-Rowse: It all started back in 2010. My ex-husband was a really big strong personality. I was very much in love with the whole picture of our lives and as the years went by I discovered that I was having to give up less and less of myself and when I left him the first thing I did was get in my car and just drive and drive. I had just walked out the door and I was so done I just drove for hours without having any purpose or knowing where I was going.

When I finally stopped, I was in this little town in Utah, and there was this hay and feed store. When I walked in they had this amazing display of cowboy boots. I pulled a pair off the rack and put them on and it was like the first moment of me reclaiming myself, my identity, after years of having it lost. I very much identified with the free-spirit and attitude of what a cowboy is after trying the boots on and taking a moment to reclaim myself. These boots are going to be a solid remainder and I am going to wear them every single day and I am always going to remind myself that I am on my own path. I still wear the boots every day. They make me feel good.

Much a-sew about nothing

EDGE: Why did you learn to quilt?

Dale Allen-Rowse: Throughout my 20's and 30's, I was a professional ballet dancer. We would be on tour for weeks and traveling on a bus and this was before any handheld technology. You had to have something to do because it would not be uncommon for us to be on the bus for 12-hours a day with nothing to do. That's a lot of time to do nothing. My niece was being born and I wanted to do something to welcome her into the world. My mom was a sewing teacher, and she never taught me to sew but I had been around it enough that I could probably figure it out in order to hand sew some squares together.

EDGE: How long does it usually take to make a quilt?

Dale Allen-Rowse: A simple one takes about 3-weeks and depending on how much handwork I do, it could take up to one year. Lately, I have really moved to do everything on a sewing machine. They are extremely time-consuming, but most quilts take no longer than 3-months to make.

EDGE: What inspires your designs?

Dale Allen-Rowse: I think it is the way my brain works. It could be something that I see in nature like the mountains and the way that they fade off into the distance or tile work while walking through a building. I see inspiration everywhere. I have more ideas than I have time. When I am in my zone of inspiration it helps me to get up in the morning. I also believe that lack of inspiration causes us to be tired. When I am inspired I am infinitely energetic and I can sew all day and run myself to the point of exhaustion.

EDGE: What tips do you have for someone who wants to start quilting?

Dale Allen-Rowse: Tap into a quilting/sewing community and be willing to persevere through your own learning curve. You are going to be terrible at it in the beginning. When you first start you are going to make mistakes and you are going to have to be committed and passionate enough about what you are doing to survive your own learning curve. Just know that over time you will get a lot better and it will be more fun. There are lots of different resources available to help you. There is a great Facebook page called "Men Who Quilt" that is a great forum for learning and connecting with other guys who quilt.

Once a cowboy...

EDGE: When did you realize you were gay?

Dale Allen-Rowse: 1979, the year the "Dukes of Hazard" premiered on TV. I had a crush on John Schneider and still do. I just think he is extremely hot. I remember waiting for Friday nights to come so I could watch him. I really didn't like the show, I just loved him.

EDGE: Being gay and having a Baptist minister for a father I am sure didn't mix well?

Dale Allen-Rowse: Oh no! You are correct! It was a very scary process coming out because I knew I had to be financially stable on my own before I came out to my parents. It was clear that there was no middle ground for us if I came out. I waited until I was hired by a ballet company and had a salary that I could count on. As you can imagine, coming out did not go well. They offered to send me to conversion therapy. Luckily, I had the foresight to decline because I was independent and on my own. It hurt our relationship. It has slightly gotten better over time. My father passed away in 2004. It is still an issue with my mom, but she is certainly trying. There is so much water under the bridge it is hard for me to get on board with having a relationship with her. It's just difficult and unresolved, but I also take some ownership in this process.

EDGE: Have you been embraced by the cowboy community?

Dale Allen-Rowse: I really have not had that much interaction with the cowboy community. I will say my screen name is an interesting one. When I adopted it early on I never thought that it would grow legs and become a thing. I took it as my name because I was too embarrassed to post my stuff online under my real name. I had a lot of shame that I was a guy who was quilting. Not a lot of connections to cowboys, but a lot in the quilting world. I am really not sure what cowboys think of me.

EDGE: Looking at you, I would have never guessed you were a ballet dancer. What did you like about ballet?

Dale Allen-Rowse: As a young kid, I was overweight, and my parents were trying to get me to play sports, but I was way too gay for that. Our compromise was that I would take dance lessons. My best friend, who lived up the street, was taking tap and I knew I would be able to get into that. Ten-year-old me was like, this is super jazzy and I can do this. I wasn't necessarily drawn to it, but once I started I loved it.

Check out Dale Allen-Rowse's new book, "The Quilting Cowboy" and learn more about him at www.quiltingcowboy.com


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