“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’”
—Hunter S. Thompson
What a ride, indeed.
On December 18, 2012, the Martingale family lost our dear friend and colleague, Robin Strobel. A quiet, unassuming woman, Robin clearly had a backbone of steel. Otherwise, she could not have waged a 10-year battle against a rare form of cancer that left her body shattered but her spirit strong. Through surgeries, multiple rounds of radiation, endless chemotherapy, frequent hospitalizations, and unimaginable pain, she never whined, never complained, never asked anything of anyone. Instead, she hung that Hunter S. Thompson quote over her desk and carried on. To say she was an inspiration to us all would be a feeble understatement.
Robin was something of a Renaissance woman (although she often called herself a dilettante); she had broad interests and excelled in many areas. In her 13 years here at Martingale, she was first an illustrator and later a technical editor, and that was after a career as a high school biology teacher, a stint at a local quilt shop, many years as a quilting teacher, and a brief time spent as a veterinary technician. She could knit, quilt, create gorgeous glass beads, and make jewelry. Oh, and she wrote two quilting books!
Robin retired in early 2012 when she could no longer make it to the office on a daily basis. But she continued to contribute to this blog, and that’s why we felt it was appropriate to recognize her here and share her impact with you, our readers. Rather than have just one of us write a tribute, which would be too difficult in any event, we thought it would be nice to share the thoughts of some who worked with her.
I asked colleagues to share their memories, and in reading their responses, it was easy to find the common threads: Robin was kind, patient, generous, funny, uncomplaining, and totally devoted to her cats. Here, in their own words, are some of those memories.
“Robin was one of my early quilting mentors. She was always so patient, calm, and helpful when I was tearing my hair out over broken thread or blocks that just wouldn’t match up. I remember her praising me for being ‘brave’ enough to tackle a pattern that was really too advanced for me (while helping me to unsew a few of the 10 or 12 blocks that I’d sewn backwards). I also loved how it didn’t take much to get her laughing to the point of tears.” —Cornelia Gauger, Customer Service Representative
“Robin had the uncommon ability to use both sides of her brain with equal dexterity. She was not only creative, she was also the kind of person who liked to delve into a problem and figure out the best possible solution. It made her good at being both a technical illustrator and a technical editor. Robin never met a problem or situation that she couldn’t resolve. Whether it was a complex quilting technique that needed to be explained or the stitches in a complicated colorwork mitten that weren’t working out right, Robin was like a dog with a bone—she wouldn’t give it up. Ever. She was one of those rare people who always strived to do her best. It made her fantastic at her job and a valued and respected coworker.
She loved working with fiber—from fabric to yarn—and with other media like glass. When she needed a Crock Pot to slowly cool her lampwork beads so they wouldn’t crack, I was happy to give up the one I never used. Unexpectedly, she made me a bracelet and earring set in my favorite color. I clearly got the better end of that trade!” —Karen Soltys, Managing Editor
“In any conversation I had with Robin, about how she was feeling or a book she was working on or a problem or a request, she always had a kind word and never a complaint about anyone or anything, particularly her health. I always came away thinking, I should take to heart a page or two from her book. She had such a great generosity of spirit—something for us all to aspire to. She was special, though I bet she would not agree. She seemed to not want to burden anyone, even when everyone who knew her would be more than willing to help her with any burden.” —Mary Burns, Marketing Coordinator
“When Robin and I were on the holiday committee together, I was really struck by her generous personality. When we picked out items we wanted to order for small stocking stuffers for the staff, she had her heart set on some ornaments that we didn’t really have the money to buy. She ended up buying them anyway, and told us that she just ‘had them lying around.’ When we started the blog, I saw again how generous she was with whatever it was she could offer, including her time, knowledge, and designs. She is and will continue to be missed!” —Sarah Peterson, Marketing Designer
“I met Robin when she was working at a quilt shop. She was also doing some illustrations for a local quilt author. I suggested she apply at That Patchwork Place and the rest is history. From the beginning, she always went the extra mile to make things right, and always did it with a smile. She was so patient as she explained why a piece of art couldn’t be done a particular way and would suggest other ways to show what was relevant. She was smart, kind, generous, and funny (she loved puns and we shared many lists of them). She was so good at simplifying instructions to just what was needed and nothing more. I learned so much from Robin the illustrator and editor, and Robin the warm, gentle soul with the biggest heart.
And how she loved her kitties. She’d email photos of them whenever she caught them doing something cute, which was often. When one of her friends passed away, Robin wrote me about the loss and I kept the following quote from her email because it was true. Little did I know I would be reading those words again and thinking of her: ‘It is very difficult to accept that people who are so important to us are no longer around to brighten our days.’” —Ursula Reikes, Technical Editor
“I always enjoyed working with Robin. She was an excellent technical editor and illustrator with a great sense of humor, and she was extremely thoughtful. Whenever I asked for input or had a question, she was always quick to respond and generous with her information. When she became ill, she stayed remarkably poised. She faced many difficulties and yet remained calm and cheerful, day after day. Robin was a strong and truly inspiring person.” —Durby Peterson, Copywriter
“When I first started quilting, I took classes at our local quilt shops. One of my first (and favorite) classes was taught by Robin; it was the ‘Truly Tipsy Nine Patch’ quilt from her book (right). She was such an energetic, fun, wonderful, non-judgmental teacher. When I first started working here at Martingale, Robin was so welcoming and helpful. One day I admired a bracelet she was wearing, made of lampwork glass beads. She told me that she’d made them and had all the tools at her home. She invited me to her house that weekend to learn how to make glass beads. I will admit I wasn’t very good at it. (It’s truly a talent that takes more than a few hours to acquire!) Robin sat with me as I tried to make round beads, and was encouraging, funny, and patient. She sent me home with the beads that I made that day; they are all different shapes and sizes, but they remind me of a wonderful time.” —Karen Burns, Acquisitions Editor
“Robin and I shared a birthday (she was born exactly 20 years before me). We also shared a love of books and cats, and had both been high-school teachers before moving to publishing. Because of these things, I always felt a strong connection to Robin.
What I miss most is her laugh. She was often laughing, even when she was feeling ill. She didn’t complain, and she remained sunny even while her body was struggling. She had a sharp wit that was never malicious. Robin was a good listener and always had a kind word for everyone. She is greatly missed.” —Sheila Ryan, Copy Editor
“Robin and I became fast friends when I started working at Martingale 13 years ago. We both grew up in the Midwest so we shared a lot of the same background. I was always impressed by her can-do attitude. She thought Martingale should publish some good beginner titles, so she wrote two of them! She was always supportive and ready to encourage others to follow their dreams. She never complained. Even when she was in pain, her thoughts were always directed to others instead of herself. Thinking about Robin makes me sad that we’ve lost her but glad that I got to know her.” —Regina Girard, Production Manager
“We didn’t work together for very long and I didn’t know her well, but in my brief conversations with her, I loved hearing stories about her two kitties. They were so dear to her and after she told me some stories, she immediately followed up the chat with photos of them via email.” —Karen Johnson, Marketing Director
“What I’d love Stitch This! readers to know is that you made Robin happy, and you gave her purpose. She thought long and hard about what would help you quilt better or more easily, and then she did her best to provide it. She relished your comments and took humble delight in your appreciation (we’ve received more reprint requests for Robin’s posts than for any others we’ve ever published). And so I want to thank you, Stitch This! readers, for lighting up her face with many, many smiles. And for prompting the occasional cackle of glee.
She was eager to share with you, and it seemed as though she had a direct line to your quilty brains. When Robin first told me she wanted to write posts on quilt math, I thought, ‘Hoo boy, I’m not sure our readers would be interested.’ Shows what I know. Luckily, Robin persevered, and the result was her tremendously popular post “How to resize quilt blocks: easy (promise!) quilt math.”
I worked with Robin in many capacities. Once upon a time I was Martingale’s Managing Editor, and I asked her to do technical edits on both quilting and knitting books (while she also whipped up meticulous illustrations for quilting, knitting, AND crochet books). Was she amazingly versatile? Yes. Astoundingly funny? That too. I miss her. What pleases me no end is that her wit, her expertise, her patterns are here at ShopMartingale still, in her blog posts and in her How to Quilt downloads and on our freebies page. Robin, quite intentionally and very determinedly, left a useful, practical, joyful legacy of quiltmaking wisdom, one she was delighted to share with all of us who quilt.” —Tina Cook, Audience Development Manager
In honor of Robin’s generous spirit, we’re offering free downloads of her books, The Casual Quilter and Quilter’s Bounty, as well as her patterns, through Monday, February 25. Simply add Robin’s books and patterns to your cart and proceed through checkout. We think she’d like that.