Cheryl Olsen wasn’t born on the Fourth of July, but if you got a glimpse of her sewing room, you might think she was.
It’s crammed with a rosy-cheeked Humpty Dumpty doll in Uncle Sam garb, an angel figurine clutching an American flag and more than three dozen other patriotic-themed items she’s collected or made herself over the past 35 years.
The Everett woman channels her inner Betsy Ross by sewing Americana-themed quilts and curtains. She’s got ornaments, statuettes, a bowling pin, tablecloths, dish towels, an apron, clock, figurines, coins, salt and pepper shakers.
The one thing they have in common? They’re all red, white and blue.
“I love the flag and anything to do with the flag,” she said. “I can’t even explain why I have such a love for it, I just do. It’s just always been part of me.”
Surveys show Olsen’s brand of patriotism has slipped over the years. A Gallup poll in 2018 found that less than half of Americans are extremely proud of their citizenship. But that’s never been an issue for Olsen. She’s felt this way for as long as she can remember.
“When I see the flag on anything or anywhere, I have to stop and appreciate it,” she said. “That flag symbolizes everything that’s good about America. So many lives have been lost so that flag can fly.”
Olsen, 70, was born and raised in Everett by a patriotic family who made sure she never missed a Fourth of July parade. Her uncles, brother, brother-in-law, husband and sons all served in the military. She displays a Marine Corps nutcracker, and a Marine Corps banner rests on Humpty Dumpty’s lap in recognition of her sons Dean and Shannon serving in the Marines.
Olsen’s star-spangled collection took off in the early 1980s when she worked at now-closed Pacific Fabrics & Crafts in Everett.
Back then, her husband, William Olsen, built her a board for cutting fabrics. It needed a cover, to which she gave some patriotic flair.
“That fabric has been on that table since then,” she said. “Then I just kept picking up Americana things along the way. Any place that I go and see fun things that have the flag or Americana design, I’m drawn to it.”
She has a handful of ornaments from as far away as Williamsburg, Virginia, hanging from a metal “tree” on a dresser in the sewing room. One that she found closer to home, made by Glass Eye Studio in Seattle, contains ash from the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption.
Olsen found one of her most prized collectibles, the angel figurine, at the Independence Hall gift shop in Philadelphia. It was made by famous gift designer Jim Shore, who also created a flag-waving Mickey Mouse that a friend gave her.
William Olsen, 70, also grew up in Everett. The couple were high school sweethearts, married a year after they graduated from Everett High School in 1967. The Navy veteran said his wife’s sewing room is a perfect example for how she’s never shied away from showing her patriotism. He also wouldn’t be surprised if part of the reason their sons joined the military was because of their mom’s love for country.
“It just shows you she’s willing to display her emotions on her shoulders,” he said.
They moved a few times over the years — including to Front Royal, Virginia, to be closer to family. But displaying the patriotic collection in Cheryl Olsen’s sewing room was a constant. And each time the couple moved, she carefully packed up her prized possessions.
“It’s a good thing to have a place that speaks to your heart,” she said.
Her family and friends know that anything red, white and blue is an ideal gift for her.
For her 68th birthday, Olsen’s daughter-in-law, Lorena Olsen, made a cross-stitching of an Americana angel that’s now framed and sitting on the dresser.
“It’s absolutely beautiful,” she said. “It’s such an amazing thing because I worked in a fabric store, and I know how many hours went into that. She’s got a shoulder problem, so I know it was even a sacrifice for her.”
She doesn’t let her family and friends do all the crafting, though. She made that Uncle Sam Humpty Dumpty herself.
Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.
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