Julie Quach is her own department at D.A. Burns carpet cleaners in Seattle. Carpet-fixer of 1,000 yarns. If Quach can't reweave it, needlepoint it...
Julie Quach sits cross-legged, staring intently at the floor. She turns her head this way, and that. Considering. Admiring. There is only herself and the carpet beneath her. Then she lovingly combs her hand across the floor. She’s petting the floor, a complicated 90-year-old Iranian Bijar rug in blue, rust, beige, rose.
This is the kind of intensive care Quach gives to every moth-eaten, years-worn, sun-damaged, water-warped rug that needs her attention. She is her own department at D.A. Burns carpet cleaners in Seattle. Carpet-fixer of 1,000 yarns. If Quach can’t reweave it, needlepoint it, knot it or cord it you might as well cut the family heirloom into a pillow, because what makes Quach’s carpets magic is that they are restored by a woman doing what she was born to do.
“I came to the United States from Vietnam in 1980. I lived in San Francisco then. In a store there I see a guy sitting on the floor weaving a rug. I thought, this is interesting. I would love to learn it. I go in and tell him that, and he said to me, ‘OK, when can you start?’ I tell him that I am a high-school student so I can only work nights and weekends. He said, ‘OK, here’s the key. See you tomorrow.’ “
The next day her new mentor, Aziz, set her before a rug that was more hole than carpet. He had her study it, select matching yarns from a bucket, then remove all the old yarns. The intricate pattern now gone, he told her to repair it.
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But how? she asked.
That’s where your memory comes in.
“Somehow I fixed it,” she says, still proud.
That was 20-some years ago. When Quach moved to Seattle to be near her husband’s family, it took her all of 24 hours to get a job offer. When time (can take two years) and money (could cost $300 a foot) are no object, Quach can repair just about anything. Not to name names, but rugs for the richest guy in the world, his EMP-building buddy, others.
She learns from each rug. Is particularly fond of the old ones: “They have a story to tell; always a good conversation piece.” From each she takes something away, weaves in something of herself. All by hand.
Aziz is retired. She is the master now.
“I wake up every day and I cannot wait to go to work. And, you know? I don’t know how to use a machine. I cannot sew any clothes! Isn’t that funny?”