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Quilter Profile: The Quintessential Kim Butterworth!

Kim tackles blooming Clematis flowers ala Ruth McDowell.

Ever meet a quilter and think she’s got it all? Mad skills. Incredible taste. Drool-worthy quilts. I’m sure we all know at least one—here’s my candidate (and friend): Kim Butterworth, formerly a Michigander and now a Californian.

We met purely by accident, invited into a quilt group founded on a mandate of reading notable books and making quilts inspired by the prose. That group evaporated (mission insanity for busy women being a ready cause) and a few of the refugees banded together with a more modest goal of meeting regularly for a sociable dinner and craft talk.

Wouldn't you like to be Kim's friend? She made this pretty little quilt of butterflies as a gift.

Turns out that was kismet because we’ve got a great thing going now—nights out filled with laughter, camaraderie, good advice, and occasional quilt making. In fact, the survivors were among my first calls when I needed quilts to fill out my Flower-Powered Quilts (scroll to blog mention) special exhibit for the World Quilt Show Florida in 2010.  Who was first in line? That would be Kim who made an original art quilt plus a duet of quilts with me–each fantastic!

So Kim, were you a crafty kid?

Yes, I was and I still am. As I think about it now everybody in the family had something they liked to do. For my father it was auto mechanics, woodworking for my brother, and sewing for my mother and me. My mom favored embroidery while my aunt tatted—I still wish I’d learned the tatting.

Kim is renowned for her original bags as well. Here she riffs on Gustav Klimt and Asian design styles.

What’s your quilting story?

I remember sitting in the back seat of my Dad’s Chevy pretending to sew with an imaginary needle and thread. I think that clued my mother into my sewing destiny, so she started teaching me after that. She’s the one who signed me up for my first quilting class too. For ten weeks after work I’d commute practically across the state for the class. I loved it because each week we’d tackle a new block. I remember showing the teacher a quilt I’d seen in a magazine that I wanted to try. She told me it was too hard for me. Mistake. I made that quilt along with the class sampler—although I still haven’t finished hand quilting it 20 years later!

You favor art quilts and contemporary styles; when and how did you make the transition from the traditional forms?

When I moved to California over 10 years ago, I didn’t know about art quilts until I attended a show in Petaluma, north of San Francisco. That was eye opening! I upgraded my sewing machine soon after that and reacquainted myself with a craft I’d kind of abandoned because life intervened. I jumped in and started taking classes with exciting teachers, especially at the Empty Spools seminars in Pacific Grove where I selected workshops with Jane Sassaman and Ruth McDowell. My first art quilt was actually the one I made for the book The Samurai’s Garden when we were in that quilting group—it won a ribbon at a local guild show!

Kim won a ribbon for her interpretation of Gail Tsukiyama's The Samurai's Garden.

What inspires you?

Many things—I respond to visual stimulation—but mostly nature.

You’ve got a super-workable stash; what’s your shopping strategy?

I don’t buy a lot of super-bright fabrics or those with harsh tones. I buy smaller quantities of themed fabric, but I’m vulnerable to prints with script. I buy for color and then for pattern.

Flowers are a favorite theme for Kim.

Your quilts are very clean and meticulous—every element works in harmony—is that the result of a lot of planning?

I’m probably more spontaneous than it looks. I don’t necessarily have a plan, but I do set parameters. (That’s less-true for a Ruth McDowell-like project that requires a lot of pattern drafting.) Typically, I work on a project until I hit a design snag and then I put it on hold for another project until I find an answer. Bottom line is I know what I like, but it just might take me a while—along with some seam ripping and re-sewing—to get there.

Writing about the people and things I enjoy about quilting is a real treat as a blogger—hope you enjoyed the peek into Kim’s art. Do you have a quilt or craft artist you admire? BTW:  Keep on scrolling for a peek at another one of Kim’s award-winning art quilts.

Kim memorialized a romantic trip to Italy with an album of Roman doorways.

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