Probably one of the nicest aspects of sewing arts is our tradition of sharing knowledge and expertise. As we absolutely love to spread quilt making, sewing, and crafting know-how, here’s a few lessons and insights picked up by your “quilting sisters” at See How We Sew:
Best piece of quilting advice you ever got?
Darra: It was a quote I saw in American Quilter magazine, probably in the late ’80s, in an article written by Joen Wolfrom. In it she said: “A finished quilt which has no imperfections, artistically or technically, is one that was created within the quilter’s comfort zone. No significant learning will take place when we stay in this safe place.”
I had never met Joen, but this quote struck an enormous chord with me. I copied it down and taped it on the wall of my sewing room. When I began to travel and teach, I carried the quote with me and read it at the beginning of almost every workshop.
In 1993, I found myself teaching at a quilting event in Northern Virginia. Joen was one of the other teachers. We connected almost immediately, and—over the past almost-20 (!) years—have become close personal, as well as professional, friends. To this day, I still continue to try something new—however small—with every quilt I make.
Jennifer: My bit of gathered advice is really a visual lesson I picked up back in the days when I did Publicity at C&T Publishing. I came across, to my mind, one of the most insanely compulsive quilting titles ever, Stripes in Quilts by Mary Mashuta. I was dumbfounded by the attention to striped detail she displayed: every striped block or strip was fussy cut to the nth degree for perfect matches. The resulting quilts were masterful, but I seriously doubted I would go down that road with my own quilts. Ah well, the years pass, experience grows, and a sense of craftsmanship blooms. All told, that book delivered a serious lesson in respecting a fabric’s print design–I think, I look, and I plan before I cut!
Laura: I often find myself in a stuck spot with either color and/or design. Years ago I remember my co-author Diana McClun telling me that if I was not pleased with my design it was often a matter of value. I always keep this thought in the back of my mind and try to include a variety of light, medium, and dark-colored fabrics. When I remember to listen to this advice, I am always happier with the results.
Pati: The best advice I ever got came in the form of a question while I was stressing over perfect center points on very small Lemoyne Stars. “When you are finished, and it is quilted and sitting on your lap, will you really care if it doesn’t have perfect points?” I go back to this each time I am worrying over something–quilting-related or not!
Darra: Any of the Quilt National books. Other favorites include Fabric Gardens: An International Exhibition of Quilts at Expo ’90 (catalog for a Japanese exhibit that traveled to The Dairy Barn in Athens, OH), Patchwork Pictures (the work of British fiber artist Edrica Huws), Landscape in Contemporary Quilts by Ineke Berlyn, and Quilts in Bloom (Blumen der Mainau; catalog for an exhibit in Germany).
Jennifer: Anything by Ruth McDowell—she’s a genius after all. Kaffe Fassett’s early hardback books with the photography by Steve Lovi are among my favorites for eye candy, I like the newer ones as well, but the original ones set the standard.
Laura: I often start with either Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns or Jinny Beyer’s The Quilter’s Album of Patchwork Patterns. I enjoy tweeking and changing some of the traditional patterns to suit my needs.
Pati: The Ultimate Quilting Book by Maggi McCormick Gordon. I curl up on the couch on a regular basis with this book for historical inspiration. I also tend to go to Folk Art and Textile books for inspiration. One of my favorites is Ralli Quilts – Traditional Textiles from Pakistan and India by Patricia Ormsby Stoddard.
Book that most influenced you as a new quilter?
Darra: Pieces of the Past by Marsha McCloskey and Nancy Martin was a big one for me. I collected antique quilts before I became a quilter, and have been very inspired by them right from the start . . . especially scrap quilts. I was also very drawn to The Scrap Look by Jinny Beyer, Calico and Beyond by Roberta Horton, and Threads of Time by Nancy Martin. There have been tons of books written on scrap quilts since, but I still go back to these classics, over and over. From the first day I started teaching, Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!! has always been my #1 recommendation for new quilters.
Jennifer: An old McCall’s series (1980’s) on quilting—my starting point—and then Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!! of course. Imagine my surprise, the authors are now my friends!
Laura: Shortly after learning to quilt, I was fortunate enough to spend 5 days at a quilting seminar with Mary Ellen Hopkins. She taught out of her book It’s OK if You Sit on My Quilt. The book was chockfull of patterns and techniques. I wanted to make every one. The seminar and book inspired me to share my new found passion with others in the classroom.
Pati: Definitely, the first edition of Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!! by our own, Laura Nownes and Diana McClun. This was my first quilting book I had ever purchased. I referred to it so many times for myself or to teach others, that I wore it out!
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