Quilting is just for people that went to design school…right?
With a degree in nursing and an itch for some mommy alone time (a’men) Kelly, of Kellyquilter Design started making quilts in the 80’s. After a short break while her sons were little, she started producing quilts again in the 90’s and became a teacher. Since then, Kelly has published lots of beautiful patterns, a book, and produced helpful templates for both. I’m excited to welcome Kelly to the blog today!
How did you learn to sew and quilt?
Kelly learned to quilt in Home Ec class, something that many current students won’t be able to say, unfortunately. She started in on her story: “I had a whole semester of sewing (and a whole semester of cooking!). We didn’t do any quilt-making, only garment construction. I made a lot of my clothes from that point on into my early adulthood. I loved sewing! However, I had been introduced to quilts when I was a little girl by being shown a quilt that my paternal grandmother (my Mamo, as I called her) had made and put away for her grandchild (which ended up being me!). It was a Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt, and I was fascinated with all the little hexagons that she had so carefully cut out and sewed together. That quilt was then put away until I was an adult. My fascination with hexagons began there! I knew when I got that quilt back as an adult that quilt-making was in my future, and I wanted to make a hexagon quilt, too. I’m sure Mamo was smiling down on me when my book, Hexagons, Diamonds, Triangles, and More was published!!”
How did you get started with Kellyquilter Designs?
Kelly has always found herself teaching, she explains, “As a nurse, I frequently had nursing students assigned to me to mentor. I worked in Nursing Staff Development offices in many hospitals. I taught around the country for a critical care medical equipment company. As I became more proficient in quilt-making, the segue into teaching quilt-making was very natural and organic. As many quilt-makers do, I began making quilts from other person’s patterns, but it didn’t take long for me to begin to design my own quilts and teach from my designs. Then, people began to ask for patterns, so I began to write some patterns and I needed a name. I am a fairly literal person, so Kellyquilter Designs seemed pretty fitting!”
What’s it like creating templates?
My friends think I’m fascinating for creating quilts, but I think Kelly is fascinating for creating templates! Tell me about what that’s like.
Kelly got a kick out of my comment, but it’s true! She giggled and said, “Creating templates was a natural by-product of the shapes I wanted to work with. I could find templates for some of the shapes already on the market, but not necessarily in the sizes that I needed them. When I wrote my book, I subdivided the hexagon into several sub-shaped, and I did that for three different sizes of hexagons, yielding 35 different templates. I made every one by hand as I was making the blocks for my book. Then I got to thinking that there MUST be a company that could make them from acrylic so cutting the shapes from fabric could be done more easily and with a rotary cutter. Indeed, there are those companies, and I have found a company that does a great job for me. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t think about doing this until after the manuscript was turned in. That was a huge lesson for me!!”
What’s Your Angle?
As I was talking with Kelly, I realized that many of my readers might be intimidated by some of those angles, so I asked Kelly for her angular tips and advice.
Kelly was happy to share her expertise, “The biggest piece of advice is don’t let an odd angle intimidate you! The worst that might happen is that while you’re learning, a little fabric might get “wasted”. And, not really “wasted” if you learn something from it! I wanted to make a hexagon quilt from the time I began quilting, but so many of my mentors warned against it because set-in seams (“Y-seams”) were required to put them together. It took me 15 years into my quilt-making journey before my desire to make a hexagon quilt became greater than the fear I had about doing it! Once I dug in, I found that I could sew set-in seams quite easily on the sewing machine, and they really weren’t hard, at all! I simply needed to know where to start and stop! So, I have taken it on as my personal mission to restore the good reputation of the set-in seam by teaching as many quilters how to do them on the sewing machine as I possibly can!!!” Her other advice would be: to take a class from a good instructor, buy a good book or take an online class. There are tons of resources available to learn about what you’re interested in!
Tell me about your BOM (Block of the Month)
“Thus far, I have done only one BOM on my website. I think BOMs can be a great way to introduce persons to my website and to what I love to do!” Kelly watched a friend of hers do a lot of BOMs over the years, and she encouraged Kelly to give it a try. After doing her first, she thought it might be a good way to ease learners in to working with 60-degree shapes. It was a lot of fun, and you should keep an eye out for another one in the future!
Talk to me about solids.
I saw a lot of solids on Kelly’s site and asked if she had any tips on how to work with solids. Kelly admits that she actually hasn’t worked with solids a whole lot, so when she was planning her BOM, she decided to do it in solids so that she would get more comfortable working with them! Kelly explains, “Doing so truly did help me ease into working with solids, and I use them much more regularly now that ever before! The biggest tip, I think, is to have plenty of contrast whether using a variety of colors, two colors, or are working in a monochromatic family. Another aspect to consider when using solids is the quilting! As a longarm quilter, the possibilities for quilting on solids – especially if using contrasting thread – are vast!! Virtually every area of the quilt top has the possibility of being a showcase!!”
While researching for this interview, I noticed something a bit peculiar on Kelly’s site. One of her lectures is titled “Quilting is not a matter of life or death” and a post titled “the joy of unstitching” (Which I LOVE by the way!). I asked Kelly to give me a glimpse into her relaxed and grateful view on life and quilting.
“When I was nursing, I worked in a trauma intensive care unit in a Level 1 trauma center, taking care of persons who were victims of violent trauma, motor vehicle accidents etc. It truly was “life and death” every single day. Quilting is a joy for me; a sanctuary; an opportunity to express myself and my creativity. I don’t take the actual construction of a quilt or the quilting of a quilt too seriously: if my points don’t match perfectly or my stitching isn’t perfect, nobody is going to die because of it, thankfully! However, I take the act and the art of quilting very seriously! That is: a lot of “me” goes into my designs and my quilts. If I make a quilt for someone, it is representational of how much I care about another person.. To me, a quilt is “tangible love”. And, the time I spend in my studio is sacred time to me: I have spent some of my happiest moments and saddest moments in my studio playing with fabric and design. It is where I think and work out my issues and ponder life’s greatest and most challenging questions. And, it is where I offer lots of gratitude and appreciation for all kinds of persons, things, and experiences. I truly believe that every experience and every challenge in life offers us an opportunity, and so much of the ‘quality of life’ is in how we think about it and how we approach it.”
Wow! What an inspiring way to wrap things up! Kelly, you are truly an incredible quilter and I’ve been so happy to talk with you today! Thank you for not only inspiring us, but reminding us about what is important and how our craft is truly a gift to ourselves and others.
Join us next week as we near the end of summer and get inspired for your school-year sewing!
All images used with permission.