Retrospective of my quilting life so far. My professional quilt life began just 21 months ago but the retrospective goes back much further to my humble beginnings.
I never thought of being a professional quilter. I don’t have any connections. Heck I could not even follow a quilting pattern, nor sew a straight line. That’s the very reason I know I can teach you how to quilt. I did it the hard way – I taught myself.
I am a professional, fully qualified and experienced teacher. I had always been interested in making things. I still am rarely seen without knitting needles and have designed my own patterns since the early 90s. For the past ten years I have dabbled with hand dyeing yarn, threads and fabric.
At the same time I became a self-published author of gardening books. I was very successful, particularly in the USA and Australia. I became a professional gardening speaker, speaking up and down the west coast of America.
About ten years ago I went back to college to study art and design. Chiefly I wanted to learn to draw. The year before I had studied ceramics and fallen in love with it, but there was no way I could afford nor house a kiln. So I was thinking of doing fine art. Then I became very interested in digital art and I have had some success in that field. I developed unique ways of manipulating photos. My interest in photography extends to decades ago. As does my interesting in painting and art.
After that I took a morning course in Japanese Folded Patchwork and fell in love with this hand sewing method. I was developing textiles at the time but my interests have always been broad.
In late 2011 I went to a stitch show and bought some fabric for quilting. I had no idea what to do with it. I eventually put it together for tiny pram quilts and made lots of mistakes. That was final then. I’d never make it as a quilter. Quilting books completely baffled me. However I had not bought one lot of fabric, I had bought four lots falling in love with the colours. This fabric languished for some years. In 2012 I thought it was a shame not to use the fabric and started a quilt, but got stuck and it became a UFO.
I continued to sell gardening books, paint and create digital art. I did an art residency.
In 2013, I made four quilted place mats. I found them difficult to do and I forget how many hours they took me. I moved house and it became more difficult to dye. I was still living from the sales of my gardening books and had more to write. I lived in Tunisia for much of the time producing art and writing gardening books. I also wrote a book on Tunisian textiles. I was making embroideries and textile art and still do.
My interest in digital art deepened and everyone keep saying the designs would make great quilts. I kept thinking, maybe, but I am no good at quilting. It was not until late 2015 I tried to quilt again, making a knitting needle holder. It was a hobby I was struggling with. I had at least three garden writing projects on the go. I was approached by a publisher to write for them also. I made a couple of bags and a couple of dresses. I would tense up every time I did sewing, waiting for something to go wrong.
Dramatically in late 2016/early 2017 through no fault of my own, I was left without the means to earn a living. I was told my stock of books had been destroyed. I had no money to replace them. I took stock of what I could do, and my immediate thought was stitch. I set out to become a professional quilter.
I learned to do Cathedral Window Quilting and wrote my own tutorials for quilting. I started to design my own stained glass fabrics for it. It was a slow process, being hand quilted but I was still so wary of sewing machines. By March 2017, I taught my first quilting classes. I developed online classes for people to take wherever they live. I moved into landscape quilting on the machine, designing my own quilts and writing up tutorials. I took the advice of friends and turned some of my digital designs into quilts also.
It was not until August 2017 that I finished my first bed-sized quilt, that UFO started five years earlier. I used my talents in design and colour to get me through. My challenge was mastering my sewing machine. I did and my latest design features free-motion sewing. Perseverance got me there in the end.
I developed more tutorials and ecourses including design. I challenged myself to make three kaleidoscope quilts this year, to prove that my skills are there.
My next stage is to use my own fabric designs to continue my quilting journey with my own quilting designs. So there you have it a retrospective of my bumpy quilting journey that might never have happened if circumstances had not forced it. Design is still my driving factor but I don’t hate sewing any more, I have embraced it. I don;t get stuck any more, I have perfected my sewing skills. I am making quilts for sale. I did FOQ 2018 to dip my toes into the quilting market.
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Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2018