January 11, 2011

Interview with a Quilter

Luan, pronounced "Lou-on" is a master quilt artist living in the gorgeous Sierra Nevada foothills. Her hand quilted quilts are admired and sought after by family and friends. And since Minelolly also features her creations in the store, and she's my sweet mother...I thought it would be fun to post a little interview with her. Enjoy.

Tell us about yourself.
I was born in Utah, but raised in Twin Falls, Idaho. Both Mother and Dad were artistic in their own fashion. Dad made doll furniture for me and my two sisters, and Mother does all manner of sewing and crafting. She is in her 80’s and is planning to decorate her sewing room with baby blessing dresses. So I inherited talents from my parents.

I enjoy reading, sewing, quilting, and going out with friends. I decorate my home with antiques, and love hanging platters on the walls. My favorite color is purple. My husband says purple isn’t a color, but rather an attitude. I definitely have a purple attitude. Sometimes I see no other color.

Family is important to me. My husband of 31 years and I have four children, all talented in their own right. As my children are adults, we don’t get together often but when we do we have a great time.

When did you pick up quilting and how did you learn?
My mother is a very talented seamstress. She can make anything and has. It was from watching her sew that I learned and she has taught me many clever ways of sewing. My first quilt was rows of 4” squares sewn together, and tied with hot pink yarn. This quilt was on my bed at college.

As our children came along, I sewed clothing for our four children. As a natural way to use up the scraps of fabric, I began quilting. My quilts have always been more of a scrap bag conglomeration.

But it’s been in just the last 10 years I have produced such a large number of quilts. I have a high pressure job in a bakery, and need a calming release. Quilting does that for me.

What is it about quilting that gives you the most joy?

I enjoy every part of the quilting process, but my favorite is the quilting part. I do not see the draw for the machine quilted quilts. Their look is so different from the hand work done with a needle.

My frames are set up behind the couch in the TV room, so I can enjoy watching chick flicks, the History Channel, and movies with my family while I quilt. And as I mentioned before, quilting gives me the relief I need from my job.

What handmade item do you most cherish?

A a cedar chest, a blanket chest, and a small cupboard made by my father using old wood from a barn. They were in my room until I moved away to college but came with me when I got married.

After years of being married my husband asked me if it was time to get rid of the three pieces. I said absolutely not. They were a part of me and come with me. Then I asked him if he still wanted to be married to me. It’s been 31 years, so I’m thinking he is now okay with the old barn wood furniture.

Apart from quilting, what else do you like to do?
I love to go out with friends. It’s wonderful to laugh and talk about things like husbands, family, children and grandchildren, hobbies, etc.

I like to shop in second hand stores, as well as antique stores.

I make hot pads and baby bibs using left over scraps from quilts. These make great hand made gifts. It makes me feel good to use up what I have on hand. When someone does something nice for me, I let them pick out a set of hot pads as a thank you gift. It’s really soul satisfying.

Housework! Yes, you heard me. I love keeping my house up. Always have. Always will. Love to hear the washer and dryer going, and the dishwasher washing. It’s great, and allows me more sewing and reading time.

I also enjoying keeping up on my photo albums and my journal. I like living in the details, and making notes of them. I am a list maker. Keeping journals, and albums is fun for me. It’s a pleasure to thumb through them and remember my past and that of my family.

What influences your creativity?
Magazines mostly. I subscribe to several different quilting magazines.
Quick Quilts
Quilt Maker
McCall’s Quilting Better Homes and Gardens American Patchwork and Quilting
Fons and Porter Love of Quilting

These magazines are a great way to get the creative juices flowing.

What advice do you have for a novice quilter?

To start, buy one or two quilting magazines at the store, and later subscribe to your favorites. They are full of beautiful color photos of quilts, and the instructions are detailed and useful. Read the articles, and helpful hints. In almost every issue there are instructions for the novice as well as the experienced quilter.

If there are some instructions that are unclear, don’t worry. Over time and with experience with cutting, sewing and quilting, more instructions will become clearer.

Describe your creative process.

I keep a stack of magazines on my sewing table, open to the page of the next quilt I would like to try. And I use the scraps I have on hand, hardly ever buying fabric to match the pictures of quilts. However, I do try to use the same colors. The color combinations and shapes are what draws me to a design in the first place.

I like to have one quilt in construction at the sewing machine, one on a hanger ready to be quilted, and one on the quilting frames.

The quilting technique I used has evolved over the years. I use outline, in the ditch, stencil patterns, and echo quilting. In 2003 I tried quilting with a new, thicker thread. I often use a pair of needle nosed pliers to pull the needle through the quilts’ three layers. At first this was awkward but after a while, it was second nature. The look of the finished quilt is well worth this extra effort, in my opinion.

At first I was purchasing the thread in a color to match the quilts, but once I tried black I loved it so much that I use it exclusively, no matter what the color scheme of the quilt.

Over time I’ve gone to making crib/lap sized quilts because they are small enough that I can assemble the layers and put them on the frames by myself. The designs are queen size, just shrunk. And I often manipulate the size by adding or subtracting borders as I see fit.

To date I have machine pieced and hand quilted 48 queens, 19 twins, and 104 baby/lap/wall sized quilts. These are all recorded in a quilting journal, along with descriptions, measurements, color, and a photo.

I really do have to mention that I have a dear and wonderful friend who feeds my quilting passion. She purchases fabric where ever she can, and gives it to me. Hence my quilts have a lot of fabric that was never used, but now has a new home in the lovely quilts I make. In return for the fabric, I give her children baby quilts as the grandchildren come along.

In the beginning it was not my plan to give away or sell any quilts. But you should see what a tall stack of baby quilts looks like. My bedroom is full of quilts. So as the stack grew, it became easier to share my love of quilting with others. Because I have photos and a journal, I can look at those quilts anytime. Sharing is a good thing to do.