Can you hear me screaming with joy? I cannot tell you how glad I am that it's finally Friday. What a long week. Colds are the worst. But we have plans to have hot dogs and a game night with friends tonight, and I'm going to sew, sew, sew all weekend. So, let's kick off our weekend with (drumroll please) Bonnie Hunter!
I'm sure most if not all of you are familiar with Bonnie's iconic, brilliant quilts, her love of great scraps, and her incredible energy. Not only has she been so encouraging about my (rather unconventional) En Provence, she is joining us today to share some behind the scenes peeks and words of wisdom.
1) Tell us a little about yourself, your family, your creative background, etc. Thank you for the invite! I’m thrilled for the opportunity to share a bit of my quilty life with you.
As the first child in my family, and the only girl with two younger brothers until much later on, I always found MAKING things to be the most fun. I started sewing when I was about 11, and by jr high and high school I was making quite a few of my own clothes. I loved home ec, and anything that had to do with cutting, stitching, and of course buying fabric. There was something special about pinning a pattern to fabric and cutting it out and sewing it into something I could wear.
I’ve been quilting since the early 1980s, and as I say that – I realize that it is more than half of my life. I started in a high school home economics course, and fell in love with patchwork and quilting from the get-go.
In the 1990s I applied my love of sewing and quilting into my first pattern business “Needle in a Haystack!!” with more than 70 designs for dolls and stuffed animals wearing country clothing and a primitive feel. These patterns were featured in magazines and in the Butterick pattern catalogs. But my first love (And a great use of the doll making scraps!) was always quilting.
In 1995 I bought my first longarm machine and have never spent a day without something quilty under my needle!
My first website appeared in 1996, and within a couple of years I moved to my own domain Quiltville.com. where I advertised my longarm quilting business as well as hosted many free patterns for quilters to use up their stash. Those patterns are still available today, though links moved to my blog in 2005 because it was easier to host (and edit!) them there, accessible from any computer as I began to travel and teach quilting to others.
For anyone who doesn’t know me – I am a confirmed Scrapaholic. Scrap quilts are my absolute favorite, and the scrappier the better. I love making good use of any piece of fabric that comes my way, and I have included scrap management articles on my blog, in magazines, and also in my books.
2) Your patterns are intricate and amazing-- What does your design process look like? A MESS usually! I'm fairly traditional to start with. I'm inspired by antique quilts and traditional design elements but not limited by them either. I like to change things up and play with different shapes and colors while mixing and matching fabric genres to get the look I want.
I tend to start with a block idea, make a few blocks to see if I still like them. If I do I am off and running and deciding how to set them. Straight? Straight with sashings? Straight with an alternate block? Or what about on-point? I love geometric shapes that make secondary designs when you put them together. The busier the quilt and the more going on within it the more I like it.
I have been working from my Scrap User's System for going on 20 years now. It's a system of tackling my scraps down as I make them - leftovers from projects and backings, etc - by trimming them into usable strip widths, squares and rectangles that work together in many combinations so I am always ready to go sew without having to stop and iron a stack of fat quarters before cutting.
3) How do you recharge your creativity? My eyes are always open at whatever is around me, be it tile floors, wall paper designs, greeting cards, antique quilts – studying buildings and side walks and interior decorating in hotels (Ever check out the carpets?!) can really get the juices going.
And graph paper. Always good old fashioned graph paper and a pencil.
4) How is creative community important to your work? That's a great question. I've been married for 36 years. (To the same guy!) and we have two grown sons. I've got an "almost" empty nest, but being the only female can sometimes have its tough spots. The creative community GETS ME. I get them. I can relate, understand, comment, commiserate, rejoice, laugh, share, learn and most of all connect with others who are just as driven to play with fabric, thread and design as much as I am. It's hugely important. I can't imagine going back 30 years and trying all of this without social media or the internet.
Writing patterns 30 years ago? Or books? Can you imagine? "Pass the white out!"
5) What advice do you have for other quilters or makers on their creative journeys? DO. Make. Keep at it. Never stop learning. Lose your fear of making mistakes. And I think the most important thing I can say is GIVE until it hurts. Give of your time, your talents, your vision. The more you give, the more comes back. I know that for a fact.
Because in the end, it's the relationships that matter far more than the quilts we make or the high-end fabric and thread they come from, or the fancy-dancy machines they are made on.
Our community is more about people than it is about quilts. Our common love of quilting is just what puts us in the same space together. But our hearts keep us here.
Thank you, Bonnie! What a treat to hear more from you! The watermarked photos in this post are from Bonnie's Instagram. Be sure to follow her there @quiltville_bonnie and join her Facebook page, Quiltville!
As you can see above, I've finished (and even bound!) my En Provence quilt (2016's Quiltville Mystery)! For lots more pictures and videos of it in progress, follow me on Instagram @stringandstory. And if you're interested in my quilting plan or how I chose my fabrics for En Provence, just click here or here.
Happy making and happy weekend!