I met Paula at MQX East in Providence Rhode Island. Her laugh is at the ready and contagious! Her smile huge and her willingness to have fun and play amazing!
Teri: How did you get hooked into quilting?
Paula: I was graduating from Cornell a semester early, and as a gift my Mother, who is a quilter brought me a sewing machine, rotary cutter with mat and ruler, and Eleanor Burns’ Double Irish Chain book. She suggested that I make a quilt top before I came home next. Up until that point I spent all my time with my nose in books or at work. Two weeks later I went home with a Twin size quilt pieced! I was absolutely hooked! That was 23 years ago!
Teri: Do you still have this quilt top? If you’d have to name your favorite quilt what would it be? (Do you have photos of your first quilt?)
Paula: I definitely have this quilt ! It is in my cedar trunk at the foot of my bed. I have pictures on film!!:^) I used a combination of basic stitch in the ditch combined with tying! It has what I’m sure was an inexpesive polyester batting… and was pillowcased, so no binding! Wow, I’ve come a LONG way, baby!:^)
Teri: What are your favorite fabs and colors?
Paula: Anyone who knows me would tell you BRIGHTS!! But they don’t have to be screaming– though they could LOL. Deep rich colors– hues really strike my fancy! Deliciously painful color combinations– pink and red, lime green and just about anything! LOL I’m pretty fond of orange! THen again there is nothing better than a luscious cobalt blue in varying prints and textures. Anything that makes my heart sing! Academically I can understand the browns and creams and burgandies, but they don’t speak to me at all! AS for types of fabric– I like anything that is quirky and amusing– be it a novelty print or a fun geometric! I love the big florals and textures. My most recent quilt (and first log cabin) was pieced from a set of Kaffe Fasset fabrics I’ve had seasoning for a couple years!
Teri: From meeting you in person these fabs totally capture you. Do you use patterns or design your own quilts?
Paula: It’s funny, when people see my work and tell me how creative I am, I tell them that I follow directions well! I do like a good pattern... that being said, I am not opposed to changing it– not to call it my own, but just to make it mine. I find that most of the things that I design are still a work in progress, whereas what I have started from a pattern gets finished at this point. This is currently a product of how busy I am. I believe the older the kids get, the more I will design and FINISH my own designs. That being said, I always design and make a quilt for my children’s teacher– and this year I think is my best yet! It will get finished. For me the best part of the modern quilt movement is stressing the free-form piecing. I really like to know where I’m going, and how I’m gonna get there. You can tell from looking at my scrappy quilts– the most organized scrappy quilts you will ever see, I might add!
Teri: What machine/s are your faves and why?
Paula: Piecing I love my Bernina 1090 for piecing. I can do anything with that machine! I’ve had others since, but that is my go to machine. I like the everything about it — from it’s solid all metal construction, inlcuding the smooth metal extension table, to the knee life , which I couldn’t live without (pins? I don’t need no stinkin’ pins!), to the foot pedal with it’s heel tapping half stitch! It’s the perfect combination. And it will sew through anything!!!
Quilting For quilting, I am a huge fan of my Gammill Optimum Plus. I love the freedom that the 30″ head gives me to quilt virtually anything I can reach! I’m not sure I could ever go back to quilting on my Bernina… I too would load something ridiculously small– I am so used to moving the “pencil” over “paper” now, I don’t think I could go back!
Teri: Do you have the Statler?
Paula: Actually, I have an IQ. I looked at everything and decided that the IQ was the way to go for me. I really feel now I can do anything! There are a ton of designs– it really speeds up my work flow. And, if you want it to look like I hand-guided (what I call hand quilting, LOL– it’s all a matter of perspective!) it, I can still record a section and create a whole quilt from that. I find most customers want an overall not too dense design. The IQ lets me give that to them, while not stressing my body with the repetition. Of course, I decided to spoil myself by adding a second longarm– a smaller Gammill Vision 18-8, which lets me still get my fix for the freemotion fun and play without hauling that big machine around the frame! I am very happy I have the best of both worlds. And now I can actually get some of my own quilts finished!
Teri: Do you eagerly participate in the world of quilterly competition ?
Paula: Not at all! I am way more interested in the viewers individual response and enjoyment than what a judge thinks about the section of the quilt that is looked at closely. My goal is to make something that is visually pleasing to me and to others. I strive to do the best I can on every quilt, but finished IS better than perfect… which is in the eye of the beholder!
Teri: I like that, “finished is better than perfect”. It’s a great way to gain great pleasure in quilts and removes the compartive nature that happens. Have you always embraced this way of looking at quilting or has this developed over time?
Paula: I think I have always been this way. I am a “pleaser” by nature. I really like impressing people, while stressing that “you too can do this!” I put my stitches in 1 at a time, just like everyone else. Linda Leathersich, another longarm quilter and teacher, was the first person who said that exact phrase to me “Finished is better than perfect.” I keep it in mind at all times. But my success is in how it pleases me and those that look at it. I’ve seen a lot of winning quilts that don’t do a thing for me. While I recognize the technical merit, if it doesn’t make my heart sing, it doesn’t hold my attention. And techincal merit is still a matter of subjective perspective. I think what solidified this for me was the first time I entered a quilt in a big show. I and 2 others entered quilts in the rookie of the year category– being that we had gotten our longarm that year. 2 of us were quilters, 1 of us was a first time quilter. He kicked our butts. His stitches were wobbly and to the best of his ability, but definitely not up to the smooth and flowing standard of what he was trying to do. That being said, the judges felt that the what they considered intentionally bumpy stitching lent authenticity to the subject matter and scored it very highly. We all got a really large laugh out of it– and a good lesson. One that I am glad I came across early. The only one that needs to be happy with my quilt is me!! And if it makes someone else smile, well, BONUS!
Teri: Do you have a personal blog or website?
Paula: Yes and No. I started a blog and a facebook page. Because I quilt for others on a nearly full time basis, I don’t find the time to keep it up. Now that I am done buying big tools to make that job easier, I expect that I will edge more towards my own creativity and do a better job of documenting it!
Teri: Now that you have all the tools making your quiltmaking easier can you share with us what some of your tools are? Rulers, thread etc?
Paula: Well, I piece with my 1090 virtually exlcusively, though I am plodding through a Farmer’s Wife with my featherweight– definitely a long term project! I love my rotary cutters– I like my 60mm the best, but have all the sizes– and rulers… my 6 x 12 and 6 x24 are my staples, but I have pretty much all of them as well! I built myself a large cutting table out of wire rack shelves and MDF, that also stores my stash. I piece with Superior’s Masterpiece– I love the the fine crisp seam it makes– on my Bernina 1090 with my extended table and a tilt table. My fiskars “squeezy-snips” sit right underneath. I iron with a “cheap and easy” iron that doesn’t leak or break the bank when it needs to be replaced. I have replaced my ironing board with a large Steady Betty, which I admit does a great job of pressing seams. But being a fan of steam, I also have a June tailor large pressing board as well.
As for quilting, I love my gammills– it definitely allows me to do anything. Love Superior’s Omni thread, and their LAVA for variegated. For batting I use Quilter’s Dream– cotton, poly, and wool, pretty much exclusively. Their consistency and quality cannot be beat. There is nothing better than being able to count on a quality product to keep your work stress-free!
Teri: Do you have any teacherly aspirations?
Paula: I have and still occasionally do teach. Again, my longarm quilting business and the fact that I have young school age children prevents me from pursuing this at a 100%. I suppose as they get older I may move more in that direction.