There are people in your life that you just admire for one reason or another. I “met” Paula Reid on Simply Quilts with Alex Anderson 100 years ago. Her comment, “Oh Alex!” in answer to Alex’s, “Do you ever do handwork?” question still makes me giggle. At my very first teaching gig Paula took me under her experienced teacherly wing, having dinner with me and listening when I was struggling for a moment. Having dinner with herself, Karen Stone and a few other teachers is still one of the highlights of that teaching gig in Knoxville. I love meeting up with Paula any chance I get.
It was Paula’s fluff and stuff technique that helped me break through the whole, “I can’t quilt this on my home sewing machine” fear. She did. I did. I can. I teach it now. Paula and I still have different approaches to that, and this shows there’s plenty of ways to machine quilt. And plenty of reasons to take classes with a variety of teachers.
Teri: How did you get started quilting?
Paula: A good friend of mine was a quilter; I was not knowledgeable about sewing, but really liked what she was making and was fascinated by some of the tools – mainly, rotary cutter and rulers. Both of us with our husbands attended a quilt show in Glendale CA in March 1990. While Mary and I were looking at the quilts, my husband bought me a rotary cutter, a 6”x24” Omnigrid ruler and a big self-healing mat. A few weeks later, I locked my keys in the trunk, stayed home from work for the day and made a very simple quilt on an old machine that I had been given 20-some-odd years before. Decided I loved this! Now that I am traveling 30 weeks a year teaching people how to quilt big quilts on their home machines, I wonder if Dan ever regrets that initial purchase.
Teri: Do you do anything on your quilts by hand?
Paula: The only thing I do by hand is attach the binding to the back. I’ve tried various “by machine” methods, but just don’t like the look. I’ve also done a little beading by hand, although I try to do most of that by machine.
Teri: What is the most controversial quilt you’ve ever made?
Paula: The Rodney King beating incident was one of the first police actions that was videotaped and broadcast across the country. The acquittal of the officers involved was such a huge thing in Los Angeles – many fires were set, cars overturned, stores looted, rioting in the streets. I made a quilt that was composed of strips of “hot” colors as my background, then shadow appliqued a silhouette from the video and put a LAPD badge made of organdy over that. Quilted the badge and the silhouette in monofilament and then quilted flames in orange, red and yellow rayon threads over the entire background. This was shown quite a lot when it was still politically relevant. I live in a very conservative area in a pretty darn liberal state so this was not the most popular quilt I’ve ever made, although probably the most shown.
Teri: I’ve seen on your blog that you love kits can you share why and what’s the best kit you’ve ever made?
Paula: I do love kits and I know you think I’m crazy, but sometimes I don’t want to design or have to think about what I’m sewing. My favorite part of the whole process is the actual machine quilting, so the originality of the piecing is much less important to me. The best kit I’ve ever made is difficult for me because I like so many of them! I do a lot of the Cozy Quilts patterns because they’re made from pre-cuts which makes getting to the good stuff even faster! Right now, my favorite is “Spooky Ride” from Tiffany Hayes of Needle in a Hayes Stack. (I’ll send you a pic) Haven’t decided how to quilt it yet, but it’s so fun and I love all the fabrics.
Teri: What’s the most enjoyable part of the process for you?
Paula: Definitely the most enjoyable part is the machine quilting – here is where a quilt, in my opinion, really becomes a quilt! Choosing the designs, whether marked or freehand, that enhance the piecing/applique to make a quilt stunning – that’s the whole end game for me!
Teri: What are you quilting on these days?
Paula: Right now, I’m working my way through some of the kits and patterns I have around. In the summer, I tend to catch up on my piecing because it’s so dang hot here (I realize that’s a drawback of being a domestic machine quilter rather than a longarmer; I’ve got the thing in my lap!); in the cooler weather, I start working through the stack of tops and backings and get some quilts finished.
Teri: And, if you wouldn’t mind a little bit on how you pair needles, thread and batting
Paula: First, I choose my batting, using two criteria – 1) How far am I planning to leave open (some battings need to be quilted a lot more closely than others) and 2) What am I going to use the quilt for? (Is this an heirloom, an everyday user, a gift, a charity quilt?) Once I make the batting decision, then I choose my needles. For cotton batting, I use a jeans/denim needle; for most others, I use a microtex sharp. If I’m in doubt, I try both on my test sandwich (I ALWAYS make a test sandwich so I’m not experimenting on the actual quilt) and choose the one that gives me the best stitch. As far as threads go, I generally use 50 or 60 wt. cotton in the bobbin and anything I love that is high quality in the top of the machine – cotton, polyester embroidery thread, metallics, silk, glow in the dark – whatever meets my color/shimmer/thickness wants for the particular quilt. Once I’ve chosen my thread, then I go back to my needle style and choose the appropriate size within that style. So I have denim and microtex needles all the way from size 70 for silk up to 90 for metallics and thicker embroidery threads.
This is a great time to catch up with Paula because she’s offering a sale on her Craftsy Class. Visit her website here. You can also catch up with her on facebook. And while the “challenge” is over, head on over to 2015 Free-Motion Quilt Challenge at Quilt Shop Gal for Paula’s Tutorial, and then stay for the rest.