Monday, March 7, 2016

Coffee Talk with Beth Furnish

Meet one of your newest board members- Beth Furnish! Beth serves as our Programs Coordinator, so if you ever have any ideas for topics to cover at meetings, or guest speakers, just let her know!


How long have you been sewing?

I started sewing when I was a kid, maybe 7th or 8th grade, in home economics. I remember making a unicorn stuffed animal made from a kit. My grandma and mom sewed, too, but I was mostly left to teach myself with a sewing machine, a pattern, and fabric. I laugh now thinking how I used to carefully cut out all the pattern pieces (even the ones I didn't need for my garment), and nicely press them BEFORE cutting any fabric! I don't do that anymore.

How long have you been quilting?

I took my first quilting class in 2003. My husband foolishly surprised me with an anniversary present of a Juki mid-arm quilting frame around 2005. I'm now on my 3rd longarm machine, and he tells me I can't upgrade again.

Well to be fair, he started it... :)
Who or what inspired you to get into quilting?

I always thought I would hate quilting because of that 1/4" seam, matching seams, and keeping points. My niece liked turtles and a friend had made a turtle quilt, so I wanted to make the same turtle block for a canvas book bag for my niece. Little did I know then - it was a template pattern! I had no idea what I was doing, but I got it done. I had to put extra batting under the shell because it poofed up like a D cup. I guess you could say I also had my first "trapunto" experience, as well. After that I decided to take a quilting class in 2003 to learn how to quilt properly. I'm sure glad I did! I've been addicted ever since.

And so it begins!

What drew you to modern quilting, rather than a traditional or classic style?

After almost 10 years of quilting, I had just moved to CO and met up with an old friend who invited me to the Ft. Collins MQG. I made time to look into this thing called blogs and read about this person named Jacquie Gering. Her blog BLEW MY MIND! I read how she had just been to Ft. Collins a month prior for a fabulous dinner and workshop - I had just missed it! I wouldn't say I'd grown bored with quilting, but seeing these modern quilts just reinvigorated me in ways I didn't expect. I was so inspired to take the fundamental skills I had as a quilter and branch out into very different styles - not your grandma's quilt! (Even though I still love Grandma's quilts.) I was fortunate enough to go to the first two QuiltCons in Austin, where I got steeped in the many styles and personalities of modern quilting.

Who do you find inspirational in the world of modern quilting, and why?
You wanted my top 12 list, right? 

Haha, you won't catch me holding you back!

Modern quilting seems to focus more on the story behind the quilt, at least it can more easily do that for me. Thomas Knauer gave a fascinating talk at the first QuiltCon about the parallels between the modern art and quilting movements. I got goosebumps when he posted his "Palimpsest" quilt (quilted with double wedding ring pattern on rainbow patchwork) on the day the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage. Chawne Kimber inspires me with her series of word quilts that some find controversial. I got to see her "Give a F*ck" in person - one of my all-time favorites. I also like some less "heavy-topic" quilters, like Katie Pedersen. Someday I want to experiment with her half-square triangle value quilts. I also find Riel Nason's selvage quilts simply amazing! Many are Halloween designs, but she has a great snowman and others, too.

I took a paper-piecing design class by Penny Layman. I had made her Kitchen-Aid Mixer block and it opened my eyes to piecing any shape you want - for those times when applique just doesn't take long enough. I made a cowboy boot and want to get back to paper piecing.

As for quilting, I started out using contrasting or variegated thread for quilting, but then I started to crave blending thread and negative space after poring over Angela Walters' blog and Craftsy classes, and later following Krista Withers, Judi Madsen, Teresa Silva, Lisa Sipes, Kathleen Riggins, and Ardelle Kerr. I just love being able to accentuate piecing and add texture.

Whew! We have a great community of inspiration, don't we?! About half of these I already knew and loved, and the other half have been added to my blogroll and social outlets!
What styles (designers, manufacturers) of fabrics speak to you the most, and why?

My favorite fabrics are Echino (love the whimsical aspect and color combinations), Heather Ross (how can you not love the stories her drawings tell?), and Charley Harper lines (reminds me of watching birds with my grandpa). I'm starting to explore solids and color theory this year and want to learn how to use solids better.

When are you most productive? When do the most ideas strike you?

I'm a morning persons, so early in the morning, before my kids get up. That's my most peaceful, creative time.

What are some quilt patterns and styles you hope to tackle in the near future?

It's a dream of mine to do a modern whole cloth quilt, maybe with some of Krista Withers "piece as you go" technique sprinkled in. I will just have to guess at how she does it since I don't think taking her class is in the cards for me now that QuiltCon isn't in Austin anymore (sniff, sniff).

What quilt creation are you most proud of?

The 2nd modern quilt I did was my "New Dawn" quilt. I fell in love with Katie Pedersen's "Psychedelic Baby" at the first QuiltCon, but felt it needed a lot of negative space to play with. Plus, I wanted to make it king size and didn't want to piece the whole thing! So, I turned the square on point and put in a grey background. I knew I wanted to use Kaffe Fassett's Paperweight fabric and tried to find colors to exactly match the dots on the selvage. I pieced a few blocks and it looked awful, so I tried different colors. I repeated this cycle a few more times before I finally settled on the final colors (with the help form a couple of guild members). I put some of the color rejects on the back to remind me of the journey. I named it "New Dawn" to recognize a new era in both my quilting life and sleeping arrangements (as we were just coming out of the co-sleeping phase with our kids).

Have you ever had a quilt project go terribly wrong?

I made a sample quilt for a shop in CO and decided to try quilting feathers to help me learn. Well, the feathers came out ok, but when I flipped it, click, click as my fingernail ran over the stitiching, all of it! I didn't have my tension adjusted properly - not the longarm business advertising I'd hoped for! A hard way to learn to always, always, always check bobbin tension before you set loose to quilt for hours. I knew I was going to keep the quilt in the end, so I just left the stitching in.

In your opinion, what is one "must have" book or blog to visit for modern quilting?
This year, I am very interested in the Quick Curve Ruler patterns. I usually like to try to figure out how to make patterns on my own, but I cannot figure out how to make their projects without the pattern. They just came out with a new book this Jan and I'm currently making big plans!

What is your advice to someone just getting into modern quilting?
Try not to get swept up in all the trends. Or at least, go through that phase to educate yourself, but then come out of it to just follow your own likes. I've been in traditional and modern guilds before where certain styles of piecing, quilting, or fabrics are poo-pooed. I love all quilts (well, almost all), but I don't have to want it in my house to love it. I heard Simon Doonan on NPR's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" state his fashion advice: "I usually tell people, go out and buy a blue stripper wig. If you can establish a signature look at is recognizable, that is yours - bingo. You've made it, darling."

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