Q&A with ChicagoNow Blogger Kathleen Matthews of Quilting! Sewing! Creating!

Q&A with ChicagoNow Blogger Kathleen Matthews of Quilting! Sewing! Creating!
Courtesy of Quilting! Sewing! Creating!

When the call went out to see who was interested in interviewing and cross promoting our blogs on ChicagoNow, I was quick to volunteer. With over 300 blogs, I had no idea whom I would get much less what the subject they wrote would be. I was given Kathy Matthew’s blog on quilting and I had to do a quick mental search – do I know anyone or anything on quilting?


My family isn’t a crafty bunch when it comes to sewing and quilting. My grandmother was more seamstress hemming pants and fixing shirts but outside of that and doing needlepoint no one else really had the skill to pass along any help. I began to read Kathy’s blog and I noticed a few things straight away. First, she posts very regularly and second, she gets a lot of comments.


Kathy is a retired teacher who still teaches part time at a local college while also spending time taking care of her granddaughter. She mentioned she’ll soon retire from teaching all together because she has so many quilts to complete! Her sewing career began when she was 12 during a Home Ec class at school. Her mother showered her with praise and that positive reinforcement helped her keep up with the talent. Quilting came in to her life when she turned 30. Kathy wanted to find “something new” to build off of her sewing talent. Her mother got her a quilting class for her birthday – it was the last gift her mom gave her as she passed away soon after.


That gift 31 years ago, today is Kathy’s birthday!, has kept her sewing and now quilting. She feels it is a great connection to her mom and a final, wonderful gift. The time she spends quilting and sewing is calming and meditative for her. She quilts every day it has become so much a part of her life.


Here are a few questions I asked Kathy about her blog:

Is quilting something someone can dive in to on their own or should they take a class? 

I loved taking a class, I still do. Some people like books and making their own mistakes. It’s a very personal decision and is more dependent on where the person lives. There are so many classes on the internet that a person in a more rural area will do it more at their own pace whereas a person in a more Urban area would probably take a class. However some small towns have fabulous quilt stores.


How many variations or types of quilts are there? How long do they typically take to make?

Right now there are two main “trends” or “movements” in quilting. There are traditional quilts which follow established quilt blocks, are heavily quilted and the colors are standard. They are the kinds of quilts a few masters make and I personally can’t imagine them being used. These quilts can take years to make.


A reaction to this is the Modern Quilt movement which makes quilts which are simpler, more unique, less heavily quilted, vibrant colors and meant to be used. Within both of these movements are Art quilts, whole cloth quilts, mini quilts – too many to list really as new ones are being created every day. The Modern Movement has made quilting much more dynamic but as fabric companies get involved even that movement is becoming more entrenched and prescribed.


Your blog is a bit “how to” and lessons in living life – how does that help you engage with your readers?

I mix up tutorials and quilts I have made with quilt humor and quilty or non-quilty things in my life. I think it helps my readers make a connection with me because it’s not a “sponsored” quilt blog. Many blogs are sponsored by thread or fabric companies so the connection isn’t quite as real and they stick just to DIY or tutorials, I am more fleshed out.


It seems quilting and knitting are having a bit of a revival why do you think that is?

Knitting was the new yoga a while back. Sewing is back in vogue for two wildly different reasons. The success of reality shows like Project Runway and the Great British Sewing Bee plus all the classes on the internet have made sewing much more approachable for people. The other reason I think is that Hipsters in areas like Portland, Chicago and New York got really into sewing because it wasn’t something everyone else was doing and allowed them to create their own look. The Modern Quilt Movement has its headquarters in Portland, Oregon.


When it comes to quilting is there a set technique/form that a new person should/must learn? Once you know the basic steps or technique of quilting is it then that you can get creative?

It depends on where you start. If you come to quilting from garment construction or home decorative sewing, you probably know the basics of sewing, tension, thread types, what your machine can do, etc.  Then I think you just need a few pointers on getting seams to line up and nest plus grain and the importance of measuring.


After that I think you can take it incrementally and increase your knowledge as you go. If you are interested in something that is heavy on technique – like applique or trapunto – a class would be best. But if you just want to experiment making your own designs then go for it.


However if you have just decided that you want to quilt and you’re not a familiar sewist, then you should take a basic class and just learn your machine and do some straight seams. Make a pillowcase or ten. Build up your sewing skills and the creativity will follow and you will be happy with both.


That being said, there are the famous Gee’s Bend quilts from Alabama which are wildly creative and wonderful and very low on technique. For most quilters, knowing the ins and outs of sewing and technique avoids expensive mistakes and allows you to create those wonderful ideas you have in your head.


I have to thank Kathy for the time she took in answering my questions and giving me a bit of a lesson on quilting and sewing. It’s also great to learn why others write and share their passion. I hope Kathy has a great birthday and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye her latest creations to come.


To check out Kathy’s blog Quilting! Sewing! Creating! click here.


Joe Campagna is the Chicago Food Snob. A former restaurant General Manager, Server and Chef you can find him on twitter @chifoodsnob. You can reach him through email at joe@chicagofoodsnob.com

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