The quilt decides what it wants to be…

Posted: August 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

Betsy True, Quilt Artist and KB Global Moderator

I have the pleasure of hosting Betsy the Quilter, artist, professional quilter, and Global Moderator at KindleBoards. Betsy is always there for us (i.e., the kindle gang) with a piece of advice, helpful ideas and a charming way of enforcing the rules.  I am delighted to find out more about her artistic endeavors with patterns, shapes and colors here on SoupAndNuts.  So, Betsy, here is the first question: Why quilt?

Gabriela, thanks for asking me to be on your blog!  Quilting, for me, fulfills a creative need.  And unlike other needlecraft, I find an infinite variety of pattern, design and technique.  I’m never bored!

Plus, we have a family tradition of quilting.  My grandmother (my dad’s mother) was a quilter, as was her daughter, my aunt.  They were both very prolific quilters.  One of my treasures is a bed quilt that my aunt pieced and my grandmother quilted.

Quilting has always fascinated me, even though my grandfather thought it was pointless–cutting up pieces of fabric and sewing them back together again!  It was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to quilt.

When did you start quilting, and how?

We were driving home from work (I was a statistician and a computer tech) in 1985 and went by a quilt shop.  Since it was something I’d always wanted to do, I went in to inquire about lessons and never looked back.  I took lessons from the shop and progressed to the point that I started creating my own designs and teaching at the shop.  I started doing very traditional quilts with a goal of making a bed quilt and eventually started doing art quilts for the wall.  I decided I wanted to learn as much as possible about the craft of quilting, so I took (and continue to take) lessons in a lot of different techniques.

How long does it take you to nail the design?

I would guess that this is a place where writing and and the quilt design experience are similar.  Sometimes, a design comes out almost fully formed; other times it’s a bit of trial and error.  I often start from a photograph or several photographs, selecting elements to use.  I either use my own photographs or the clients.  I do a lot of design in my head before my pen ever touches the paper.  For a commission or for a specific exhibition, design would take at least a week, perhaps more if it’s a struggle.  However, usually, I’m working at bits and pieces, so it could be a month from the start of a design to a finish.  I do a lot of work on paper, but I also will work on the computer for some designs.

What about the execution of the entire piece?

That depends on the size.  For one of my small art pieces, once the design is done, I can get the major design sewn in a week, quilted in another 2-5 days and another 2-3 days for finishing.  I’ve been known to pull an all-nighter when trying to meet a deadline.  I call it “sweatshop mode.”  The reality is that the work on most pieces is spread out over a few months.  I set things aside frequently to let them perk for making final decisions.

Can you take us through the process of making a quilt?

Once I’ve created the design, I begin auditioning fabric.  I use commercially available fabric from my collection as opposed to dying my own.  It’s one of the constraints I set myself.  My collection does include hand dyed fabrics that others create.  Fabric choice is important and it’s one of the things that sets quilting apart for me from other art forms such as paint.  The fabric patterns provide visual texture; and of course, the kind of fabric and the technique used adds a physical texture.

As I’m pulling fabrics, I also am thinking about construction.  There are a lot of different techniques available.  The effect I want to achieve and the fabric I’m using affect the choice of technique.

The fabric auditions continue throughout the construction process.  As the quilt comes together, I may discard some initial choices and add others.  I may also tweak the actual design.  I like to say “the quilt decides what it wants to be.”  Very few of my quilts end up exactly like the original drawing.

Please tell us about the exhibitions where you presented your work?

Woodlawn Plantation Needlework Exhibition (Alexandria, VA), Houston International Quilt Show (Houston, Texas ), Chicago International Quilt Show (Chicago, Illinois), Patchwork & Quilt Expo (Lyon, France), New England Quilt Museum (Lowell, MA).

Your job as moderator @ KindleBoards entails a lot of patience, pretty much like quilting…do the two activities complement each other?

Well, we used to say in the quilt shop that “not everyone is there for the fabric.”  I think about that sometimes when moderating.  People join forums for all kinds of reasons.  I think my experience as an artist helps me understand the Writers’ Café part of the forum, as there really are a lot of parallels. And my teaching experience is definitely a help in answering the “how do I” questions.

And finally…if  you were to create a quilt that represented the KindleBoards, how would it look like? 

The flip answer is “A Crazy Quilt!”  But I’d really have to say it would be a charm quilt, which is one made of a lot of different fabrics, no two pieces the same.  As in quilting, the joy in working and being a part of a large forum is the endless variety one finds.  And at KindleBoards, we have the best members on the Internet.  I’ve met so many great people there!

Thank you, Betsy, for sharing with us your passion and your gift for beauty!

 Betsy has posted on her site,  a number of lovely original designs, check them out!

  1. Hi, Betsy! It’s so nice to see you here. Love the pictures you posted, especially the snow scene. Thank you for explaining how the process of quilting works. Your art is amazing! (momilp from KB) 🙂

  2. Gabriela says:

    I like this idea, of “auditioning” fabric. You can sense the tremor in that little patch of fabric when critically evaluated by the artist. Will she like me? Am I good enough? Are my colors the right ones, are they bright and fresh?…

  3. Andre Jute says:

    Oh, this is grand. I sleep under Swedish duvets, probably made in Taiwan. But until I left home for college, I slept under handmade quilts that were works of art. It makes me wonder If I can afford one of Betsy’s quilts!

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