This will be the first in a regular series called Quilt Beginnings. I will be interviewing quilters about how they started quilting. I started quilting because of my kids and I learned from Jenny’s tutorials at Missouri Star Quilting Company. I find quilting for one’s children is a pretty common cause of starting for many quilters.
I am always curious about others’ stories of quilt beginnings. Was there a person or an item that sparked an interest? Was it the sight of a beautiful quilt, skillfully crafted by hand, that gave them a creative bug? Or was there a special person, perhaps a grandmother or neighbor, whom they fondly remember quilting growing up? Did this person provide the nostalgic boost to get started or did they mentor the quilter? I am even more curious when that someone has NO kids or at least didn’t when they started quilting.
Enter Suzy Williams or, more precisely, Suzy Quilts as most of the quilting world knows her.
Suzy is known for her beautiful modern quilts and was instrumental in bringing modern quilting to the booming industry it is today. Chances are, if you have ever googled a quilting question, you undoubtedly were pointed to a post on Suzy’s epic blog. Only recently, I was tackling my first time hand-quilting and I was pointed to Suzy’s tutorial She covered all the basics, defined terms, how-to instructions and even tips. I soon realized this was only one of countless informative videos or posts Suzy has. Batting? Yup. Thread? Yes. Pattern help or best practices? Yes again, and many more topics.
I began to wonder how she started quilting. I had only discovered the quilting world outside Missouri Star Tutorials recently and came upon Suzy when she was pregnant with her first child, adorable little Desi. Yet, she was already “Suzy Quilts”. She was quirky, funny, open and honest and she had a huge following with a successful brand.
I decided to find out about Suzy’s Quilt Beginnings and had the privilege of speaking with Suzy Quilts. I know, be still my quilting heart. I was able to actually SPEAK with Suzy Quilts!
While Suzy is still a young quilter, she probably has more experience than many older quilters.
She started quilting when she was a young 15 year old teenage girl! After hearing Suzy’s story and how it shaped her life, the quilting industry, pattern writing, and countless other quilters who derive joy from her patterns and knowledge from her blog, I realized that sharing a creative passion is more than just a simple kindness. It can have far-reaching affects and totally change an industry.
Suzy had a friend whose mother was a quilter. Suzy’s friends would hang out in their basement playing video games but it wasn’t quite Suzy’s thing. Her friend’s mother, Brenda, would be in her sewing room nearby. After hovering for a few days, Suzy eventually asked for a quilting lesson. Brenda taught Suzy how to make a nine-patch and Suzy was hooked. It was the spark that ignited a fire of love for quilting. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing after that first nine-patch.
Suzy made her first quilt, a Rail Fence Pattern, at her friend’s house with Brenda. It was just before the 16th birthday party of her friend and the over enthusiastic Suzy promptly cut the tip of her finger off with a rotary cutter! Eventually they all ended up at the Emergency Room including her first boyfriend (for whom she made that first quilt). Brenda and Suzy are still close and Brenda considers herself Suzy’s Quilt Mom and one could not ask for a better title.
The cutting accident was not to deter Suzy. She loved the Rail Fence Pattern so much, it was also the second quilt she made. Suzy wasn’t always a modern quilter. In fact, one of the most surprising things I learned during our conversation was that she started out traditional quilting!
It was difficult for me to even imagine the Modern queen as ever doing traditional patterns or using traditional fabrics. However, Suzy reminded me that modern fabrics and even entire modern quilt shops were not common just a bit ago. There were some people experimenting but it was not as wide spread and common as it is today. She grew up in Missouri and there simply weren’t a lot of options. Some of the earliest fabrics Suzy used were, in fact, civil war fabrics.
Fast forward years later and the modern quilting world is alive and well with countless designers, fabrics and shops. The modern quilt guild was founded in October 2009 in Los Angeles California but has grown to have guilds all over the country and even their upcoming QuiltCon in February. There are entire brands of fabrics that produce consistent lines of lovely modern fabrics. Suzy often uses modern prints and of course, solids, in her quilting.
Suzy’s patterns range from very modern to subtle. Many serve to bridge the gap between traditional and modern. Her patterns are so beloved because they can be interpreted with clear modern quilting focus but they also lend themselves to traditional fabrics. Indeed I have spoken to many a quilter who do not consider themselves modern quilters per say but still love a Suzy Quilts pattern.
Suzy is both a fantastic quilter and a shrewd business woman. She has learned to say no to opportunities that simply do not make sense for her business model. That is not to say, Suzy is afraid to take risks and simply create what she wants. That isn’t the case at all. In fact, Suzy wants to stay excited about her craft and push creative skills.
Her favorite pattern to date is Bohemian Garden. She knew it might not be a hit with quilters but she went for it anyway and the result is stunning.
Suzy is not afraid to do things differently from offering downloadable patterns only to focusing on her blog and brand as a whole. She does not feel the pressure to be releasing patterns constantly. After talking to Suzy, I realized that there is not ONE way to be successful in the Quilting industry. She did things her way in a time when it was very out of the box. She started outside of the box and continues to think outside of the box.
In a way her current path was dictated by her Quilt Beginnings because she certainly was outside the box as a 15 year old teenager asking to learn to quilt instead of playing video games. I, for one, can’t wait to see what she comes up with next outside the box.