In The Beginning
I have now been quilting for exactly half of my life. I started at the impressionable age of 15 and am now...ahum...well, you can do the math 🙂 I wasn't exactly a "cool kid" back then. Let me paint a quick picture.
I hit puberty at 11. What that meant was that while every other person in my 5th grade class was rock’n a normal 4’8” - 5’ in height, I was a beastly 5’8”. At ELEVEN. I easily towered over every single child in my grade and in most of the other Jr. High classes. The majority of my teachers could look me straight in the eye, however I’m pretty sure I was never able to intimidate them because, hmmm...oh ya! Because that year I went to my local MasterCuts and requested “The Martie Maguire.” You know, the fiddle player from The Dixie Chicks? Keep in mind this is 1997.
Oh yes. I was VERY confident the fresh-from-beauty school girl working at the Columbia Missouri Mall was going to accurately transform me into my fashion hero.
Nailed it!! RIGHT?? With my new bob, I knew destiny was PROPELLING me to be the fourth Dixie Chick.
So now you’re asking yourself, “How does a fresh, stylish kid like that lose sight of a promising country music career to become a quilter?”
A Quilter Is Born
Fast forward a few years. The year was 2001. Destiny’s Child and Matchbox Twenty were crushing it on Rick Dees weekly top 40. I’m making mixed tapes off the radio as fast as my boombox would allow. My braces came off and by some miracle I got a boyfriend. I know. I’m still as shocked as you probably are in this moment.
The new millennium was looking bright. I had tons of energy and was itch’n to find a creative outlet. I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for, I just knew I had a need “to make stuff.”
Cue Brenda Winkelmeyer. She was my best friend’s mom, avid quilter and wearer of denim jumpers. I thought she was the bomb.
One day I wandered into her sewing room and nervously asked if I could, “maybe sew a little.” Lucky for me, she had four uninterested daughters and was more than happy to teach an energetic teen how to sew. Well, that was until I started making my first quilt...
If you are one of the 3 non-quilters who reads this blog, let me explain to you what a rotary cutter is. A rotary cutter is essentially a razor sharp pizza cutter. We quilters use these pizza cutters to slice through layers of fabric – quickly.
So, back to little Suzy – I was learning this new TRENDY hobby, my bangs had finally grown out and my best friend was about to turn 16 – life was good and I was full of confidence! NOTHING was going to get me down.
Yes!! You probably know where this story is headed and if you guessed the ER, you’re correct! In all of my new found quilty energy, I rolled the damn rotary cutter over my finger – leaving part of it lying limply on the cutting mat, staring back at me….like a cold, lifeless minnow...ick.
I’ll leave out the gore, cause, GROSS, and let you know that although my first quilt may have given my new quilt mentor some slight hesitation about me...my physical abilities...my mental abilities and (let’s face it) my overall potential in becoming anything other than a total clutz, she never hinted at it around me.
Once my stitches had healed (SORRY! seriously. I know it’s super gross), I was back in her sewing room and quilting up a storm.
Trying To Become An Artist. Failing. And Trying Again.
Although quilting was a deep passion of mine, it was not always my main focus. I went to college with the goal of getting a BFA in Fiber Arts, however, through an interesting, and difficult mixture of chance and fate, I ended up with a BFA in Visual Communications – otherwise known as graphic design.
My heart wasn’t fully in it, but I loved the digital, bold designs I was able to quickly achieve on the computer. I also loved how applicable graphic design was to everyday life.
Now that I quilt on a more full-time level, I see how graphic design has not just influenced my design aesthetic, but fused itself into my design process. Every quilt concept I have is hashed out on the computer. Every color palette, pattern and print I digitally mockup before cutting and sewing.
But back to my timeline – I graduated from college in the unforgettable year of 2008. What's that? You’ve forgotten? Well, for those of you who haven't forgotten, you probably remember two things...a crash...and a bailout. Banks failed, housing bubbles popped and President Bush spent a lot of money attempting to fix it. That was the blissful economy I entered as a wide-eyed, inexperienced 22 year old. And man did it suck.
Somehow I landed a job. Picture a tiny cubicle with a flickering fluorescent light. Now place a very sad girl in the middle. Yep, that was me.
Through a series of internships (paid and unpaid), apprenticeships (paid and unpaid) and entry level jobs (paid, but not very much), I quickly learned that graphic design was not competitive, it was cut throat, and only the fittest survived.
Which I guess I did...for a while. But then I remembered quilting.
I dusted off my sewing machine and began pulling fabrics, looking through patterns and gathering myself back together in an attempt to remember what it felt like to enjoy creating. I was enjoying it so much, I even got this wild idea, “What if I make and sell quilts?? What if I call this little business Suzy Quilts?!”
Since then, my vision for Suzy Quilts has shifted and changed, but it’s always been grounded in a sincere enjoyment of creating; a true love of quilting.
15 thoughts on “The Making Of A Quilter”
Loved this post! What a great story!
Thanks so much, Sue!
Thanks for sharing your story Suzy, I really enjoyed reading this! I’ve only just got into quilting – 2 baby quilts in – and I’m hooked. I love your style & colour-sense and can’t wait to try some of your patterns & tutorials.
Thanks so much for your sweet comment! Quilting is soooo very addicting and I’m excited to see what you create!
This was great! I so enjoyed hearing this..We all have our stories. You are my current favorite designers. Your quilts are inspiring and you make me think I actually can make one. Your a great writer as well!
Oh my goodness what a sweet comment! If you have any interest in learning to quilt I highly encourage you to try. Most local fabric shops teach classes. Good luck and thanks for checking out my website!
Beautiful post Suzy???? your work is also so gorgeous…. Who wants to work in a boring office anyway…. Xx
I want to see that first quilt!
hahaha well, I’d have to ask my high school boyfriend to take a picture. He got the first one – blood and all 😉
Love it! So fun to hear how you started, gore and all! I hope my quilts look half as good when I’m 15 years in!
Love this post! It’s nice to feel like your previous experiences help shape and even improve what you truly desire to do. Oh and I was 5’9″ at 12 years old so we would have been friends 😉
hahaha 5’9″? You’ve got me beat! Amazons, unite! 😉
Haha, I had that haircut too… I think I took in a photo of Lisa Rinna (circa 1996).
I’d love to hear the next part of your story too – meeting husband, growing business, getting that cutie dog.
I also had that haircut!😂. What software do you prefer when designing quilts? Illustrator or EQ8?
I use all Adobe programs because that’s what I’m most familiar with as a graphic designer.