Have you ever heard the saying, “Don’t throw a monkey wrench into the machine.” The phrase is about industrial-sabotage, meaning to prevent a process from going smoothly by deliberately trying to ruin it. Horrible, right?
Well, not always! Sometimes, the unknown path is the best path and who better to throw that monkey wrench into your life than Tula Pink, the queen of quirky, against-the-grind, free-spirited fabric design!
Set your quilt planners, color coordinators, and simple prints aside. Tula Pink’s latest collection, Monkey Wrench, will be the perfect storm you didn’t know you needed! Check it out:
Monkeys, frogs, ladybugs, parrots… it’s seriously bananas! Dive into Tula’s fanciful world and create something fun like a tech case or a scrunchie!
Do you have any funny “mess-up” stories to share from your experience with machine quilting?
Oh my heavens! … My quilting journey is like a RomCom of crazy mess-ups! I have quilted my supreme slider to the back of my quilt multiple times (notice I don’t use one any more!), not to mention managing to actually quilt my quilt TO ITSELF (watch those edges, y’all, and don’t let them get folded under!). Of course I’ve lost track of the times I’ve had tension issues… More recently, I checked my tension, but not carefully, and not as I went along and ended up spending FIFTEEN HOURS pulling stitches out of a quilt. Needless to say, I had TWO margaritas when I was done!
What first inspired you to give machine quilting a try?
I started quilting because my mom wanted a t-shirt quilt. Being a complete nerd, I immediately check out every quilting book in our local library– which was more or less the complete works of Angela Walters! Obviously, these were basically useless for my original intent, but they did introduce me to a world of color, texture, and movement that I didn’t know existed in quilting. My background is in painting and dance, and free motion reminded me more of those mediums rather than sewing. A new mom who needed a kid-friendly hobby (which oil painting is not), I kind of just jumped in. Of course I was nervous that I would mess up, not be any good, etc, but there was only one way to find out. In ballet, we have this saying that you’re not a real dancer until you fall 10 times. I figured quilting could be like that– maybe I would quilt 10 crappy quilts, but I figured, sooner or later, if I kept practicing, I would get it. Honestly, the thing that surprised me most was how quickly my skill grew when I got serious about practicing– which is something I’ve seen happen again and again for my students, too!
Do your sons show any interest in quilting/sewing? Have you started teaching them?
They’re kids and quilting is creative– of course they’re interested! They mostly love color and texture, and they have remarkably good taste (proof that our creative instincts start strong, even if we struggle later). They love playing with scraps, asking me to sew bits together, or sitting in my lap with their hands on mine while we chain piece and handing me pins as needed. I haven’t started teaching them in any formal sense, though, but mostly for selfish reasons! I’m not sure I’m ready to share my sewing room! I hope we’ll sew together as they continue to get older, though, or, at the very least, that they will find their own creative passion to pursue alongside my quilting.
What advice do you have for others who are beginning their machine quilting journey?
…YOU CAN DO THIS. (That little voice of “yeah, but…” that just popped in your head? Slap her. She’s a liar. All of us have an inner critic, and our inner critics are nothing but jerks. Put her in a corner and listen to me.) Yes, it will be challenging; yes, it will take work. But YOU ARE A ROCKSTAR. You can do hard things. After all, you learned to walk and talk and read and write and use a rotary cutter without removing your fingers. Free Motion Quilting? It’s just one more skill that you’re going to study, practice, and master. The desire and the willingness to keep practicing through the “messy middle” are really all you need to get started… and I would be honored to be your teacher!
What keeps you feeling creative and inspired? What do you do if you feel like you’re in a slump?
Our local town square in downtown Duluth, GA, so going out for dinner with my family is sure to pick me up and give me new enthusiasm. Similarly, getting out in nature is both relaxing and inspiring– double points if I can get some exercise while I’m at it! When I’m at home in the studio, I just do the next right thing– which is usually cleaning! Whatever is stumping me (usually a quilt top that needs a quilting plan), gets hung up on the design wall where I can ponder it without being consumed by it, and I’ll clean my sewing room, and just putter around for awhile. Maybe do some emails or yoga or whatever– all while just “hanging around” with the pesky project. Then, I’ll get away from it– go to Duluth, watch a movie, anything else, for the night and come back the next day with fresh eyes. Usually by then I at least have a starting place to build on.
Quilt all day or Quilt all night?
I am SUCH a night owl! I love to work absurdly late in my sewing room. I love how quiet the house is and how I can get lost in my audiobooks and sewing.
My Best Tips for FMQ
Practice on paper first. Whether you’re doodling motifs or deciding what to quilt where… paper is far lower stakes than your beautiful quilt, so work out the planning kinks and the learning curves on paper and then practice sandwiches first.
Check your tension. A lot. At LEAST every bobbin, but ideally every 10 minutes of quilting or so. Yes, it might slow you down a bit to flip your quilt over and take a peek, but if anything goes cattywampus, you want to know pronto!
Have fun! Seriously, if you are not having fun quilting, then we need to have a talk because the whole point of a hobby is to enjoy it. Allow yourself to be imperfect, to enjoy the process, and maybe even have a little wine to lighten the mood!
Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill is the founder of Whole Circle Studio, LLC which specializes in the design of custom modern quilts, patterns and other licensed products. She is an active member of the modern quilt community and recognized from her many outstanding awards from several major quilting events. Sheri also teaches and presents her creative skills all over the world, but works mostly from her home studio in New Haven, Connecticut.
When did you first conquer the curve? How long into your quilting journey was it?
I decided to make a modern flowering snowball quilt as an entry to a challenge back in 2014. The inspiration for my quilt, Picnic Petals, was the fabric challenge collection, entitled Petal Pinwheels. Going into the challenge, I looked at a lot of photos of pinwheels, flowers and sketched elements of these objects to study how I could convey organic shapes and movement in a block quilt. As a relatively new quilter at the time, this was the first time I worked with curved elements. This challenge encouraged me to work with fabric patterns and techniques I might not normally work with. Out of 750 entries, I was one of the three winners!
What are the staples/must have tools in your sewing studio?
First and foremost, a space that I’m comfortable in. I love having natural light, so whenever possible I keep lights off… I also love having a design wall that I can put up random swatches, blocks or quilts that I’m working on. It’s amazing how different things can look from hour to hour or day to day. Sometimes if I’m stuck on something, I’ll walk by it days later and figure out the next step.
What gets your creative juices flowing?
I’m usually either listening to a podcast or have a video streaming through my computer, ALWAYS coffee, and sometimes salty veggie chips, cashews or chocolate chips!
Why do you think people find curves so terrifying? Are there any misconceptions about sewing them that you can clear up?
I think people are scared of curves because it looks difficult. The truth is, it’s super easy. I teach this technique all the time and there is always at least one skeptic in the room who thinks they can’t do it. I’ve never had a student NOT be able to sew a beautiful curve by the end of class. All you need is experience sewing a ¼” seam, pins and patience! Seriously!
When did you start quilting? What brought you into the quilting world?
Wanting to make a quilt, I bought a sewing machine for $100 and my first quilt pattern book in 2006. There was only one problem—I didn’t know how to use a sewing machine. Busy with work, that book sat on my shelf for seven years until I needed a distraction from a stressful situation in my life. My first few quilts I made for others—to celebrate the births of babies, weddings and friends moving into exciting new phases of their lives. I became addicted to quilt making and then realized that with my graphic design and technical skills I could design my own quilts. After sharing my work with others online and in quilt guilds, I was asked to share my patterns. In 2015, I started Whole Circle Studio, LLC. Whole Circle Studio specializes in the design of custom modern quilts, patterns and other licensed products.
Where do you find your inspiration for new products?
Inspiration for my work comes from my everyday life… I believe design and content have a symbiotic relationship. Both need to support one another and require a strong concept to fuel them. My quilt designs start with a concept and the content (research, backstory, color, fabric selection and technique) which help shape the design. Never without my camera and sketchbook, I’m always taking photos and sketching from everyday inspirations… My mission is to enhance people’s lives through beautiful, meaningful design as well as to empower and inspire others to enjoy the process of making.
What’s your favorite tip to share with new quilters?
Don’t be afraid to experiment! Rarely is there ever just one way (and often there is never the “perfect” way to do something in quilting. If a specific way of doing something doesn’t come naturally to you or isn’t fun, see if there is a different way to do it. Quilting should be fun!
There are some of us who like to feel connected in some way to the mysteries around us. Thus, we read our daily horoscopes and give meaning to our birthstones because whether they hold true or not, fate or folklore, they are a fun way to celebrate ourselves and our loved ones.
To celebrate our birthday this year, we wanted to find a way to set some meaning in stone… or quilt. So we’ve come up with a few birthstone-inspired projects!
Our birthday is in September, making our gemstone, the gorgeous Sapphire. Find your gem color and sew with us!
Now that we’ve got the right colors, let’s start making!
Hexi Gems Quilt
Get your “mod” on with this insanely versatile technique from guest designer, Lisa Hirsh. The pattern includes a blank diagram of the quilt that can be enlarged so you can color and spec-out a creation of your own. The best part is this quilt pattern is a great place for your scraps to end up! Grab the hues you need, and get started!
Missouri Star Academy is all about providing education and empowering you to create. From weekly tutorials to online in-depth classes, events and even classes held here in Hamilton, MO at our Education Center where there is something for everyone!
Annette Ashbach is one of our Education Center instructors and she teaches many things ranging from making full quilt tops to smaller projects like aprons and totes!
Annette first found interest in sewing after she became fascinated with watching her grandmother’s hand-stitching and embroidery techniques. Her love for sewing continued as she grew up watching her mother create costumes and dance uniforms on the sewing machine. Today, Annette has been quilting on and off for about forty-five years and teaching for the last twelve.
Annette has a very diverse taste in fabrics. She adores anything wool, but also enjoys batiks. She has a soft spot for appliqué and is always up for a challenging pattern!