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Creative People We Love: Angela Walters, Free Motion Quilter

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I was first introduced to Angela Walters at Spring Quilt Market last year, but not before the person I was with started pointing wildly in all directions to quilts Angela had done. Her amazing free-motion quilting work seemed to be proudly on display in every booth in the near vicinity. I was bowled over. In fact, I think my mouth literally dropped open. Then, up walked Angela. How did this cute young woman standing in front of me finish all these different quilts?! She shrugged and smiled, as if not understanding that the speed, skill and style of her free-motion work was keeping my mouth hanging open. Once I regained my composure, we stayed in touch, and I was thrilled to hear she has a book coming out soon, Free-Motion Quilting with Angela Walters. It was the perfect time to introduce our Sew4Home friends to her, so you can learn a little more about that signature speed, skill and style, pick up a few tips in a free-motion mini-tutorial from Angela herself and enter to win a fun Kona Cotton giveaway from Angela and her pals at Robert Kaufman (Angela does all the quilting for Kaufman's quilt samples and used their beautiful solids for many of the samples in her book).

Angela's book, Free-Motion Quilting with Angela Walters is available for preorder on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

You can follow Angela on her blog, Quilting is My Therapy.

Angela - the real story of speed, skill and style

S4H: The quilts we have done on Sew4Home have been very simple, both in their piecing and quilting techniques. Our goal is to give someone who has never even tired quilting, a project with which he/she can have success. We have a lot of visitors who are young and energetic - just like you, but many of them simply can't envision themselves as quilters. Especially if they haven't grown up around it. What can you tell us about your journey into creative quilting that would help inspire someone to give it a try?

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Picnic: Designed and pieced by Angela Walters

AW: Oh, it just saddens me when I hear people say they could never learn to sew or quilt. A quote I use repeatedly in my classes and lectures is, "If it can be done, it can be learned." What that means is, if someone out there is doing it, then you can learn to do it too! I'm not saying everyone can throw a football like a pro quarterback, but with enough practice, almost anyone can learn to throw a nicely spiraling football pass. The same thing goes for quilting and sewing. I didn't start quilting until my early twenties. My husband's grandparents quilted, and when I asked them to show me how to make quilts, I had never even used a sewing machine. Those first quilts weren't stellar, but I was practicing and trying my best. The same goes for my long-arm quilting machine; it took awhile to get the hang of it. I think quilters are too hard on themselves. You need to enjoy the process and just keep quilting!

S4H: As you just mentioned, you do your beautiful free-motion quilting on a long arm machine. Could you describe for our visitors what these contraptions are and tell us what it's like to work on one of these versus a home machine. Also, because the majority of our audience doesn't have access to a long arm, can you give them some hope they could do beautiful FMQ on their existing home machines? I think a lot of folks are scared to try it, possibly because they think their machines can't handle it and/or they see it as such a BIG job.

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AW: When my husband's grandpa mentioned he thought I should get a quilting machine, I didn't even know what he was talking about. I purchased a used quilting machine over the phone without even trying it! (By the way, I would not suggest doing this!) When it was delivered, I was shocked by how big it was. Just goes to show how much I knew. The best way I can describe it is that it is like an industrial sewing machine, but instead of moving the fabric through the machine (like a sewing machine) you move the machine over the fabric. The layers of the quilt (the top, backing and batting) are pinned to the rollers on the frame, similar to a large hand-quilting frame.

Long arm machines are just like sewing machines in that there are several different levels from which to choose. They range from a the basic machine (that's what I use), without a stitch regulator or add ons, to computerized machines that cost a lot more and do more! Using a long arm does make the machine quilting process easier, but there are limitations as well.

There are MANY people who quilt fantastic designs using their home sewing machines, so you should never feel like you have to have a long arm to quilt. There are things that you can do on a traditional sewing machine that you can't do on a long arm.

S4H: I've heard people describe FMQ as "drawing with thread" and I certainly think your gorgeous designs fit that description. Your new book has some tips about practicing drawing, but oh-my-goodness, I can envision a lot of time spent staring at a blank square. What are some idea starters you use? Do you have formal training in art? Do you REALLY use a MagnaDoodle to design, because if that's the case, there may still be hope for me!

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Quilt Back, quilt front pieced by Heather Bostic

AW: When I first started quilting, I drew on anything that would lay still. Church bulletins, junk mail, even receipts weren't safe from me and my doodling ways. Drawing the designs helped my brain remember the sequence and definitely lead to less stress when quilting. If you find doodling too hard, you are probably over-thinking it! I start to draw when I am inspired by something I see in my everyday life, like a carpet design or a wallpaper pattern. Sometimes I see a quilting design on another quilt that I like and want to try to emulate. First, I try to get down the basic shape, then, once I have the individual element figured out, I fill in boxes. I draw randomly sized boxes on the paper and practice filling them in completely. The reason I do this, is that half of the battle of machine quilting is knowing what to do when you get close to the edge of your quilting area or trapped in a corner.

Yes! I do use a MagnaDoodle! It's not mine, I have to "borrow" it from my kids. It saves paper, and if you don't like what you have drawn, move that bar and it's gone in a flash.

No! I don't have any training in art or anything like that. So get your pencils ready and start drawing. If I can do it, you can do it.

S4H: You like very dense quilting, and your quilts always look perfectly balanced. Is there a point where "enough is enough"? How do you balance quilted space with open space; is it like "white space" in graphic design?

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Handyman: Designed and pleced by Jenifer Dick

AW: Quilting, like piecing, is very subjective. One person may love a lot of quilting, while another might find less dense quilting more attractive. There is a point of "enough is enough" but that point is going to be different for every quilter. Instead of trying to create a balance of white space, I find myself trying to balance the density of the quilting. For instance, if I use really dense quilting in one portion of a quilt, I try to keep it consistent throughout the quilt - the same with open spaces; if I use more open spaces in one area, I will balance that with the same technique in other areas. I like symmetry in my quilting. But I am always very, very careful to make sure the quilting doesn't overwhelm the quilt top!

S4H: Talk to us a little bit about color. The majority of the time, your chosen thread matches the fabric you are quilting, and I believe this is the traditional "quilting rule." However, FMQ is so beautiful, when should it stand on its own in a contrasting color or should the piecing always be the star? As you mention in your book, the back of the quilt usually shows off your FMQ work, but what about the front?

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Designed and pieced by Jenifer Dick

AW: I love that you bring this up! When I am trying to decide how to quilt a quilt top, I always ask myself, "What is the most important thing about this quilt?" The answer might be the fabric, the pattern, the recipient or even the quilting. If the most important thing about the quilt is the quilting, then, by all means, make it the star of the quilt. I love to see quilts that have brightly colored thread and bold designs. A whole-cloth quilt ( a quilt without piecing, whose only design comes from the intricate quilting) comes to mind when I think about making quilting the star.

In my business, I do a lot of quilting for pattern designers and fabric designers, so I want to make sure the fabric and the design is the part of the quilt that shines. By using thread that blends, I make sure my quilting doesn't steal the show. I love to say, "I want the quilt to be the first thing you see, then a split second later, the quilting." Great quilting pulls you in closer to appreciate all the nuances of the quilt's design.

S4H: You do a lot of quilting of Modern and other non-traditional designs. What draws you to these and inspires you about them?

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Designed and pieced by Angela Walters

AW: The thing that I love most about quilting modern quilts has to be the fact that the quilting shows up so well on the graphic designs and solid fabrics that some modern quilters use. I also love trying out new things and constantly pushing myself to think more conceptually about the quilting. But even though I love quilting modern quilts, it doesn't end there. I love machine quilting period. I never know what is going to come my way. One day I will work on a modern quilt made completely of solids and the next, I will work on a appliqued Dear Jane quilt. It definitely keeps me from getting bored!


Pieced by Scott Hansen


Field Study: designed by Tula Pink, pieced by Georgieanna Martin

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Neptune Strips: Designed by Angela Walters, pieed by Jane Bromberg

Angela Walter's Free-Motion Quilting Mini-Tutorial

I like to think my book is one part motivation, one part instruction and one part inspiration. I want someone to feel like they can do it... that they can learn how to quilt a design and then see that same design used in actual quilts. This is what I hope to accomplish with today's mini-tutorial.

I'm going to show you a really simple quilting design and then demonstrate how to add a little more to it, a step at a time. We are going to learn about wavy lines and why they are a great design for beginning quilters: easy and stress-free.

Start by quilting a wavy line... just a gentle, relaxed line. Don't focus too much on making it perfect. You can try drawing it first to get the hang of it, or just go ahead and quilt it!

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Using wavy lines adds so much movement to a quilt.

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Once you feel comfortable with this basic design, try different variations to make completely different patterns.

You could quilt a wavy line that has a more consistent curve. The trick here is to let your body get into a rhythm without over-thinking it. It seems like the second I start thinking about what I am doing, I start messing up. Once you feel like you can get the curves consistent, then you can make the lines echo each other. This adds a little more repetitiveness to the quilting.

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Or you can try quilting lines with alternating curves so that it creates a totally different look. I drew this concept for you. See how easy doodling is?!

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You could also add circles in between some of the wavy lines to add a different texture to the quilt.

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As you progress with your quilting, you'll find that wavy lines look great as a filler behind other designs, as I've done here behind the large spirals.


The trick to great quilting isn't just the designs, it's using the designs that you know in different ways. Quilting wavy lines are an easy design that you can start with and it progresses with you as you become more comfortable with machine quilting.

Remember, Angela's book, Free-Motion Quilting with Angela Walters is available for preorder on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And, you can follow Angela on her blog, Quilting is My Therapy .

Enter win a bundle of FIVE Kona® Cotton Charm Packs courtesy of Angela and Robert Kaufman Fabrics


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Our thanks to Angela for coordinating with the fine folks at Robert Kaufman Fabrics to provide FIVE charm packs of their wonderful Kona® Cotton Solids for our Great Giveaway. Each pack contains 41-46 5" x 5" squares. These are perfect for projects like our Charm Pack Baby Quilt. You get the five most popular palettes: Pastel, Bright, Classic, Dusty and Dark.

To enter to win, simply sign up for our Sew4Home mail list or like us on Facebook, and you are automatically entered to win. If you've already done one or both  (we hope) of these, your work is done.

We will draw one person at random as of midnight PT March 02, 2012 from the combined names of our Facebook fans plus everyone on our eNewsletter mail list.

No purchase necessary to enter. Void where prohibited.

We will contact the random winner by email to confirm your shipping address, and will ship the gift package directly to you.

NOTE: Due to complex contest legal restrictions and customs requirements that differ from country to country, we are currently able to send prizes to a USA postal address only (cannot be a P.O. Box). Good luck to everyone!


Comments (60)

kdschafer said:
kdschafer's picture
Very beautiful quilting. My mom was the quilter in the family and I think she would have loved this.
drmithome said:
drmithome's picture
Timely interview . I just started practicing FMQ. Thanks for the great information. So much talent.
pinkpixie said:
pinkpixie's picture
Nice interview!! There is hope for me after all. I have been intimated by fm quilting she gives me inspiration. Thank you sew4home.
mjb said:
mjb's picture
This interview and story is very inspirational - thanks! I have been wanting to try free-motion quilting for years and still haven't gotten enough courage. Maybe this will be the inspiration I need! smilies/smiley.gif
Maggieb16 said:
What a talented woman and a great book! Thanks for the giveaway chance!