Thursday 7 August 2014

Thursday Inspiration: Jess from The Elven Garden

This week I'm delighted to feature Jess from The Elven Garden as my Thursday Inspiration.  Jess is an amazing quilter, creating particularly lovely FMQ designs with her domestic sewing machine.  Jess is generous with her talents, sharing her quilting knowledge in many tutorials and a Free Motion Quilting QAL.

I really enjoy all of Jess' quilts - she comes up with really original designs, uses colour cleverly and creatively, and always puts a lot of thought and effort into her quilting designs so they enhance the quilt.

Does your family have a quilting or sewing history, or are you a first generation quilter?
My mother used to sew our clothes as kids, and she did a little bit of patchwork for a short while – but she was never obsessed like I am. So I guess I consider myself a first generation quilter. My sister sews as well, but has resisted my attempts to convince her to start quilting.

How did you start quilting, and how long have you been quilting for?
I got a sewing machine for Christmas just after my youngest child was born, in 2010. I started off making clothes, and then bought a beginners guide to quilting magazine in the middle of the following year, and got hooked REALLY quickly. I love maths and science (I have a science degree), and the precision of patchwork and quilting really appealed to me – more than sewing garments. So I’ve been quilting for about 3 years.

I love Jess's translation of this traditional block into an awesome modern Roundabout quilt

How would you describe your quilting style?
Although I would loosely call myself a ‘modern’ quilter, I feel like I’m still finding my style. I enjoy so many different types of quilt making, and like trying different techniques, so I don’t feel like I have a definite style yet. I really enjoy the process of improv and I’ve recently discovered how much I love needle turn appliqué. But I think my true love is using traditional blocks with modern fabrics, and using value and colour to see what patterns emerge.

Where do you find inspiration for your quilts?
It depends. Sometimes I’m inspired by fabric, and will pull a bundle from my stash without any idea what it will become. I have a floor to ceiling shelf in my bedroom where my fabric lives, so I’ll often lie in bed at night looking at my potential quilt bundles until a design idea is born. Other times, I’ll find a quilt block design (or design a block myself), and choose fabrics I think will work well. Some of my quilts are inspired by elements of nature too. My moods are very affected by weather, and I’ve actually designed a couple of quilts inspired by the weather.

Do you like to follow patterns or create your own designs (or a bit of both)?
Most of the time I design my own quilts, but I do occasionally follow patterns. I really, really enjoy designing quilts and that’s something I’m doing more and more as time goes by (and I’m starting to release patterns). I’ve had quite a few quilt patterns published in an Australian magazine (Quilters Companion), and that’s something I’ll continue to pursue.

The quilting on Jess' Retro Flowers quilt is just stunning

Are you a member of a local guild?
I am a member of the Tasmanian Quilt Guild, but I only joined so that I can enter my local quilt show this year and don’t go to meetings. We don’t have a local Modern Quilt Guild, but that’s something I’m really keen to establish sometime soon.

Have you ever met any of your online sewing friends in real life?
Only one! My friend Jeanette (aka Gone Aussie Quilting) came down to Tasmania for a holiday last year, and we met up at a park (we both have kids). We could seriously have talked all day, it was so lovely to meet someone who got my obsession! Having said that, I’ve just registered for a bunch of Quiltcon classes, so I’m hoping to meet loads of my bloggy friends over there!

How did you decide to start your blog? 
Because I don’t have a local quilt group, I started my blog as a way to share what I make, and to connect with other quilters. It was the best decision I could have made – I have made so many friends around the world through my blog.

Improv piecing, awesome quilting, Jess' Full Moon Lagoon quilt is amazing

What is your favourite thing about the online quilting community? And what is one thing that you would change, if you could?
I love the supportive nature of the online quilting community, and how willing people are to share their knowledge and ideas. One thing I would change is the reluctance people seem to have to leave constructive criticism on other people’s blogs. Unless you specifically ask for feedback on what you’re making, people just don’t tend to offer alternative ideas to what you’re doing. There seems to be a ‘if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all’ thing happening. As nice as it is to get ‘oh I love it!’ comments, I think the online quilting community has more to offer than that, and I’d love to see this change. I think we could all grow more as quilters if people were more willing to voice their opinion when they don’t like things.

Confession time - how many quilts do you have in your house right now?
Around twenty, including mini quilts. Most of the larger quilts are used by my kids on a daily basis. The others live in a big open shelf in the living area, so they are all in pretty much constant snuggling rotation.

Do you do any crafts other than quilting?
I used to! Quilting has kind of overtaken all my other hobbies – but I cross stitched for years before I started quilting, and I really enjoy sculpture as well (my dad is a ceramics teacher).

Jess just released the pattern for this Block Flower quilt

Where do you see your quilting going - is it a career or a hobby for you and would you like to change that?
I would really like this to be my career eventually. I’m starting to publish quilt patterns and have started teaching locally this year (which I love!). I was recently invited to become a Bernina textile artist, so I may start teaching and demonstrating for Bernina next year as well. My ultimate goal is to buy a long arm and start quilting for other people. So between designing patterns, teaching and quilting for other people, I’m hoping I can make a career of it!

Do you have any tips or tricks or things that have changed your quilting life that you'd like to share?
Try to enjoy the process as much as the finishes. For a long time I was a bit obsessed about making things as quickly as I could, but lately I am finding I relax and enjoy the process a lot more.

You do seriously amazing machine quilting. Do you have any tips or tricks for people who want to learn free motion quilting (and/or for people like me who know the basics but are looking to improve)?
Thanks so much! I think of free motion quilting as drawing on a quilt with thread – so practicing with pen and paper is a great way to get used to filling a space on a quilt with a particular quilting motif. It helps to be relaxed about it too – it is such a fun process, but a lot of people seem to find it scary. It really isn’t. I actually wrote a blog post with a few quilting tips a few weeks ago – and I will be running a Free Motion QAL on my blog, starting in mid July, if anyone is keen to join in! • Starting with a small quilt or practice quilt sandwich is really good. It means you can really focus on your quilting without worrying about contending with the bulk of a quilt in your machine. • I think muscle memory plays a really big role in FMQ. Practice really does make perfect (or at least better!)

I really loved Jess' entry in last year's Pantone Quilt Challenge - Tesseract

What is your favourite part of the quilting process (and what's your least favourite part)?
I love pretty much all aspects of quilt making. I LOVE choosing fabric, and tend to use a heap of different prints in all my quilts. Probably my favourite part of quiltmaking is free motion quilting – I just find it so relaxing and enjoyable. My least favourite part is cutting fabric, and trimming HSTs and flying geese – although I’m such a perfectionist the thought of not trimming terrifies me.

Are there any quilting techniques you haven't tried yet but that you'd like to?
Honestly, I’d like to try ALL the techniques! I love challenging myself to try new things. One thing I’m really keen to try soon is Trapunto quilting.

If you could take a class with any quilter, who would you choose?
Wow, that’s tough! For piecing I’d love to take a class with Jackie Gehring – her improv work is just incredible. And for quilting, it is a toss-up between Lisa Sipes and Krista Withers – they both do such amazing work, and are a constant inspiration to me – I am actually taking a class with both of these ladies at Quiltcon, so I’m SUPER excited about that!

Such a cute little Beach Ball Baby quilt

What's something about you that people might be surprised to know?
I am a massive sci-fi and fantasy geek (which probably isn’t all that surprising given my blog name!) And I love computer games.

Thanks so much to Jess for answering all my questions - do make sure you head over and check out The Elven Garden and all of Jess' gorgeous work.

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Anne said...

Oh wow, new awesome feature of these interviews: seeing a bunch of quilts you've loved independently and realizing they're all from the same person!!

Sharon said...

Jess is so talented, and really sweet, too! Best luck with quilting pursuits, Jess.

Elmosmate said...

I am lucky enough to own a mini by Jess from my very first (and only) swap. Looking forward to meeting Jess at Quiltcon. The one thing that sticks with me from this interview is that Jess's fabric is stored in her bedroom! I don't think i could sleep...

Leeanne said...

Lovely post. Jess is one talented creative person.

Charlotte said...

Lovely to hear more about Jess! I can't wait to meet her at QuiltCon :-D

Susan said...

Ah, my two favourite Southern Hemisphere quilters in the one spot! Thanks for sharing Jess's story with us! She is one amazing quilter and will only go onto to bigger and better things! I like to think I can I say " I knew her when......"!!!

Erica said...

I love Jess' quilts and her FMQ is just amazing. I also got my sewing machine in 2010 and I have a science degree so it looks like we have a little in common!

Little Island Quilting said...

Another goodun :-)