Charles Cameron in an engineer and award-winning modern quilter who uses his rulers to create wonkiness in his quilts. He combines precise piecing with improv trimming – the perfect union of science and art that make his quilts unique.
Tell us a little about your background.
I’m Charles Cameron, a North Carolina-based modern quilter.
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I’m trained as an Engineer and have been working in the pharmaceutical industry nearly 20 years. I currently lead a vaccine manufacturing facility for a global company.
I have two young daughters, Charlotte and Alice, who are a never-ending source of inspiration. My wife, Jane, is very supportive of my quilting hobby, but prefers to stay out of the sewing studio, only entering to use the iron or the printer.
My quilts generally explore the use of bright colors and color value placement to enhance more traditional quilt patterns and quilt block design. I think color (and especially carefully considered color value selections and juxtapositions) can be just as important as the orientation of geometric shapes in creating dazzling quilts.
How did you get started designing quilts? Always an artist, or was there a “moment”?
Here’s the story of my first quilt: I started not really knowing that I was going to make a quilt. I had been following several artists on Instagram, and long-story-short came across this amazing improv quilter: @Pieladyquilts (Check her out! Follow her. She’s so inspiring). She has so many lovey quilts, but there was one that kept popping in my feed; I don’t think she’s tilted it, but it’s all these wonk-y navy and gray crosses. It’s STUNNNING; the crosses just dance across the quilt; they sparkle.
So, I decided to see if I could make some of those wonk-y crosses. Instead of using the improv cutting technique that @Pieladyquilts used, this engineer relied on strip piecing and nested seams to create my crosses. Once the blocks were assembled, I trimmed them wonk-y, tilted and off center to create the same effect.
As I shared my work with others, I was encouraged to write it up as a pattern to share this novel idea. The pattern is called: Crooked Crosses and Bent Boxes. I have since written a second pattern based on this semi-improv technique called: Tilted Tiles.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
A few things, I think. First, I like to combine precision piecing with improv trimming. It’s a perfect union of science and art that make my quilts somewhat unique. I also love to play with color and color value, exploring low and high contrast juxtapositions to create interesting secondary shapes in the quilt.
If we asked a good friend of yours to describe your work, what would they say?
They’d say I’m persnickety. LOL! I don’t take the easy way out. I love a challenge and am not afraid to try something, mess it up, and try it again till it’s perfect.
Who or what are your main influences and inspirations?
I love to scroll Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration, usually looking at graphic art, and architecture. I also love an interesting, non-traditional color palette.
Do you plan your work out ahead of time, or do you just dive in with your materials and start playing?
Depends on the quilt. I have completed a few improv quilts where I spent some time curating the ‘right’ color palette, but then sewed together random scraps, and assembled units and arranged on the design wall until it looked just how I wanted.
Other quilts I have spent months iterating on a single design idea before purchasing any fabric or sewing any seams. Sometimes I let and idea swim around in my mind for a while, other times, I take to PowerPoint and make mock-ups of these ideas.
How do you manage your creative time? Do you schedule start and stop times? Or work only when inspired?
With two young girls and a full-time job, my creative time is sporadic. I sometimes put in an hour or two in the evenings if we’re not driving to soccer practice or dance lessons, but mainly I use the weekends as my time to create.
Are you a “finisher”? How many UFOs do you think you have?
Once I’ve settled on a design, I usually see it through to the finish. That said, I have 3 completed quilt tops in my WIP pile. I can’t seem to commit to a quilting design. I have only 1 quilt-in-progress at the moment.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I’m fortunate to have a dedicated sewing space. It’s a small spare bedroom away from the commotion of the busy house. I’ve just completed making and hanging a 8’ x 8’ design wall that I’m really in love with. I’m also pretty tidy with my fabric. I have dedicated shelves for prints and solids and love to arrange them in color order.
How often do you start a new project? Do you work actively on more than one project at a time?
My current pace seems to be 3 full sized quilts per year, more or less. I also love to participate in collaborative quilt projects where a maker ask for a block based on a certain color palette or design prompt. When I do have multiple quilts going, I like to have them in different stages: design, piecing, quilting, binding, so that I can work on the one that best fits my mood.
Which part of the quilt design process is your favorite? Which part is a challenge for you?
I love working with colors and shapes to design a quilt that expresses a specific idea, theme or emotion, and love cutting the fabric and piecing the quilt top. Those stages appeal to my engineering tendencies of efficiency. Trying to find the most optimal way to cut and assemble, like an assembly line. Admittedly, once a quilt is pieced, I lose a little interest. I will often outsource the quilting step.
When was the first time that you remember realizing that you are a creative person?
In 2nd grade, I can remember waiting impatiently for the monthly ‘Highlight’s’ magazine to be delivered. I would turn directly to the ‘make this at home’ section where there were instructions for small arts and crafts projects.
Do you think that creativity is part of human nature or is it something that must be nurtured and learned?
I do think creativity is part of human nature; for eons we have had to come up with creative solutions to survive our challenging environments and social conditions. I see artistic creativity similarly, a need we have developed to communicate in different ways. That said, I do think that it’s a muscle that is developed with those with interest, through commitment and engagement.
How has your work changed over time?
I have been quilting for about 4 years. In that time, I have had the opportunity to try so many things, some I like and some I don’t. Some I’ve been challenged by and with an interest to improve have enjoyed the process of refining technique. I have also had the opportunity to engage with other artists and learn from their expertise.
What is on your “someday” creative wish list?
There are so many wonderful quilts that I would like to have the chance to experiment with. A few of my most favorite are: The Dear Jane Quilt, The La Passacaglia Quilt, and the Stars Upon Stars Quilt. As you can see, I like a tiny-piecing challenge.
What is your best advice for someone interested in designing quilts?
Consider what it is that you’re ‘bringing to the table.’ I often reflect on what I heard a famous chef once say, ‘I don’t write recipes for chili because I don’t have anything new to offer on that topic. There are a million [wonderful] versions out there already.’
Are you offering a new idea? A new technique? What will the average quilt maker ‘learn’ from your pattern that they can’t learn from someone else?
What’s next for you?
I’m pleased to be the featured designer for June for the 2023 12 minis in 12 months quilt challenge. My project is Micro Mini Gingham.
Gingham is a woven fabric pattern that has existed for centuries. Characterized by its striped, check, or plaid patterns, gingham has become an iconic motif in popular culture and design.
Here, I translate this age-old pattern into a mesmerizing 8” mini quilt block using fabrics of varying color values and construction techniques like strip piecing and nested seams.
Find the pattern in my Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/FeltLikeSweets
Where can people see your work?
Instagram: @felitlikesweets https://www.instagram.com/feltlikesweets/
Quilt Pattern Mart: https://shop.quiltpatternmart.com/collections/charles-cameron-feltlikesweets
QuiltFolk Magazine: North Carolina, Issue 23: https://www.quiltfolk.com/issue-23-north-carolina/
Curated Quilts Magazine: https://curatedquilts.com/ Issues 14, 15, 18, 21, and 22
Interview posted May 2023
Browse through more modern quilt stories and inspiration on Create Whimsy.