Spotlight: Geraldine Wilkins, Modern and Art Quilter

Happy Dance Quilt

Spotlight: Geraldine Wilkins, Modern and Art Quilter

Geraldine Wilkins has tried many styles of quiltmaking, and creates with most of them! An accomplished quilter and certified quilting ruler instructor with numerous published designs in her portfolio, most of all, Geraldine embraces joy when she practices the art and craft of quilting.

Geraldine Wilkins Headshot

How long have you been quilting, and how did you get started?

I started quilting in 2006 when I joined a church group. Soon after I became a member  of two local quilt guilds.

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Did you have a “gateway craft” as a kid? If so, which creative projects led you to the work you do today?

No, I unsuccessfully tried garment sewing as a teen and did not sew again until I purchased a condo. Growing up with summer crafts instead of TV is a big influence on my continual desire to create. Then sewing home décor ignited my passion for sewing.

Geese Gone Wild
Geese Gone Wild, a quilt designed for Modern Monthly, an online magazine by and for the Modern Quilt Guild. Photo by Austin Day

If we asked a good friend of yours to describe your work, what would they say?

For years my good friend, Wilda, called my work “Dena’s Patternless Creations”. She did so because I never used a pattern and to encourage my creativity. Looking back, the passion for designing quilts started as soon as I started making them.

Another friend recently asked “You work across all styles of quilt making, don’t you? But the truth is, I make what I like. The styles cover modern and traditional, as well as art quilting. This is reflected in the variety of venues and publications like 1,000 Quilt Inspirations and juried exhibits like Sacred Threads and the Virginia Quilt Museum in which my quilts have graciously been included.

The Radiant Star by Geraldine Wilkins
The Radiant Star quilt is the canvas for learning how to combine multiple acrylic template and free-motion quilting designs and place them in quilt.

What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?

I don’t know that I have a signature style yet, but a style is developing. I design for national quilting publications and fabric companies. But I love free-motion quilting, so I see every quilt as a free-motion quilting canvas. My interest in free-motion quilting started early in my journey, then teaching free-motion quilting began in 2014, followed by teaching free-motion ruler quilting in 2015. Over 100,000 monthly visitors stop by my Pinterest page to see the variety of sewing and quilting projects.

Eye Peace quilt by Geraldine Wilkins
Eye Peace is part of Sacred Threads 2019 special exhibit, Eye Contact: Making a Connection. It is now part of a 2020 traveling exhibit.

When you begin to create, do you visualize the finished piece, or does the work evolve?

It starts with an idea or a technique I want to learn. So the piece often evolves as I work. Then if I get stuck, I’ll stop and let the piece marinade in a computer program or on my design wall.

Three Times Three quilt
Three Times Three is a quilt designed for an Island Batik Ambassador challenge, Star light Star Bright. The quilt is the cover of Curated Quilts issue 10 and will be displayed at the international quilt show QuiltCon 2020.

Tell us about your photojournalism experience. Does it influence your quilt design practice in any way?

Photojournalists are visual storytellers. We tell three-dimensional stories in two-dimensions with light, shadow, color and perspective. I was a photojournalist for over 20 years, and during 11 of those years I photographed fashion, professional sports, travel destinations, Hollywood stars, heads of State, and the average citizen as a Los Angeles Times staff photographer. There was high pressure to produce exceptional work, so it gave me an eye to design emotive quilts with color, composition and texture. In addition to color value I use free-motion quilting to add light and shadow to quilts.

Diamonds Forever
Diamonds Forever, a quilt designed for the Quilter’s Planner 2020 and companion magazine. Photographed by Kitty Wilkin for the Quilter’s Planner 2020.

How many projects do you have going at once, or do you focus on one creative project at a time?

There are always several professional deadlines moving along in multi-step quilt making, which includes prewashing, starching, pressing cutting, and so much more. So as an immediate deadline approaches, it becomes the priority and I will focus on its completion.

Quilting using the serpentine ruler on preprinted fabric
Power Curves, One Ruler Many Designs a workshop where students learn basic ruler techniques and many designs. Each student receives a pre-printed panel to apply learned designs.

Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?

I am so thankful to have a dedicated space for creating in a cozy space that is perfect for one. The arrangement of the 10 x 10-foot room allows access to three sewing machines, a serger, a sit-down long arm, an ironing board as well as a cutting station. Also, the number of machines allows a quick transition from one step to the next or one project to the next.

Geraldine's home quilting and sewing studio
Home quilting and sewing studio

What is your favorite storage tip for your fabric and creative supplies?

I store by category rather than color, so bins of various sizes store quilt backing, kits, pre-cuts, and projects. Also, I find it cost effective to use recycled desktop storage found at thrift stores for cutting, sewing and quilting supplies.

What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?

The everyday tools I reach for are: 1) Creative Grids 3 ½ by 12 ½ Quick Trim and Circle Quilting Ruler 2) Superior Threads titanium-coated sewing machine needles, 3) An oversized ironing board.

Quality tools are so important. Why use the handle of a screwdriver to hammer a nail when we have access to a tool that is made for the job? The right tool for the job improves quality, increases precision and therefore productivity benefits. So why cheat ourselves and our work with poor quality needles?

Brick by Brick
Brick-by-Brick is a recent make to celebrate history. Brick-by-brick we can remove history from our view or we can preserve it.

Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?

I have a bin of recycled printer paper that I use for sketching ideas and practicing free-motion quilting designs. Sketching or writing down ideas moves them closer to reality. It is often where my design starts with actionable tasks. In addition, a similar process happens in quilt design software.

What part of quilt making do you enjoy most?

I love the creative process of designing quilt tops and quilting patterns. This passion has moved from my studio, to classroom, to quilt designing for Island Batik fabrics as well as quilting magazines like McCall’s Quilting and Quiltmaker. I have a passion for free-motion and ruler quilting patterns for every level of quilter, so there are a few free-motion quilting demo videos on my YouTube channel.

Quilting using the power lines ruler
Power Lines, One Ruler Many Design is another workshop designed to introduce quilters to basic ruler techniques. Each student receives a pre-printed panel to apply learned designs.

How do you get unstuck creatively?

I pray and wait for an answer.

Do you lecture or teach workshops? If so, how can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?

Yes, I enjoy developing techniques, quilt designs and free-motion patterns so I can help others learn a new technique, improve or advance in their quilt making journey. Lectures and workshops are listed on my website in two categories, “Westalee Ruler Workshops” and “Lectures and More”. In addition, event schedules are listed on my Facebook page and website

The popular lectures are:

  • From Frustration to Fabulous – Taking the fear out of free-motion quilting
  • From Backstage to Main Stage – Drama and surface design with rulers
  • Gifted Eyes: An Artists’ Journey of Faith –  Geraldine’s story of faith weaves a tapestry of faith that encourages and inspires.

Ruler quilting on a domestic machine is popular, so those classes are in demand. I am one of 5 Westalee Design Accredited Teachers in the United States, so I offer many ruler quilting classes, which can be seen on my website or at my educator profile at Sew Steady

The popular domestic machine workshops are:

  • Introduction to Free-motion quilting
  • Introduction to Ruler Quilting
  • Powerlines, One Ruler Many Designs
  • ABCs of Ruler Quilting
I am vine quilt
I am the Vine, a quilt in Sacred Threads 2019 national juried exhibit.

What should a student expect when they attend a lecture or workshop?

Lectures and workshops are filled with numerous samples to inspire and reinforce the educational component. Read what quilters say on my website.

A Student Review:

 “Geraldine is a gifted communicator who backs up her knowledge with numerous samples and live demonstrations. If you’ve been leery of dipping your toe into the ruler-quilting waters, she will give you the courage, the knowledge, the inspiration and enthusiasm to give it a try. I HIGHLY recommend attending her trunk show/demonstrations, more than worth the money!”  Sheryl Bowman

Geradline Wilkins Quote

What is on your design wall right now, and what’s next for you?

There are several UFOs for family members, long-term projects in the works and secret projects I cannot share. However, keep an eye on some well-known national quilt magazines.

Interview posted January 2020

Browse through more inspiring quilt projects and Spotlight interviews on Create Whimsy.

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