Quilt designer Julie Burton admires traditional quilts, but discovered that when she made them, she took the blocks into her own design sensibilities and transformed them. The result is Julie’s original quilt designs and patterns so that others can make them, too. With crisp lines and fresh colors, Julie’s modern quilt patterns are easy enough for beginners to learn basic techniques, while experienced quilters enjoy taking on a modern quilt project.
How did you start designing quilts? Always an artist, or was there a “moment”?
I bought a sewing machine on a whim one day in 2014. I had been saving quilts on Pinterest for a while, so I thought I would try to make one. When my friends started having babies, I wanted to make quilts for them. Those first few quilts I made were basic HST quilts, but I did my own math and designs. I quickly realized there were patterns that had all the math worked out for you, but I found that I would tweak or modify the patterns anyway. When I found the quilting community on Instagram I realized that pattern writing was a “thing” I could do. I dove in head first and I haven’t looked back since.
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Does quilting get your full attention, or do you have to share it with others? How do you juggle?
I am a stay at home mom to my two young daughters (ages 4 and 1) that require most of my attention. The majority of my quilting happens at nap time or after the girls are in bed. I try to keep small tasks (trimming HSTs, answering emails, etc.) easily accessible for those 10-15 minute windows throughout the day I can sneak some work in. If I have a deadline or an important project to do, the girls will happily watch an extra episode or two of Paw Patrol while I work. 😉
Where do you find your inspiration for your designs? Who are your biggest creative influences?
I find a lot of inspiration in traditional quilts. One of my favorite exercises is to take a traditional quilt block and see what I can add to it or how I can change it to make it more modern. I also find inspiration in where we live. We are a military family so I have been fortunate to live in some very geographically different places. The mountains in El Paso and the Spanish moss in Coastal Georgia are two landscapes that I go back to over and over in my designs and color/fabric selection.
If we asked a good friend of yours to describe your work, what would they say?
They would say my work is well written with attention to detail and the designs are fun, modern, and allow for limitless color options! (I asked a friend!)
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
I am such a planner! I even schedule “creative time” into my calendar. Without my planner and to-do list, I am one of those people who would be lost. Honestly, having a plan allows me to be more creative. If I try to improvise or wing it, I get stuck in analysis paralysis and stop making forward progress.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I do! I’m very lucky that this house has a bonus room that I claimed for my sewing space. It isn’t a huge room, but big enough for a design wall, a cutting table, my sewing table, and a bookshelf for storage. I also enjoy a large window that allows for a lot of natural light. It is my favorite room in the house!
What are your favorite storage tips for your fabric and creative supplies?
I recently got a magnetic peg board and it has been a game changer in my sewing room! I have magnetic fabric swatches on the top and my most commonly used rulers, scissors, and rotary cutters on pegs on the bottom. It gets these things off my cutting table and it also looks pretty! I also have four baskets for WIP. I have a rule that one bin can hold only one project. That helps keep me organized and also keeps my WIP in check!
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
It depends! Most of the time I prefer the quiet. Especially if I’m quilting while my kids are awake, I don’t listen to anything so I can keep an ear on them. Lately, I’ve been rewatching the TV show Bones. It is one of those shows I’ve seen dozens of times so I can just listen and don’t need to watch the screen.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people, or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
Both! I think some people are more naturally drawn to creative pursuits, but everyone has creativity in them. Like any skill, it can be honed and improved upon. It just takes practice and consistent effort.
How do you get unstuck creatively?
I put the project away for a while and come back to it after I’ve had a break. Trying to force creativity never works out well for me. Exercise also helps. I get my best ideas when I’m out for a run. I also like to do a brain dump where I write down all the ideas and thoughts in my head. Usually by then, I have a clearer head and can see what was getting me stuck.
What do you do to develop your skills? How do you get better at what you do?
Practice practice practice. I try to spend time quilting every single day. Some days that means sitting at my sewing machine and playing with fabric. Other days that means I’m at my computer and working on new quilt designs. But I try to make sure to do SOMETHING each day. Even if it is just for 10 minutes, those 10 minutes add up over time and before you know it, your skill level has improved. There are always new things to learn and improve on. I recently took an online class about color theory. Then I set the challenge to make a new color palette every day for a week. Pattern testing for other designers is a great way to learn new quilting techniques and practice skills that I can bring over to my own quilting.
Do you focus on one piece exclusively from start to finish or work actively on more than one project at a time?
In general, I work on one main project at a time. I try to get as far as I can on the quilt before starting the next thing. Sometimes that means quilting it myself or sending the finished top to a long armer. I find that my WIP gets out of control when I work on more than one thing at a time. I do, however, have an English Paper Piecing project going, and I also have a scrappy quilt that I’m making leader/ender style that are always in the works.
What do you hope the next year will bring?
I am currently working on a secret sewing project that I am very excited about! I hope to see that come to fruition this next year. Other than that, I hope the next year brings more patterns, more quilty friends and more involvement with the quilting community!
Learn more about Julie and her quilting on her website.
Interview posted July 2020
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