Peter Byrne was looking for something new and creative to do and his aunt introduced him to the world of quilting. He pushes the boundaries with his unique and colorful designs.
How did you get started designing quilts? Was there a “moment”?
After being a hairstylist and salon owner for 30 years I retired and was looking for something new and creative to do. An aunt of mine is an avid quilter and I’ve always admired her quilts. When I mentioned to her I was interested in making a quilt, she sent me home with a goody bag of supplies and that started it all!
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Do you feel that you chose your “passion,” or did it choose you?
Quilting chose me. I started off making quilts for friends and family and fell in love with the process.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
I’m always looking for ways to push through the boundaries and present my own interpretation. Having this outlook has allowed me space to create and not feel limited by the quilt police!
What inspires you to create?
I just have to create, it’s my happy place. At times I wish I could duplicate myself and get to other projects that are spinning around in my head. Inspiration comes to me from all angles and draws me to keep going and do my best to fulfill my creative dreams.
Where do you find your inspiration for your designs?
Inspiration can show up at the oddest times. One of my most inspiring times of the day is when I go to bed. To relax I think about quilt design and upcoming projects and this is such a pleasant way to drift off to sleep!
I find inspiration by looking at colour, so having as many colours on hand is super helpful. Years back I invested and purchasing bolts of Northcott’s premium line of solids called Colorworks. Having 160 colours allows me to pull bolts and come up with awesome and inspiring colour combinations!
Do you create your works for yourself or to share with others?
One of my favourite parts of quilting is sharing what I do. When I create a new technique, I design a workshop around that new technique to share with others. My awesome Trunk Shows another way I share my quilts.
My latest workshop is called The Puzzle Workshop where I take students through the process of making an improv wonky looking quilt. I love teaching and since the beginning of covid, I have had over 150 online Trunk Shows and Workshops!
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
I really do love all aspects of quilting, so I happily do both!
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
Not really. I start each quilt with a piece of graph paper and mainly use it for the size and mathematics of the quilt. I never draw out a quilt as I already have the finished image in my head.
Tell us more about how free motion quilting and ruler work play into your finished quilts.
I love all aspects of quilting, but free motion quilting with rulers is my favourite. At QuiltCon 2020, I was awarded Best Free Motion Quilting Frameless for my quilt titled Cityscape and at Quilt Canada 2021, I was awarded Best Free Motion Quilting Frameless for my quilt titled Starring you.
At that time I had a sit down mid-arm with a 16 inch throat. When I switched from my domestic sewing machine to this mid arm it was a game changer. Having the right tools for the right job makes all the difference. I’ve since moved onto quilting on my Bernina Q 24 long arm and it’s a dream. Making this switch meant learning a completely new set of skills, but on the flip side, long arm quilting is 4 or 5 times faster than sit down quilting so its worth the time.
How do you manage your creative time? Do you schedule start and stop times? Or work only when inspired?
I usually do something quilt related everyday. Some days I’m too busy but after dinner is an awesome time for me to get creative and I do have the occasional day where I can do quilting all day and evening long!
Are you a “finisher”? How many UFOs do you think you have?
I’m defiantly a finisher. I’m usually very excited to see my quilt complete so I will just keep working on it until its done. I only have one or two UFOs calling my name and I should complete them just so I can say its done!
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
Yes, in 2021, I redesigned my entire space to accommodate my quilting ambitions. I sold all of my sewing machines and upgraded to the newest and best Bernina’s including a long-arm. I live in a one bedroom apartment downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada and the entire place is set up as my working studio. I love it and it loves me back by giving me lots of space to create.
What is your favorite storage tip for your fabric and creative supplies?
I purchased a set of Ivar shelving from Ikea and its perfect for storing bolts of fabric as the shelves are the same depth as the length of a bolt. You can also adjust the height of the shelves as well.
How often do you start a new project? Do you work actively on more than one project at a time?
As soon as I’m finished with one quilt, I’m starting the next! It’s not very often that I’m working on more than one project at a time. I like to finish the quilt I’m presently working on before starting the next.
Can you tell us about the inspiration and process of one of your works?
The inspiration for my quilt titled Roe vs Wade was to speak up in support for woman’s rights.
This colourful and interactive word quilt is called Roe vs Wade. To follow along, and understand it’s relevant message, go ahead and google “Roe v Wade” and open in Wikipedia.
My draw towards innovation, coupled with my interest in civic and human rights and desire to do a different take on a word quilt, lead me to design Roe vs Wade. This quilt contains 750, 3 inches curved units, measures 75 inches wide and 90 inches long and was made using the @hoverquilting technique.
In place of using actual letters and numbers, I assigned each letter of the alphabet and numbers 0 through 9 a different colour to spell out a message I felt spoke to our time and my concerns about reproductive rights for women. Using colour in place of text, this quilt spells out Roe vs Wade as defined in Wikipedia.
Under the Trump administration law makers have become emboldened, eroding a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion free from excessive government restriction. This has to stop. The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her wellbeing and dignity. This should be her decision alone.
The Roe vs Wade quilt was made to unite women and help promote positive conversation and positive change.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
To slow down and enjoy the process. I think that will mean something different to every one reading this article, but yes, slow down and enjoy the process!
If you could interview a creative person (past or present), who would that person be? What is it about that person that intrigues you?
My interview wouldn’t be with one person, but perhaps a group of successful male quilters to hear about and gain insight into their quilting journey and what it has brought them. Mine has brought me tremendous joy and the freedom to create and I would be so intrigued to learn from this group of male quilters.
Do you lecture or teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
Yes, I presently offer a Virtual Trunk Show called “Behind the Seams” with Peter Byrne. This presentation includes over 350 slides taking viewers through my own personal quilting journey.
In total I share over 20 quilts and going virtual has allowed me to include “how to” pictures of my quilt making process, along with close ups of every quilt.
I presently offer 3 workshops and I’m available for your guild in-person and virtually on Zoom!
My workshops are a very well organized two half-day event, with each day starting at 10am and finishing at 3pm.
I invite you to my website at www.peterbquilts.com for further information on my Trunk Show and Workshops!
Thanks so much for reading this article! To stay on top of my most recent work, I invite you to follow me on Instagram @petersquilts or on Facebook under Peter Byrne.
Interview posted April 2023
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