Spotlight: Toni Smith of Quiltoni
Toni Smith has been selling her original Comic Book and Video Game quilts at conventions for years. Her pattern line, QuilToni, of pixelated quilts teaches the basics of quilting while teaching experienced quilters new techniques. She also travels to teach classes, lecture, and give trunk shows.
“I met Create Whimsy at Quilt Market, talking about Twitch and streaming to encourage more professional quilters and the industry to get involved with Twitch. They are an amazing site that promotes arts and creations.”
Quiltoni was streaming live and finishing a quilt of Bob Ross, the happy painter, while doing our interview. She is the ultimate multi-tasker! Here is a link to the full session on Twitch. This interview starts about 1:52 into the session.
How did you get started with Twitch?
I have been quilting for 12 years now, and have been selling my quilts at conventions for 8 years. About 1-½ years ago, we had come out with a pattern line. I was getting the response at conventions that I can quilt but that looks too hard. I was thinking, really? Hard?
I take custom commissions, too. I really wanted to figure out a way to where if someone commissioned a quilt, people could watch me create and make it. At the same time I wanted to show people that my patterns are really easy. If you can sew a straight line, you can make my quilt patterns.
I was looking at my options, and talking to my husband about it. There is Facebook Live, YouTube, all sorts of things. My husband and I were sitting on the couch watching Twitch. He turned to me and said, you know Twitch has a creative section. I was like What? What are you talking about?
We turned to it, and I saw that my friend nerdandneedle was streaming and then DryadTea. I went through and started watching Creative for the next few weeks and said this was awesome. I got the equipment, and started streaming January 2017. That’s how I got started. To have people watch me creating my commissions, and to show how easy my patterns are. That’s the short answer.
Has streaming changed your approach to quilting in any way?
I don’t think it has changed my approach to quilting. But definitely changed the way I teach. I‘m a teacher by trade, a middle and high school math teacher. Teaching quilting is different, very different. Streaming has given me a better appreciation to teaching. It’s changed how I word things and how I show things. I get questions all of the time. “In the pattern you say to do this, can you show me how?” We’ve updated the wording in our patterns from the feedback from Twitch.
I get more done because I’m streaming. I have ADD and find that I get bored and distracted. I’ll go off and do other things. Twitch keeps me focused and working on something. I have a command on my channel, if I get off task, my community tells me – you are supposed to be quilting!
I was a math teacher. Designing quilt patterns is all about math. I have a degree in English and teaching degree, and actually went into teaching math. I taught one year of English, too.
What do you wish you knew about quilting before you got started?
Ohh. Everything! I wish I knew that it doesn’t matter what type of thread you use, it doesn’t matter what type of material you use, in that it doesn’t need to be 100% cotton. It only matters that you have high quality thread and fabric. And, create whatever you want.
Early in my quilting career I ran into a few quilt Nazis. It was drilled in me to only do certain things, and I think that stifled my creativity in the beginning. Then I ran into some people who told me, “What are you doing? No, do want you want.” And, then I was able to blossom and do what I wanted to do. It really doesn’t make a difference as long as you are artistic, and you create, making things that make you happy. That is what makes the difference. I wish I knew that before I started quilting. I try to say that often here, you should never have your creativity stifled .
Ironbansgram is Timi Bronson. She has an amazing piece of art in Fly me to the Moon. Super interesting. Good thread and good fabric. I use Guterman, and use Signature line, I use Masterpiece by Superior, but mostly Gutermann thread.
It’s your quilt, your rules. So do not stifle your creativity – at all.
Create your whimsy. That’s really it! If you don’t, you shouldn’t. In chainmaille your closures need to be good when Phare taught me. There are some basics, like change your needles, use good quality thread. Other than that, you can create, and how you create it is up to you.
I’ll take free thread! I like free things! Ironbansgram, you use a lot of Signature thread, right? She uses Gutermann for piecing and Signature on the longarm. Mettler donated some thread for St. Jude’s, so I gave some away.
What are the best quilting tools ever invented?
Cutting Gizmo by Gypsy Quilter, it’s a snipper. My mom bought this for me years ago to separate chain pieces because it’s awesome and fast.
Stripology ruler by Gudren Ella
Seam Fix seam ripper
Rotary cutter – I use the Martelli rotary cutter with less strain on my arm
That Purple Thang
Favorite batting: Quilters Dream Blend. It’s an 80/20 cotton poly blend.
I don’t make bias. I buy Moda bias by the roll.
How do you stay organized when working with multiple design ideas and processes?
Keeping things organized. I was just a participant on a blog hop on organization. Six weeks blog hop, and one was organization. Cabinets for all of my fat quarters and jelly rolls, and all of my high quality fabrics for my quilts. Then at the bottom are my bolts. In the corner is all of my fabrics that I love but I don’t use on a regular basis. I have all of my Moda pre-made bias tape on a roll hanging, so it is easy to access, next to my Gutermann spinner cabinet. And, I love my Arrow Mod Thread cabinet. Character fabrics are stored separately, like Dr. Who and Hello Kitty. My garment patterns are stored on a top shelf, but I don’t make garments yet.
Character fabrics are stored by subject. Character fabrics that aren’t really characters, like pretzels or Asian fabrics, are stored on different shelves. Underneath are solids that aren’t as high quality, like JoAnn’s. Behind the lights is the messy part of the studio, because that’s all of my UFOs. They are kept there so that I can look at them when I’m working, but you don’t see them. I have cabinets for all of my patterns, in drawers. And, then of course, those are all of the boards for wrapping all my fabrics, and there are bins with all of my pieces for all of my patterns.
That is how I stay organized.
I also use Google Docs, big time. Everything is in Google Docs. I have a to-do list, the quilts I have to do, the commissions I have to do. It’s all public on my website. So, if you commission me to do a piece, you can always see where you are in line on my website.
The thread storage and the desk are all Arrow storage. The thread cabinets are amazing, the best money I’ve ever spent.
I heavily use Google spreadsheets because I can access them from my phone, my computer from anywhere I am. So I can update things and add things.
Divinechaos asked Quiltoni: Where do you get your fabric boards? Quiltoni answered, I have links on my blog, and there is a video about the boards, too.
Tell us about your most challenging piece. What were the obstacles and how did you get past them?
Let’s see if people who have been watching me since last October, what do you think the most challenging quilt I’ve ever made is?
The bargellos are really pretty easy because they just use tubes of fabric. That goof counter, probably 70% came from one quilt from last November. The quilt I’m thinking of is something that took me over a month to make. Those that have been with me for a while, you are going to say “oh, yeah.
Remember when I took over a month to make a quilt after Twitchcon? That thing has ¾” squares and is a queen size quilt.There was so much in the same colors and I kept turning things upside down, and the worst part about it was I made it for a good friend of mine and way under charged him. Look under Commissions, second row. It’s the one on the right – dragon.
It looks great and turned out wonderful. I actually designed this, even though Nicole does most of my designing. But I did this one! She helped with the claws, though.
It is so complicated and took me so long to do. And, I severely undercharged for it. And then I had people ask for the pattern. There is no way I would pattern this and put that stress on another person. It was horrible! So there was a whole month of Twitch streams all about that.
The guy I did it for, it was a gift was for his wife, and he is why I was at Dragoncon. He asked if I was going to make another. No, it’s the bane of my existence now. I love it now, but it was horrible making it.
What are your earliest memories involving your own creative expression?
That’s easy – cross stitch. When I was 7 years old my mother taught me how to cross stitch and I made ornaments for my family and friends for Christmas. I have cross stitched every year, I’ve made at least one thing with cross stitch.
Through the time I was in University and teaching, I would cross stitch. Later I designed cross stitch patterns and I would join a website that no longer exists, cross stitching video games. When I decided to get into quilting, it was an easy transition since I had already designed cross stitch patterns.
What trends are you following that we might see in future work?
Hmmm, I think the only trends that I really look at are the trends of pop culture and video gaming because that will influence my patterns. I’m probably going to come out with an English Paper Piecing (EPP) Death Star for GenCom, and we’re trying to make a Batman. Let me look at my list – I make a list for Nicole to make certain things for patterns coming out. It’s all what she feels with inspiration.
These are the ones we are working on and considering: Cthulhu, Donkey Kong, Power Rangers, Sailor Moon, Pokemon (maybe EPP), and a few more!
Those will be fun! My daughter designed an EPP hexie Duck Hunt quilt. Awesome, but can’t show it – not finished yet and it’s a surprise gift. The quilting force is strong with this one.
Do you have a picture of that? I want to see it! Oh, it is surprise gift. When it is done, come back and share a picture. That sounds so awesome! So cool!
Will share because it’s amazing. King size with 1-inch-ish hexies.
Your daughter has so much patience! That’s awesome!
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
The biggest thing that I am a proponent of is being yourself. Be yourself. Be positive. Support others, but create what you want to create. We can’t do interesting things unless we create.
Of course, I stream on Twitch full time, and I stream live from conventions. We’ll be doing a special game from DragonCon, playing CosPlay bingo. It will be so much fun!
This was so much fun! Awesome interview! Love you and your followers!
Thank you, Create Whimsy. I appreciate you coming by and doing this. So much easier for me to sit and talk while I’m quilting! Do you guys have social media? Go take a look at Create Whimsy on social media. Seriously, go follow Create Whimsy, because there will be an interview with me there!
You can find and follow Toni: