Valerie Bothell found crazy quilting over 20 years ago and has never looked back. Intrigued by the infinite combinations of fabrics, colors and stitches, every new project is a fresh creative adventure.
How long have you been crazy quilting? How did you get started?
I have been crazy quilting for 22 years now, and it has gone by so fast! I was introduced to crazy quilting by a friend when my second child was a few months old, so that is how I keep track of how long I have been doing this.
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What do you believe is a key element in creating a successful crazy quilt?
There are many elements to crazy quilting that make a crazy quilt beautiful, but probably the biggest key for anyone should be, does this make me happy? When I am creating it, does it bring me joy? If it does, then you can’t go wrong when you are working on a crazy quilt.
What is the most important takeaway you want readers to gain from your books, especially your new title, Embroidery Combinations Perpetual Calendar?
A crazy quilt may initially look like a daunting task, but if you break it up into steps it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. If the average crazy quilt has 250 seams, then if you do one seam a day, 5 days a week, then your project will done in one year!
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I have a bedroom in my house that serves as both my office and sewing room. When I am at the computer, I can look out the window and see the back yard. On the opposite side of the room, is my sewing cabinet that my husband custom made for me. It works really well for me and it doubles as both a sewing machine cabinet and, when I move the sewing machine, it also works as my hand stitching work place. Having both the computer and sewing area while I am writing a book makes the whole process so much more efficient.
What is your favorite storage tip for your fabric and creative supplies?
I sort all of my fabrics by color and store them in plastic tubs. We put wire racks in the closet of my sewing room and spaced them so the tubs would fit on them.
Are there indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
I could not live without my air erase purple pen! I use it to mark where I am going to stitch on my project so that all of my stitches are even. Because I am a perfectionist, it saves me a lot of time to mark where my stitches are going to go!
What is your favorite lesser-known tool for your trade? Have you taken something designed for another use and repurposed it for your studio?
I use tiger tape when I am stitching to help me make my stitches more even in a short amount of time. I think it was really created for hand quilting, but it also works for many of the crazy quilt stitches.
When you travel to teach, do you stitch on planes and in waiting areas? What is in your creative travel kit?
I have good intentions to stitch when I travel, but I love to watch all the people in the airport, so I don’t get a lot done! When I do bring a travel kit along, I have a pink Yazzii jewelry bag that is perfect to use for stitching. There are many pockets in it so I can organize needles, thread, beads, etc. in it.
What inspires you? Are there recurring themes in your work?
Many things inspire me, but right now, I would say color is the most inspiring to me right now. I just love solid colored cotton fabrics right now because the stitches show up so well on them.
If we asked a good friend of yours to describe your style, what would they say?
Classic Contemporary, mixing the old with the new.
Do you plan your work out all ahead of time, or do you just dive in with your materials and start playing?
Sometimes I have thought about a project for a couple of years before I finally decide that I really want to do it. The project isn’t drawn out or anything, but in my head I know what I want to do. It very rarely turns out exactly as I planned it, but that is what I love about crazy quilting!
How many projects do you have going at once? Or do you focus on one creative project at a time?
I focus on one at a time. I get so overwhelmed if I have too many things going on at once.
When you begin to create, do you visualize the finished piece? Or does the work evolve?
I do visualize it, but the work definitely evolves.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people – or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
I do think that it does come naturally, but even when that is the case, there are more skills to learn to add to your creativity.
What are your earliest memories involving your own creative expression?
When I was around 11 or 12, I found a Christmas tin of embroidery floss and just started embroidering things. I remember embroidering a denim shirt back in the day.
When you have time to create for yourself, what kinds of projects do you make?
I love to make double wedding ring quilts and hand quilt them!
What are you working on now?
A book proposal for a third book!
Do you lecture or teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
I love to lecture and teach workshops! They can email me: [email protected]
Interview posted September, 2019
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