To kick off our first interview with creative business folks, Michelle Wilkie of Factotum of Arts visits the blog to share her journey in creating quilts and getting her work accepted to QuiltCon!

Michelle teaching in the GreenhouseMichelle teaching her Modern Quilt Block series in the Spoonflower Greenhouse

Michelle is a great friend to Spoonflower and our Greenhouse community, sharing her innovative patterns and expertise in a Modern Quilt Block class series here in our community classroom and with a lovely Half Square Triangle tutorial on our blog. When we heard she was heading to QuiltCon, we were thrilled for an opportunity to share the story of her whirlwind journey into quilting and on to having two quilts accepted to QuiltCon!

How did you get started quilting?

After sinus surgery, I needed something that was low activity but kept my interest. So, I decided that I needed to use the sewing machine I had purchased (a $150 Brother), before my husband complained about it lying around. From there, I found an amazing online community that inspired me to try my hand at quilting.

How long have you been quilting?

I have been quilting since November 2012, so just over 2 years. I started with a lot of small projects like potholders, coffee cup sleeves, pillows etc. This really helped me to try out many different techniques before taking on bigger projects.

Mosaic_FirstYearMichelle’s first quilting projects

Is it your full time job?

It is not my full-time job; I work for a privately owned software company. I only really get to quilt during the weekend. Weeknights, I try to stay in touch with blogs and the Quilt Design a Day posts.

Where would you like to take your quilting in the future?

Wow, this is a tough one. I love designing quilts and them making them into reality. I would like to continue down the design path and see where it takes me. My immediate goals are:

  • to see my quilts published in a magazine or two this year
  • enter in a couple more design competitions
  • teach a class on designing quilts; taking design inspiration from art or from your environment around you and creating your design

What has been your biggest challenge?

Finishing and finding time are definitely my biggest challenges. I tend to do well at getting my quilt tops finished but the next phases of basting, quilting and binding tends to stall. This was one indicator that helped me know where my interests truly lie.

PhasedCircles_QuiltConPhased Circles

What has been your biggest success?

I have been really lucky in the past 6 months. I have a couple of things I am so thankful and proud about. The first being the acceptance of two of my quilts (Phased Circles and Neighborhood) into QuiltCon 2015; and the second ones are winning two design competitions (Jungle Ave Quilt Design + Cloud 9 Block of the Month Challenge February).


Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Hopefully still designing and quilting. I would also like to be owning and running a crafting center that offers an area that people can book to get together to sew, classes to kids and adults, and a coffee bar for folks just to chat and meet. It would also sell some core essentials like fabric and other notions, but this is more of a secondary product/need.

What’s your creative sound track?

Usually I am just sewing in peace and quiet, but when I do play something it really depends on my mood. I am usually going to Lorde, Bic Runga, Florence + the Machine, Foo Fighters, Snow Patrol, Shine Down, Green Day, Eminem etc. or I am listening to TV Shows on Netflix.

How did you prepare for submitting your work to QuiltCon?

This was a great experience and a steep learning curve to submit a “show” quilt. With both my entries, I would have made them either way, but knowing I might submit them meant I was a lot more particular when piecing and pressing my fabrics. The quilting and the binding were areas in which I experimented the most and therefore learned the most. I tried variegated thread in one of my quilts, the other I used matchstick quilting for the inner blocks, which were all new to me. I learned how to bury my threads when quilting and it definitely makes the quilting more polished (in my opinion). I also practiced with even stitch lengths while quilting.

Matchstick_QuiltingMatchstick Quilting on Phased Circles quilt

When binding for a show, I did hand stitch the back binding, which I don’t think is as much of a criteria for QuiltCon but is for other quilt shows. I also learned to stitch down my miter corners on the back. Lastly, I learned how to finish the quilt for a show….adding a label and a sleeve for hanging; how to pack a quilt for shipping, so that minimal folds will be present.

What do you hope to gain from QuiltCon exposure?

Inspiration!! It was my goal to learn, be inspired others and meet folks I have been talking to online for so long. It definitely exceeded my expectations. The quilt show alone was so amazing. So many fabulous modern quilts, I was blown away. Then you get to meet so many accomplished people in the market, whether it was fabric designers or quilt makers etc. I had several “Fan Girl” moments where I met Jacquie Gering, Lizzy House, Alison Glass and Yoshiko Jinzenji. Meeting all the people in reality that you know online was so great, it really solidifies the friendships. Funny though, I felt at times I was speaking another language…you know when you say things in your language and then translate it into another…it was the same way with meeting folks – IG handle to real name. “Oh I know you, you’re {insert IG handle}!” It made me laugh. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had, and therefore it was a little overwhelming and truly exhausting. I highly recommend the experience.

Who inspires your work?

I get inspiration from so many sources; from the blogging community/Quilt Design a Day Facebook group, folks in the Modern Quilt Guild, from my surrounding environment and from studying artists in the abstract/minimalism categories.

Road Signs
Road Signs Quilt DesignInspiration from the environment

What resources have you found really useful?

For getting ready for QuiltCon, I always Googled the thing I was looking for. I collected a good list of resources that can be found here. There are so many amazing tutorials out there.

QDAD_02FEB_MichelleWilkieMore of Michelle’s modern designs

For designing, I have been influenced heavily at the moment by artists like Josef Albers, Frederick Hammersley, Harvey Quaytman, and Luis Sacilotto. Many of these artists are featured in books, so I either use my local library or buy the books from Amazon.