(Images courtesy of QuiltyHabit.com)
Wanting to own a quilt but finding that purchasing one was out of her price range, Jessica Skultety turned to the Internet and taught herself how to quilt. Several years down the line, Jessica now teaches sewing and quilting and is also the former president of the Central Jersey Modern Quilt Guild. Learn more about Jessica, why she loves not using a pattern and her advice on how to learn to quilt.
How did you get interested in quilting? When I was a college student, I wanted to do something with my t-shirts. I did some research online and I found it was really expensive to send your t-shirts out to be made into a quilt. I couldn’t afford it at the time and I had basic sewing skills from a class in high school and got it into my head that I could do it myself (laughs). So I borrowed my future mother-in-law’s sewing machine and I made my first quilt. I caught the bug from there and taught myself everything I could from the Internet.
What’s your favorite thing about quilting? My favorite thing about quilting is that you can make something from a pile of fabric and you can make an entire quilt all on your own. If you give the quilt to someone, it wraps them in the love that you’re trying to show them. A quilt has this special value that people really seem to enjoy. I like to spread that kind of joy from me finishing it and then passing it along - I want to spread that joy to people as much as I can.
Do you hand quilt as well as machine quilt? I don’t hand quilt. Once in a while I’ll do a little handwork but I don’t usually. I love machine quilting so much because it’s freeing for me. I’ve developed a lot of designs on my domestic machine so I’ve made it my mission to really make the most of my sewing machine when I’m quilting. When I started I didn’t know that people sent their quilts out to be quilted on long arm machines. So when I found out I was already quilting on my own on my sewing machine and I decided to just keep going.
How would you describe your quilting style? My style is very improvisational. I like to not follow a pattern. I’m not very good at following directions in the first place so this is a place for me to do my own thing. It’s very freeing when I’m stressed out or busy with other things and I can go and make something all on my own with no directions. So my style is improvisational, bold, and kind of whimsical!
If you don’t follow a pattern how do you teach people how to quilt? I try to teach techniques. One of my classes is a gentle curves pillow. So I teach the technique; there’s no template it’s just the technique. Once I teach them the technique I show them different ways they can lay the blocks. Once you do the actual curved sewing, the blocks all get trimmed to the same size. It’s like an improve type of style but you’re still piecing together patchwork like a quilt.
What inspires you when you’re starting to make a quilt? Lots of things. A color scheme. Nature – a lot of my quilts have movement so the wind or the waves or the way tress grow. Other people inspire me; both people online and people in my quilt guild. We have Show and Tell during our meetings and the ladies in my guild are super talented. I’ve never met any others quite like them. We don’t have the same styles but I’m inspired by what they do.
Do you have a favorite style of quilt? Sometimes I do follow a pattern so I like patterns that have appliqué. I like patterns that involve classic quilt blocks. If it’s a turn dash block, sometimes I’ll take a traditional block like that and make it my own.
What do you enjoy most about teaching others? I love when that 'light bulb' goes on and you can tell that they really get it. Sometimes it takes a while – everyone has a different learning style. But I like to try to push them to get to that ‘light bulb’ moment.
In a quilting class I try to make my classes fun. I give people breaks, I bring in baked goods, we listen to music to try to get people to relax. To some people not following a pattern can be difficult and a lot of people are intimated by that. So I try to make it fun and when they let loose the 'light bulb' moment comes a little bit earlier. I really enjoy working with people so whatever I end up doing next will involve working with people directly.
What’s the most intricate quilt that you’ve ever created? That would probably have to be my wedding quilt. It took 3 years to make and I started it when I first started sewing. So one of the cool things when you’re looking at it is you can tell I was a beginner and by the time I finished I was a lot more advanced. There are 9 Dressden Plates (blocks with fabric appliquéd in a series of rotating petals) on the quilt so it was all a learning experience. I had never learned how to do this style so I just followed the directions that came with the template and I just went for it. Once the quilt was together, I cut up fabric for the back that our guests signed at our wedding. The front is really bright and the back is more muted so I put the back together in a more improvisational way and the front is very traditional. So it’s both sides of my work. On the front there are over a hundred different fabrics and they’re all different colors and in the middle is a rainbow. It’s my journey through fabric of my first 3 years of sewing.
Do your quilts help bring back memories to you? A lot of times I remember what I did when I was making a quilt. On the wedding quilt I can remember where I was when I purchased a specific fabric. Or sometimes I can remember what I was thinking when I sewed that fabric on and that’s really fun because there are so many of those moments wrapped up in one quilt.
What advice do you have to people who think they don’t have time to quilt? You do have time to quilt – you just have to make time. Take an hour if you can every day. Say ‘this is going to be my hour and I’m going to tackle this’. It’s a lot about time management and setting goals for yourself. Eventually you’ll have something that shows all that hard work.
What’s the one tool you think no quilter should be without? You should have fabric scissors and separate thread scissors. You never want to use your fabric scissors for your thread or your thread scissors for fabric. I’m always trying to find a pair of scissors!
If someone wants to start quilting, what tips would you give to them? First look online and learn as much about it as you can. Or partner up with a friend or ask someone you know who quilts. Also you can go to a fabric store or a quilt guild and talk to someone there and ask for some help. Just persevere. Quilt making can be very time consuming and it can be frustrating. There are days where your machine just won’t work with you and you have to walk away. So don’t give up. Also try something that makes sense to you. If you don’t think you’d like following a pattern then don’t force yourself to. Just try sewing some fabric together and see what happens.
You recently received an OttLite for Christmas. How has it made a difference in your quilting and sewing? I use it right behind my sewing machine and it really brightens up the space. I have 2 other lights in the room but the OttLite gives me an extra blast of light that I need. I go to a lot of quilting retreats and sewing days and I had heard that OttLite had lights that were easy to travel with. I’m looking forward to taking it with me on my next travel retreat.
What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not quilting? I like to read, watch tv and play video games with my husband. I also enjoy writing and updating my blog.
For more information on Jessica, visit her blog, sign up for her newsletter or view her schedule of classes. You can also follow Jessica online on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr and Periscope.
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