Hello Friends! Welcome back to In the Spotlight. Today I will be giving you an interview with a woman who is not just a quilter, but a pattern designer, pattern explorer, teacher, and all around amazing woman! I am so excited to share this interview with you, especially because the interview-ee, Bonnie Hunter, is the quilter who first published the Trip Around the World technique on her Quiltville blog back in 2005, but its history goes back even further when she had posted it on her website years before.
As you trod along with your Trip Around the World blocks in our Summer Sew-Along, take a few minutes to read this interview with Bonnie, learn some more about her and the technique, and get inspired to get moving on those blocks!
Hi Bonnie! You are certainly one of the better known “faces” of quilting, but for those of us who may be unfamiliar with all you do, please tell us a little bit about yourself:
Thank you for the invite! I’m thrilled for the opportunity to share a bit of my quilty life with you. I’ve been quilting since the early 1980s, and as i say that – I realize that it is more than half of my life! I started in a high school home economics course, and fell in love with patchwork and quilting from the get-go.
In the 1990s, I applied my love of sewing and quilting into my first pattern business, “Needle in a Haystack!!” with more than 70 designs for dolls and stuffed animals wearing country clothing and a primitive feel. These patterns were featured in magazines and in the Butterick pattern catalogs. But my first love (and a great use of the doll making scraps!) was always quilting.
In 1995 I bought my first longarm machine and have never spend a day without something quilty under my needle!
My first website appeared in 1996, and within a couple of years I moved to my own domain – Quiltville.com – where I Advertised my longarm quilting business as well as hosted many free patterns for quilters to use up their stash. Those patterns are still available today, though links moved to my blog in 2005 because it was easier to host (and edit!) them there, accessible from any computer as I began to travel and teach quilting to others.
For anyone who doesn’t know me – I am a confirmed Scrapaholic. Scrap quilts are my absolute favorite, and the scrappier the better. I love making good use of any piece of fabric that comes my way, and I have included scrap management articles on my blog, in magazines, and also in my books.
Tell us a little bit more about your presence in the “real world” ie: outside of social media. Where can quilters and sewists have the opportunity to connect with you:
Is there a real world outside of quilting? I do travel and teach internationally, and there is a chance that I may end up near where you are! There is a Calendar of Events tab at the top of my blog that lists everywhere I’ll be through 2019. Whether it’s a guild event, a shop event, or a show, festival or retreat – I’d love to meet you!
Tell us a little bit about Quiltville, and your mission with the blog:
The name QUILTVILLE came about as an “aha!” moment as I was thinking up a name for my longarm business. My friend and I would talk on the phone and as we asked each other about our days, we’d add ‘ville to the end of everything.
“It’s laundryville at my house today.”
“Really, My life is all about vacuumville right now.”
One day while sewing I said, “I’m in Quiltville today!” and from there, it stuck! I love the name Quiltville, and it does feel like a place for quilters to hang and have a good time, doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t want to be in Quiltville?!
My mission with the blog has evolved over the years. I started blogging in 2005. My friend, Tonya Ricucci of Word Play Quilts (aff) (Martingale), had moved to Egypt, of all places, due to her Hubby, Tom’s, job. We wanted a way to share what we were working on, even though we were several time zones apart. We both started blogs at the same time to share photos and progress on projects.
The first time I got a comment, I was floored!
I continued to journal on my blog, writing about my life as well as about quilting – because life DOES happen around the edges. Readership grew – and as I look back over the past 12 years I’ve seen myself go back to school for my national certification in Massage Therapy and Body Work, and start a business as well as longarm quilting, saw my sons grow up into wonderful young men that any mom would be proud of, watched animals join our family, age and pass on, and experienced a move from South Carolina to North Carolina where we are now.
I read back and am amazed to see how leaving my massage practice behind due to the move opened up new horizons as I began to write more for Quiltmaker Magazine, and accepted a book offer by Kansas City Star. I have no published 6 books, co-authored a booklet, and am working on my 7th book due out in early spring 2019. Kansas City Star is now an imprint of C&T publishing, and that who uncertainty of the acquisition is recorded in my blog-journal.
There is a lot of real-time living going on between the quilt projects.
As I travel I love to share scenes from my workshops and lectures, anything historical or beautiful about an area I’m visiting, and try to make the reader feel like they are right there with me, along for the ride.
In October I’m traveling to China with a group of quilters, and I’m sure there will be some really cool stuff to post about from that trip!
You are one busy lady! I believe that many Creative Beings can easily become overwhelmed, and struggle to find balance between our creative-selves and our responsibilities. I think that many of us have faced a time where we have lost our “sewjo.” How do you maintain your schedule and responsibilities with work/family, but still keep your passion and love for the craft burning strong:
DEADLINES! LOL! Seriously. A project without deadlines is just a wish. If I were to be honest, I would say that there are things I have had to let go because of the travel and writing and piecing and quilting.
I do not garden. I have cleaning angels that come cleam my house every 2 weeks because I can’t do it when I’m on the raod, and when I’m home, there are other things that I need to attend to. I only cook sometimes, and when I do it is simple. My crock pot is my best fiend. Big batch. Freeze.
I must add, too – that all of this traveling to teach really didn’t start until my youngest was a junior in high school, and it only happened occasionally over a weekend. For those who aspire to do what I do, who still have young families at home – be patient. The time when you are able to do more on a larger scale will come. Love those babies first. It’s most important.
And I couldn’t do all of this without a very supportive husband. My eternal thanks to “The Hubster,” Dave, for his belief in me.
To be frank, your love of quilting began before I was even born!! Over the next fifteen years, your craft and passion grew. You describe yourself as “dedicated to continuing the traditions of quilting.” How do you strike the balance between honoring tradition, while appealing to a new generation of sewists and quilters:
Yes. I know. It shocks me too! I think the most important thing is to continue to do what you love while pushing your OWN boundaries. Not just trying to replicate or emulate someone else. I will never chase after the newest, greatest, latest fad or fabric collection. I know where I’m happiest. My quilts may never look like anyone else’s, but they will be a reflection of me.
I do believe that what is “MODERN” is fleeting. It’s always changing. What is modern today, isn’t tomorrow. And even with a new generation of sewists and quilters, there is ALWAYS ALWAYS a connection to quilters past.
It’s fabric, it’s thread, it’s machines, it’s stitches, it’s creativity, it’s passion, it’s possibilities. With every project we undertake, we discover just a bit more about ourselves and who we are.
As you know, we have a laid back Sew-Along going on this summer revolving around your Scrappy Trip Around the World Tutorial. This block and its tutorial have been circulating the web for many years. Tell us a little bit more about when/how you first created this tutorial:
I was a charity quilt chairperson for my guild when we lived in South Carolina, Pre-Blog. If you have ever had this position, you know what kind of weird, discarded, mismatched fabric that the guild receives as donation. I wanted a way to use this fabric for charity and community quilts, and I wanted it to be easy enough that ANYONE could make these cast-off fabrics work. And look good.
Scrappy Trip Around the World was kitted up from that fabric, and taught at a guild sew-in. We made many quilts using these blocks in which every fabric really DID work. I’ve never seen an ugly one yet.
I put the pattern on my website (before blog, and moved to blog later on) so that guild members could print their own patterns and bring it to class with them. It was a way to get the older ladies familiar with and using the computer. Old dogs and new tricks!
From there it hit the internet by storm, guilds everywhere were using it for their guild projects, and a few years back it took over Instagram like wildfire!
I’ve always wanted to re-do the tutorial, but time hasn’t allowed me the luxury. I know fabrics in the tutorial are pretty gross. But that’s what I was working from! Donated guild stash.
And I just want to say, thank you for hosting the sew-along! I Think everyone needs to make a Scrappy Trips quilt at least once in their lifetime to clear out some stash in the process!
I’m so glad that I was in a position to get this up and running! This quilt is one of the first that I “discovered” when I first started quilting, but I didn’t have the stash or scraps (or understanding) to make one. I put it on my “to-make” list, and it sat there for years, until late last spring when I realized, “Yup. I’m there now!” What do you think it is about the block that has given it such longevity:
It’s the “IT ALWAYS WORKS!!!!” thing I think that keeps it going so strong. It works with any fabrics, in any size of strip, in any genre from civil war, to batik, to modern, to kitchen sink.
I also have to add, that with this pattern, as long as your seam allowance is consistent, the pattern will work because it is all squares. Even if you are sewing 3/8″ instead of 1/4″, it will work. It is GREAT for beginners.
Not only does this block appeal to so many, but it also has created a lot of “repeat offenders!” Why do you think quilters have come back to this block multiples times:
It’s a fun, quick fix, when you want to sew something, but don’t want to have to make points match or think too hard. It’s easy to grab some strips and just start sewing. And there are endless possibilities for fabric, color, layout, etc.
Do you have any other tutorials or quilt blocks that have a similar appeal? Which other patterns have become popular among those who love the Scrappy Trip block:
If folks love the Scrappy Trips, they need to do the Scrappy Bargello as well. Same technique, but it is built in panels down the quilt instead of blocks, so it goes REALLY fast.
The other pattern that gets the most hits, also pre-blog, is Scrappy Mountain Majesties, with all of its different layouts. It had been on the website since 2003. I just did one in a barn-raising layout using recycled shirt plaids and strips for the guest bed at our cabin in Virginia, and I still teach this one regularly as well.
Are there any other details or fun bits of information that you would like to share with us:
I am a sucker for vintage sewing machines! That includes treadles and hand cranks – but my favorite of all are the 1950s Japanese import machines with all of their wild paint jobs, chrome, and body styles. I swap out machines regularly, and share them during our Quilt-Cam episodes I host through Facebook Live on my Quiltville Friends Facebook Page. These are also archived under the Quilt-Cam tab at the top of my blog so if you missed the live session, you can always watch the re-runs.
Another very popular thing on the blog is the yearly Quiltville Mystery that runs from Black Friday through New Years on the blog. Yardage requirements are released by Halloween. We have a great time! I hope you’ll join in!
I am always asked, “Why the holidays?!? I’m too busy for the holidays, can’t you do it at a better time?” Well, the younger quilters may be busy with the holidays, but there is a huge segment of the population that have a hard time during the holidays. Widows, singles, those too far away from family members. The lonely. The holidays are hard for many, and this is my way of giving something back.
Finally, I know that I am not the first one who ever made anything between the lines of chain piecing other things, but I am tickled that I was able to give it a name that it is now recognized by! When I hear about and see the wonderful things that folks are making with “Leaders & Enders,” I get so tickled to have given something a real name. Hooray for Leaders & Enders! It’s right up there with the person who coined the phrase, “Fussy Cut!” (You can read more on the technique here)
I just want to thank Bonnie once again for taking the time to participate in this interview. She’s let us in on many details over her life (oh hi, I love my crock pot too, Bonnie!), and when this finished up, I really walked away feeling motivated to get sewing again!