Bethanne is a classically trained artist, with a Bachelors of Fine Arts and a Masters in Art Therapy. The fiber arts became her art medium of choice in 1997, but her focus changed in 2007 when she purchased a longarm sewing machine. For many years she was a custom longarm quilter for hire, but as her style became distinctive, she began teaching quilting to others and writing books to support her classes. She is passionate about teaching others to follow their own creative journey through quilting, and about expressing herself through show quilts .
Q: You have a strong arts background. How do you feel that translates into your quilts?
A: In numerous ways. I tend to approach my quilts from an 'art first' standpoint. A lot of quilts go with traditional shapes like feathers, etc. I can appreciate that, but I don't find it is interesting to me. I tend to use my longarm machine like it is a pencil ( although it doesn't erase so well!!). Growing up with an arts background, I got used to attending gallery shows. When you go to art galleries, while you may not love every piece you see, you learn to determine the aspects of the piece you like, and decide what you can pull from the good parts of what you see to influence and improve your own art. I treat quilt shows like they are art galleries, and try to look at every piece in that way. I believe that also helps me to be a more supportive , positive teacher, because I try to always 'critique' students work in a very positive way, by pointing out the aspects of their work that is great, while gently suggesting some areas of improvement.
Q: You are a very decorated show quilter. How much time does a typical show quilt take you?
A: There are really two answers to that question. My first answer would be '20 years' as every quilt I have made on my journey leads me to the current piece. However, since I believe you mean time for a specific quilt , not counting the designing ( which is hard to pin down, as it is something I think of and plan out over time), a show quilt can take me a year, or around 500 hours. But that can change a lot according to the finish I choose. I am currently working on a piece that is taking me 20 hours per side for the finish I am giving it. So the finish can easily add another 100 hours.
Q: Where do your show quilts end up? Are they hanging in private collections?
A: I have a hard time parting with my winning quilts, as I become emotionally attached to them. Some of them hang in my house if it works ( although I never design a quilt based on how it will look in my house), but most of them end up travelling with me to teaching and lecture engagements. They become good examples for me to demonstrate different techniques.
Q: What machine do you currently use?
A: I am still sewing with the A-1 I purchased in 2007. Nowadays there are so many options for long arm quilters, but when I bought my machine, there were not many choices. That being said, my machine works great for me.
Q: What is the best tip you would give to someone who is just looking at purchasing a longarm, or just starting to use one?
A: Practice! Although that is not what most people want to hear, there really are no shortcuts. Years ago, no one would even think about purchasing an expensive longarm machine if they didn't plan on making a living with it. When you are on that machine for hours a day, working on clients' quilts, you really get a lot of time to improve your craft. I also believe if you are very experienced at quilting on a domestic machine, you will have an easier time of it. The difference is, with a longarm you are moving the ' pencil' and with a domestic machine, you are moving the 'paper'.
Q: What is your favorite part about teaching?
A: The most gratifying thing for me is the when students tell me that I presented things in such a way that they feel they finally 'get it'. Also, custom quilting and working out of your home can be very isolating, so teaching really gives me that sense of community.
Q: What is you favorite WonderFil Thread?
A: Invisafil! I work a lot with silk fabrics, and InvisaFil has just the right amount of soft sheen to work well with them. Real silk thread is far too pricey and fragile. InvisaFil has the right strength. I am also a new convert to the DecoBob bobbins. They are evenly wound, so the way the bobbin acts when it is full is the same as when it is nearly out. I find that WonderFil's plastic bobbins are also much better in my machine than the cardboard kind I used to use.
Q: What is coming up for you in 2018?
A: I will be heading up to Canada in March to present for a guild in the Toronto area, then I will be teaching at Manchester MQX, and in June, an I am presenting at Steamboat in Colorado, and plan to combine it with a family vacation! I will also be at AQS Grand Rapids, and several other shows. And I have two show quilts making the rounds now ( 'Westward Sun' and 'Song of Summer'), and have submitted one of my quilts for the Houston show as well.