Becoming Fearless in Quilting
Updated: Jan 8
The Featured Writer of December: Darla Hall
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Pro Tip: There is no quilt police, there is no "right" way to quilt. Think outside the box and be unique with your quilting! Have fun and don't worry about it looking like someone else's quilt!
Connect with Darla Hall on Instagram here!
I’m Darla Hall, veteran longarm quilter of 15 years and a 5th generation quilter! I learned to piece tops with home cardboard templates made by my grandmother. The first quilt that I made all by myself, I was only age 17! Fast forward to 2020 and 45 years later, I have quilted more than 900 quilts and made at least 50 quilts from beginning to binding!
Quilting has definitely been modernized with new cutting techniques (what did we do before the rotary cutter?!?), strip piecing and subcutting, and… laser precuts!! Then with the development of embroidery machines and the in-home industrial longarm machines with digitized pantographs - My great-grandmothers would be amazed!
While recovering from a surgery in 2003, I was sick and tired of watching game shows and discovered Alex Anderson's quilting show. She was showing new techniques with rotary cutters and cutting mats, and I was intrigued!
I dived deep into a true quilting journey when my daughters started high school back in 2004, and with each project and quilt, I just kept getting better. It’s true when they say that you just need experience. I find that with every single quilty project, I learn something new and my projects have gotten so much better as I practice!
My first rotary cut quilt was a rag quilt with appliqued flowers from 2004. I thought it was so sweet and it afforded me the chance to use three different techniques; free motion domestic quilting, machine applique and rag technique.
Boy, I thought I knew how to quilt. It was a learning experience for sure!!
I was given tubs of scrap polyester fabric squares my mother had cut in the 80s from fabric she had bought in the 70s. I decided to make everyone in our family a quilt. I made simple 4 patches or 9 patches out of the squares. The hardest part was matching all the different colors! Navy blue, turquoise, purple, yellow; there were so many colors and patterns to choose from!
It became a family affair as I asked my twin daughters to help. In the end, I made 17 tops in about a year and a half! I spoke to a local longarmer. She offered to do a simple meander motif and quilt them for $50 a piece...well, that just didn't add up to me. Not long after that consultation, I purchased an A-1 Longarm!
Needless to say, those 17 tops became my practice quilts. Frankenstein (aka Frankie - my A- 1 Longarm) and I mastered meandering and started branching out with piecing and quilting!
Over the next five years, I learned so much and became fearless. After making a circular Spiral Bargello in a tic-tac-toe designed by myself, I began attracting the interest of local quilters, quilting their precious creations, and earning ribbons in our local quilt guild shows!
It was exciting to be noticed and recognized for my achievements! I highly recommend doing a judged show -- The judges are so good with their constructive criticism, they tell you things that your girlfriend won’t!! In 2006, I earned my first Best of Show quilt, and in 2015, my first Best Longarm Quilting Ribbon!
I began taking LongArm Quilting classes around 2010. My biggest inspiration has been Karen McTavish. I took several classes with her. She has her own unique style of quilting called McTavishing.
Karen McTavish was the first person to tell me that there was no quilting police, no one will come arrest you for creating and experimenting with quilting. She quilts with traditional motifs in nontraditional ways: She breaks all the rules! Karen encouraged me to quilt what felt good, so that's what I did. I went from being an okay quilter to show worthy! My signature back fill motif was created and lovingly nicknamed "Swirly Girly."
I have had family, friends, and acquaintances mail their quilts from as far as Australia for me to quilt my signature motif on their beautiful quilts! That is why I encourage you to think outside the box and not to worry about making your quilts look like everyone else's!
Developing your own personal “signature” with your quilt making is a great reward. By now I can walk a quilt show and tell if I have quilted some of them, not by memory of seeing the quilt, but by the style in which it has been quilted. That has been a true joy!
My A-1, Frankie, likes Glide Thread by Fil-tec. It is a 40 wt polyester thread, and it adds a wonderful shine and texture to the quilts I quilt. Frankie also loves their prewound bobbins! She wouldn't know what do do without them! I also love to use Quilters Dream wool batting. It makes your quilt lighter, keeps it warm, and adds dimension to the quilting; that's why my Swirly Girly looks so good!
To help me focus while I quilt, I love diffusing essential oils. My current favorite is DoTerra's Northern Escape. It smells like Eureka, California, where Grandma lived near the ocean and the Redwoods. It grounds me to my roots when my grandma and mom taught me how to sew and quilt.
Currently, I am working through 100 Modern City Blocks. They are like potato chips- you can't just make one! I love Tula Pink because she's out there and breaks the rules too.
I have to confess, quilting the quilt has become my favorite part of the quilting process. And the biggest honor came when Tori asked me to become her custom longarm quilter for her patterns and show quilts!!
To keep in touch, see my quilting journey and everything I've made, check out my Instagram @longarmdarla.
Enjoy the Slideshow below:
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Connect with Darla Hall on Instagram here!