As a beginning quilter, it’s great to have mentors with who you can learn from, chat and even when necessary beg for help. The beauty of the internet is that a mentor need not be someone within driving distance. There are a multitude of very talented quilters, designers and many of them are more than willing to point you in the right direction. One quilter that I have admired for a long time is Abigail Dolinger of Aby Quilts. In addition to enjoying needle crafts of all kinds, Aby has over 40 years of quilting experience. I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Aby about her needlework journey.
QM: How long have you been quilting and how did you get started?
Aby: I have been quilting, in earnest, for forty years!
My grandmothers. My paternal grandmother was an accomplished needlewoman: knitting, crocheting, embroidery, crewel embroidery, and tatting. My maternal grandmother provided baskets of scrap squares for my sister and me to sew into Four Patches when we were 8 or 9 years old. How we looked forward to visiting her and working on our patchwork blocks! Since learning the basics of hand piecing and hand quilting, I’ve taken some classes and perused a lot of quilt books, learning tips and techniques along the way. I’ve learned a lot from quilting friends who share methods they have learned.
QM: You mentioned that you learned a lot from friends who shared their methods. Are you with a quilt guild?
Aby: I am currently a member of Tarheel Quilt Guild in Fayetteville, NC. With my husband, a military man, I have lived in multiple cities and in Germany. In each new place, I find friends at church/chapel and at a quilt group. If I don’t find a quilt group, I start one! Belonging to a guild or group motivates me to do my best work, to try new/different projects, educates me on new techniques, and inspires me with creative ideas.
QM: With so many years dedicated to quilting, you must have created many quilts. How many quilts have you made over the years?
Aby: Hundreds, I have lost track. Some I’ve given as gifts; some I still have.
QM: One thing that I enjoy about quilting is the multitude of patterns. What is your favorite pattern?
Aby: Weathervane is my favorite block pattern. I like the balance and interplay of 3 fabrics plus a background. My favorite overall quilt designs involve patchwork and appliqué. The curves of appliqué soften the angles of patchwork.
QM: Your quilting career has included making patterns for well-known companies. How did you get started making patterns and what type of skills are suited to pattern design?
Aby: When teaching quilt making at quilt shops, I wrote instructions for my students. Their compliments on clarity and understandable diagrams motivated me to hone my skills. I was trained by Laura of Studio E Fabrics to write patterns according to a template for publication. (The wall kits a team of quilters and I designed were marketed to JoAnns about 10 years ago.) I taught myself to draw diagrams, in Microsoft Word, to illustrate pattern instructions, and I learned how to import pictures, as well as diagrams, from Electric Quilt into my documents.
QM: You have created very beautiful patterns. What do you use as inspiration and how do you decide what patterns to make?
Aby: Sometimes I am inspired by the fabric. The motifs of the fabric suggest a quilt design.
Sometimes I am inspired by a traditional quilt block, and then I search for colors or fabrics that will bring a line drawing to life.
I enjoy using Electric Quilt, a quilt design software. It allows me to play with color, to rotate blocks or add sashing. I can test my ideas prior to cutting and sewing fabric.
QM: While I know that your heart lies with traditional quilting, many young quilters are transforming the art with modern quilts. What advice do you have for beginning quilters?
Aby: Learn to properly execute basic techniques of rotary cutting, sewing and pressing.
Join a quilt guild. Ask questions of seasoned quilters.
Tackle projects you really want to do.
Subscribe to a quilting magazine or two.
“Pin” quilt ideas on Pinterest.
Label all your quilts with your name and the year they were completed.
Aby thank you so much for sharing a bit of your knowledge and quilting life with Quilting Momma. I’ve been a fan of your patterns and know that a few of my readers are also.
I find that Aby’s advice to find a quilt guild, tackle the projects that inspire you and to ask questions are among some of the best advice that can be given to those just starting out with this craft. Quilting has always been a social activity: it’s so helpful just to chat with someone else and learn from those who have years of experience. It’s also great advice to use what you have. Aby turned her excellent communication skills into a job writing pattern instructions for a major company. What an awesome career opportunity when your talents intersect with you joy!