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Meet Debbie Wendt, Longarm Quilter, Teacher, Pattern Designer and Notion Inventor

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

The Winter 2012 issue of The Professional Quilterincludes a profile by Mindy Wylie with Debbie Wendt, a longarm quilter, teacher, author and pattern designer. Debbie is also known for creating Brilliant Bindings, a tool available in sizes for both longarms and domestic machines, her fat-quarter friendly 4-3-2-1-Done patterns, and her method to construct and produce quilts right on the longarm. Here’s an excerpt from the profile:

When did you start quilting and how did you get into it?

My first “official” quilt class was in 1984 when I took a Continuing Ed class in the town where I lived. The class was Amish diamonds in the center, all by hand! I started with templates and even made my own feather stencil for one of my borders. I have always enjoyed sewing, and quilting felt comfortable – much easier than fitting clothing. As a young girl, I listed sewing as my hobby. My grandmothers were both seamstresses, and I admired their work. It feels natural to have sewing and now quilting as my business. I continue to take classes because I want to continue learning about my passion.

How did this lead longarm quilting?

I started longarm quilting in 1998 when I worked in a quilt shop in West Monroe, La. The owner asked if I had interest in learning the longarm so she taught me the basics. I quilted 22 lap quilts that fall as Christmas presents, which gave me a lot of time learning the machine and techniques. I then graduated to pantographs, as that is what was most requested by the customers.

How did you get started teaching quilting?

I started teaching quilting while living in Cairo, Egypt.  When I moved there in 1993 I helped start a quilt group, Quilters in DeNile. Several people in a cross stitch group wanted to learn to quilt, so I taught classes for the quilt group and at CSA (Community Service Association) where expats from many countries gathered. “Good cotton” quilting fabric was hard to come by so my summer visits home were spent buying fabric and filling my suitcases. We could get solid cottons in the souks and small shops along the Street of the Tentmakers, but it was a lesser grade as the high quality Egyptian cotton was exported.

You self-publish your books. Tell us about that process.

Self-publishing was the means needed to a quick end. I wanted to put my techniques into print so I could share my ideas with my students but didn’t have time to go through the proposal process. Thanks to my husband’s editing and computer skills we actually printed the first versions of my longarm books on our home printer. After their debut at my first teaching show I had them printed professionally. With self-publishing, complete instructions are crucial. I always have other quilters walk through the instructions to make sure they are easy to understand. I also have my husband, a non-quilter, read it for logical sequence.

Do you also self-publish your piecing patterns?

Yes, I also self-publish all my patterns. I am basically self-taught when it comes to computers. With some tips from my husband, I do all my own diagrams and layout. I worked with a graphic designer to re-design my logo and help with the Brilliant Bindings cover page. She also runs a printing business in the town where I live, so it fit to have her do all my printing. It made it very convenient to proof layout, photo colors and determine the best paper choices. Getting the perfect lighting and angles for my cover quilts proved difficult so I now trust those photos to a professional.

Speaking of marketing, are you active on the Internet and with social media?

I have a website to support my products and teaching engagements. I recently went with a company to re-design and upgrade my site to offer more to my customers, for example, a free patterns section and newsletter sign-up. I have had a blog address for a couple years, and I’m excited and determined to make it into a “real” blog. I will be working with it more in the coming year to stay connected and show my personal side of traveling and quilting. Facebook has been a wonderful tool personally, reconnecting with high school classmates. I started a business page just last month and look forward to exploring ways I can use it to connect with quilting friends, students and customers. I have not used Twitter.

What new projects are in the works? What can we expect from you this coming year?

I have many new projects in the works. It just so happens that my binding tool is a common shape in many quilt block patterns, so I’ll be releasing several new quilts in the coming year. I’m also in the design phase of a couple new tools. I look forward to releasing one at Spring Quilt Market in my hometown of Kansas City, Mo.

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