Popular Patchwork meets Stephanie Pettengell, award winning quilter and teacher.
When and why did you start quilting? I didnt start quilting until 1990 when I had my third son, although I had learnt dressmaking and stitching of all sorts at secondary school and I had made the soft furnishings for my home for many years. My two eldest sons were grown when I had my third son and I found I had time to fill and wanted to do something productive after leaving full time work. I was lucky enough to find a book in the local library about patchwork and was instantly inspired by the geometric patterns and how the tones and colours of the fabrics changed the whole look of the quilts when using the many patchwork designs that were available for me to try.
Are you self-taught?Initially I taught myself from books from the library and my first two quilts were hand stitched using the English hand piecing over paper method with the addition of hand quilting. I then joined a six week class at The Letchworth Settlement. Unfortunately, this did not run for further sessions due to lack of support. I was surprised that more people locally didnt want to learn about patchwork and quilting because by this time I was completely addicted to the craft. After putting a small notice in the local paper I found that there were a lot more people interested, so the Quilting group Icknield Quilters was born. I enrolled with Pat Salt and Dinah Travis to do my City and Guilds Patchwork and Quilting Part I by post, a very interesting method of learning. I was already doing my C&G Soft Furnishings at the local College; something I thought may compliment my Patchwork and Quilting. I went on to do my C&G Patchwork and Quilting Part 2 with Barbara Weeks and then completed a C&G teaching course for adults so I could go on to share all the knowledge I had gathered. I have now been teaching for just over 5 years at The Letchworth Settlement (where my first class was) so now I have come full circle.
What is your favourite colour? My favourite colour at the moment is within the purple range, lilacs and mauves, patterned or textured. There are some wonderful fabrics available at the moment, great coordinated ranges of fabrics that are so easy to use in patchwork and quilt making.
Most difficult colours for you to work with? Anything pink!
Favourite colours you enjoy working with? Again, currently lilacs and purples, but it changes, thank goodness. A couple of years ago I seemed to be buying and dying a lot of blues and before that I had my green year! I really think that we buy fabric depending on our mood of the moment. I also think that is why we end up having so much fabric in our stash; we need to have fabric for all occasions and moods!!
How big is your stash and where do you keep it? Large, but I wont win the most before you die competition. This year I am using more out of my fabric stash than I am buying or dyeing (or thats the plan at least). All my fabric is kept behind closed doors in a large cupboard in my workroom. When I first started patchwork I made the mistake of leaving my fabric out on shelves, so I could keep looking at it and enjoy it. Although the sun did not reach the shelf, the light did fade many of my folded fabrics, much to my dismay; a mistake I will not repeat.
How many reels of thread do you have? Now this one I may win my weakness is threads I have decided it is best not to count them just to use and enjoy them. Threads used in quilting and embellishment can change the dynamics of pieced or appliquéd fabrics. They certainly are the icing on the cake and my definite foible.
Hand or machine? I love hand sewing and quilting but, alas, I do more machine work now. I have more things to do than there are hours in the day. I usually machine piece or machine appliqué a project and then try to mix the quilting and embellishment with both machine and hand work.
Type of sewing machine you use? Bernina is my main sewing machine and also my favourite machine but I also have a Janome that gets thrown into the boot of the car for class work.
Which are your favourite techniques? Tessellating Pinwheels and Storm at Sea are my favourites; I just love the challenge of sharp points. I have won rosettes with both techniques and love teaching them as well.
How many quilt books do you have? Dont ask if I didnt enjoy them so much, I would have to say too many. Lets just say I have just enough and maybe room for one more good one!
Are you a member of any groups? Groups give inspiration, encouragement and friendship. So I am a member of my local group, Icknield Quilters and, as founder, know many of the members. The Quilters Guild and the The Embroiderers Guild give me wider information and I fully support both organizations. I also belong to The New Horizons Textile Group, a group with a wide knowledge of patchwork, quilting and embroidery by hand and machine. As a member of this group, I am able to exhibit my work with the other members every two years. Last year we were lucky enough to have gallery space to exhibit our work at The Festival of Quilts, Birmingham.
Best advice for beginners? Get taught the basics and you are set to achieve any technique you choose.
Where do you sew?When we moved to this house four years ago, we had an extra room on the ground floor, the estate agent called it the family room. It is now a work room for my sewing; full of cupboards and filing cabinets with room for me to sew and plan my classes. The family dont come in very often but always know where to find me. I am so lucky to have a space to stitch that I do not have to clear up each day when my son and husband return from school and work.
How many hours a day or week do you sew? It can sometimes be eight or nine a day if I am trying to finish a project, but more usually two or three.
Do you have a day job or other commitments? How do you reconcile the two? I do have a part time day job, one that I love. I am lucky enough to teach Patchwork and Quilting at The Letchworth Settlement, a local education centre. It is challenging and rewarding to teach recreational classes. The wide selection of techniques that are taught in recreational classes are remarkable. I get a great buzz from seeing students achieve things that they never thought they would. My own work and my teaching go happily side by side.
What are you working on just now? While replying to this, I am working on an indigo dyed shibori wallhanging. It is a final piece that has grown from two workshops taught by fellow New Horizons Textile Group member, Janice Gunner. Some months ago Janice gave our group a workshop on Indigo dying with Shibori techniques and more recently a second workshop on how to put together the shibori dyed fabrics to make a small wallhanging. Like everyone that attends a workshop I am amazed by the different pieces of work that come out of a workshop. We all started with the same basic materials but the finished wallhangings are all so different from each other.
Proudest quilting moment?The proudest moment of my quilting life was when my husband and youngest son saw me receive my prize for a 1st in the Professional class and 2nd in the Geometric class in 2001 for my quilt Fizz at the National Quilt Championships. This was a celebration quilt for the Millennium and also a celebration for finishing a number of C&G courses that led me into teaching. It was made using one of my favourite techniques, tessellating pinwheels.
Where do you get your inspiration? Sometimes it is an object or place I visit, sometimes a few words inspire me, often it is a feeling or an emotion, and occasionally it is a combination of these things that start me off on another project. I find if I go looking for inspiration, I cant seem to find it. With me I find, inspiration hits me when I least expect it.
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