Something interesting happened this spring. Suddenly, our shop was filled with magnificent hummingbirds. No, they didn’t fly in an open door. Actually, they arrived courtesy of Gail Burke, who also designed our Row-by-Row pattern for 2018.
The pattern is called Mr. Hummingbird, and was created by Gail. The self-identified “Crazy Quilter” runs our storefront during the school year so we decided to sit down for a little Q&A on her history in sewing and quilting!
Where were you born?
Wyoming, raised on cattle ranching and coon hunting.
Was quilting/sewing something your family did a lot of growing up?
With 9 girls in our family, sewing was a necessity and quilts were a staple in life. They were created as gifts for weddings, births, or as memory quilts. Having been taught by my mom, I learned to make or alter my own clothes—even to the point of helping the home-ec teacher when teaching machines.
How long have you been sewing and quilting?
I have been sewing and quilting for 23 years.
How did you come to work at Martelli Enterprises?
The first time I came to Martelli was for blue thread since I’d ran out of thread just three hours before a quilt was due to my customer and I wasn’t finished quilting. I didn’t think I could make it anywhere else and get back in time to finish the project, so I stopped at Martelli. I’ve been a customer ever since, and eventually, Val talked me into working here at the shop in Pensacola.
Have you created pattern projects similar to Mr. Hummingbird before?
Yes. Owls, a rattlesnake, and a princess teddy bear riding a unicorn, just to name a few.
How do you approach a project once you have an idea or inspiration for a new design?
I listen. I listen to people and to the color combos that catch my eyes. Sometimes I will use an emotion to base a project on. A lot of times, I design my quilts based on the people for whom they are planned. This way I can add details that have meaning for the recipient. Perhaps my most rewarding quilts are those I created for the abused, neglected . . . This helps renew their faith in humanity.
My other favorite would be those I create for those with autism, as they have unique needs—usually textures, colors, patterns—along with the need for a heavier quilt. It enriches my soul every time I see someone’s face brighten up upon receiving a quilt. This sensation applies especially with the parents of autistic children, when they receive these quilts they can put away any old, tattered blankets they were using before.
What are some of your favorite sewing and quilting techniques to use in projects?
For applique, I love raw edge applique, free motion quilting, thread painting, and anything that makes my quilts sparkle. This would include metallic/glitter threads, buttons, fancy stitches, sequins, beads—though anything “taller” than thread is generally reserved for wall quilts.
Do you have any particular techniques or projects you’d like to learn more about and experiment with in the future?
I’d love to learn more about working with and utilizing reclaimed fabrics. Especially in regards to wearable art like my favorite things, vests and bags.
What advice do you have for beginner quilters?
When things go wrong—and they will—the first thing to realize is that a lot of the problems we encounter are caused by us. When you get frustrated, just walk away. Once you’ve calmed down, re-approach the project and try to figure out first if you might have caused the problem. Go through the check list: threading, lint, and then needle. When your needle goes bad, you might not even realize it, and that’s the most frustrating thing possible. Don’t quilt/ sew when tired. This seems to be the times I made the most irreversible mistakes. Also, join a guild that you can talk to about any problems you may encounter. Get encouragement and learn from them. The support a group like that can offer is invaluable.