Members Spotlight: Monica!

Better late then never! In the second members spotlight, I would like to introduce Monica! You might know her as Squeak Ahoy on Facebook and @monnsqueak on just about anything else. She doesn’t use her real name on facebook because she works with kids and teens, and they’re not very good at boundaries, so this makes it a little harder for them to find her!

Tell us a little bit about yourself Mon! What got you interested in quilting? When did you first find modern quilting? And, do you do any other craft besides quilting?
I’ve been making things since I was a little kid. I don’t remember learning how to thread a needle, or to make a basic stitch, so I must have been quite young. I do remember learning to knit from my nan when I was about 4 or 5, and refining the basic knit-stitch knowledge with a very old book called Fun With Wool. Since then I’ve explored lots of craftarts, including embroidery and cross stitch, knitting, crochet, handspinning, as well as painting, drawing, printmaking and calligraphy. I used to go into quilting stores just to look at the fabric, but had never owned a sewing machine. After so many years of using my hands, I started to get symptoms of damage, with shooting pains and tingling in my hands and forearms, and so I ditched the hand-work and switched to machine sewing.

new machine

The first photo is me hugging my Janome 7700 the day it was delivered by courier. Very exciting! I first started with a $100 machine that I got out of the local paper, though, and with bag making, and after almost a year of this, made my first quilt a bit over a year ago. I guess the modern style was part of the choice to try quilting – I’ve never been attracted to traditional style quilts, but I liked the bold fun style of a lot of the quilts I was seeing online.

How has your style changed over the years?
So my very first quilt was completed in January 2013 using the Bento Box pattern and some leftover fabric I’d been using for bags. I used bamboo batting, and quilted it myself on my tiny $100 machine (it was then that I decided to buy the 7700 for its larger throat space). I didn’t know anything then, so I didn’t wash it, and I think it still hasn’t been washed over a year later! oops! Here’s a picture of her holding it up. I quilted it edge to edge with a meandering stitch that I happily referred to as “drunken snail” at the time.

My first quilt which I gave to my mum ๐Ÿ™‚

The most recently completed and photographed quilt is the Dark Star quilt, which is very different! It was a fully improvised quilt design of my own making, using a little fat quarter batik set in black and gold (not metallic). I made a crazy-quilted triangle and cut it into the points of a star, and whacked it all together with black to make a large lap quilt for my old supervisor. I used FMQ and straight line quilting to bring it together.

The Dark Star quilt
The Dark Star quilt

What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on a quilt for my brother, who asked for something in “black and white and a splash of electric blue” ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve gone with a modern design based on Alissa Haight Carlton’s “Didn’t get the memo” and I’m actually not enjoying the straight-line quilting I’m doing on it much – it’ll look nice when it’s done but it takes SO LONG! And because I’m pushing it to be done in time for a quilt show, I’m not doing my usual trick of working on it for a while and alternating with other projects. :-/

Black, white and a pop of blue!
Black, white and a pop of blue!

Where do you find your inspiration? Who are your quilt idols?
I tend to pick inspiration up from everywhere. I take pictures of weird things like clouds that I like, or shadows on things, and come up with ideas from those types of things. The dark star quilt was dreamed up thinking about hope coming from the dark things in our life, and I thought a gradation of gold coming out of black would be a beautiful representation of this idea. This was a quilt that I had no idea what it would turn out looking like – I just started, and was quite surprised when it came out. Others I’ve made have been meticulously planned, every piece of them. At this point I’m still learning, so each quilt is different in process and design. I do tend to prefer making my own designs – patterns seem to waste a lot of fabric and I find them frustrating and tedious, whereas the process of making my own designs and just going for it is a purely joyful experience for me. My quilt idols are my friends and fellow guild members, I’m so impressed with the vast creativity in our lovely little Canberra MQG!

What is your favourite part about quilting? What is your least favourite?
My favourite part is the quilting itself. I adore FMQ, and I swear one day I’ll get my hands on a longarm to play with. I adore Angela Walters and her seemingly effortless fanciful work. My least favourite is the basting… but I do have a wonderful technique I’m willing to share to make this boring, backbreaking part of the job easier. ๐Ÿ™‚

Is there a technique on your list to learn this year? How do you like to learn new techniques?
No particular list of techniques to learn – I am an information junkie, and I absorb knowledge as I go. Often I’ll hit a roadblock and then decide I need a certain technique to get past it, so I go on a search-n-destroy mission to find what I need at that point to move on. Sometimes I imagine something wonderful and just need to find the technique to express it (like the stars for the Riley Blake quilt, which were a variation on the porthole technique used by bag makers for set in zippers). I learn new techniques usually by photo and video tutorials online. I remember the old days of searching out books in libraries, and while I will always adore libraries, I cannot imagine being without youtube and the vast array of bloggers and their wonderful generosity in sharing their knowledge.

Show us your sewing space! Whatโ€™s the best thing you ever bought into it?

My sewing space
OOOO – My sewing space!

This is my pride and joy. I get a lot done not because I’m motivated but because I have an efficient space set up permanently – so if I have ten minutes spare, I spend ten minutes sewing. Works very well.ย My table, which I designed and made myself, can be used sitting or standing (this helps reduce fatigue). I store my fabric folded in square baskets and in clear DVD boxes so I can see at a glance what I have available, and I’m in the process of colour sorting my scraps and cutoffs. I know not everyone has a spare room to set up as a workspace, but if you can spare a corner, it makes a huge difference. Also, if you look closely, I use MANY hooks and and cuphooks to hang things from, as well as 3M velcro, which I stick awls, needle cases and other things to, so they’re always within easy reach. No precious time spent rummaging for things.

Where else can we find you?
My blog is and monnsqueak (two n’s darlinks) is the handle I use everywhere, twitter, flickr, instagram (i really need to start using that) as well as a few other random sites.

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