An Interview with Susan Beal (and a Giveaway!)

This is a big week! Lizzy House is visiting Open Sew tomorrow night at MD. You can come to sew or just hang out-- she's going to be chatting and doing a Zap Embroidery demo. And next Saturday (April 2nd), Susan Beal will be hanging out signing books and talking about her latest project, Modern Log Cabin Quilting. She'll also be bringing free log cabin square kits to put together!


Check out closeups of the fabric Susan chose for our custom fat quarter packs (and enter to win one!) over at West Coast Crafty. She was also kind enough to answer a few questions here.

Do you have any thoughts on fabric stashing? Do you stash?

Oh my gosh, yes. I save my favorites for years. I have a system (sort of - it only makes sense to me). I stack small folds like quarter and half-yards in a clear Lucite shelf on top of my card catalog (which holds jewelry findings). Both of those are on top of an Ikea Expedit shelf with boxes in three of the cubbies. I color-copied three favorite vintage fabrics and covered the front of the boxes with those, and I put any scraps or extras in those color families in the boxes. Then, when I want to make a little project and need a good blue, I dig through the blue + cool colors box (the others are pinks/reds + warm colors, and neutrals). Bigger fabrics are folded on the other Expedit shelves and stashed in a couple of bins. I wish I could see it all at once but in a tiny craft room like mine, I haven't figured out how to do that yet. So I just make a mess of the whole room, pulling everything out, every time I'm designing a quilt or any big project.

My fabric stash
Log cabin-specific trick: I save my extra 1.5, 2, and 2.5-inch wide strips in clear plastic Ziploc bags and have those tucked away for whenever I want to piece blocks or small projects. I love scrap bags - so many possibilities.

I have a little space, too, and this is super helpful. Especially the bit about fabric strips in bags-- I've now got the log cabin bug thanks to you! What sort of fabric is meaningful to you, or rather-- what sort of quilt fabrics are you drawn to?

I especially love vintage fabric of all kinds, Vera textiles, Pendleton wool, good corduroy, vintage floral sheets, woodgrain prints, Kona Snow, and Japanese sewing/button/craft motif fabric. I also got the chance to choose eight fabrics at Bolt for a special fat quarter pack this month, and that pretty much rocked my world - I snapped up this awesome Tammis Keefe crocodile print that is just perfection. I just look at it and it makes me happy.

There are so many amazing quilting cottons these days. When I was in high school and shopping the remnants table at the Piece Goods fabric store in Raleigh, I wouldn't have even believed there could be so much good stuff in the world.

Tell me about it!! I love the history you included about log cabin quilting and the way you paired historical and modern log cabin references in the book. Do you have quilt heroes?

Oh, yes. Denyse Schmidt is my quilt hero for sure. I have loved her work and her fabric designs for years, and taking her PNCA class in 2009 was just amazing - I'm taking her class there this summer too. Excited for her new book next year!

Quilters of Gees Bend
I also love Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr's quilts and books, and Weeks' blog Craft Nectar. Their design studio is completely inspiring. And I revere the Quilters of Gee's Bend. I met six of them in Sisters at the Outdoor Quilt Show in 2009 (pictured) when they were talking about their quilts and signing books, and it was pretty much otherworldly.

I'm not sure Jonathan Holstein has ever made a quilt himself, but his two books of antique and vintage quilts (Abstract Design in American Quilts: A Biography of an Exhibition, and Pieced Quilt: An American Design Tradition) are treasures. I also love American Quilts in the Modern Age, by Marin Hanson - it is beautiful. I really want to take an online class in the Textiles Department at UN-Lincoln (where she teaches - that's also who published her book).

Here in Portland, I love Elizabeth Hartman's work (I've taken a great class with her, too) and everyone in the Portland Modern Quilt Guild is amazing and inspiring - I am so happy to be a member. I'll finish up the hero worship by saying I can't wait for Alissa Haight Carlton's new book in a few months, and I am so thankful that she started the Modern Quilt Guild. It's grown into such a great thing and every month I look forward to the third Thursday night on the horizon - for two hours I get to escape regular life to go to PNCA and see beautiful quilts, check out interesting presentations, hang out with nice people, and learn good tips.

Sweet, thank you, Susan-- see you next Friday!

QfQ banner

Susan (along with Daniela Caine) are organizing a fundraiser for victims of Japan's earthquake and tsumami. You can read about how to donate your time or materials at their site, Quilts for Quake Survivors. You can pick up copies of Susan's book at the store or comment here for you chance to win one! Who are your sewing heroes? If you quilt, what's your favourite sort of block to make? We will draw one winner next Friday, April 2nd. (Open to U.S. Postal Addresses)