Linzi Upton – The Quilt Quine
Quilter, Teacher, Mother, Blogger, Part time pig keeper, Land Rover Enthusiast, Cat Lady
As a child I loved fabric and haberdashery shops. The sounds of ripping fabric and the sight of the enormous scissors were so exciting. My mother did a lot of dressmaking and tried to encourage me to follow suit but I never seemed to be able to understand the instructions.
I did a lot of sewing as a student to disguise the grotty décor. Lumpy foam cushions were covered in Liberty prints and a bath that lacked a panel wore a made to measure gingham skirt. This was mostly done by hand; I only knew about running stitch and slip stitch.
I have always been fascinated by patchwork and after a visit to the American Museum in Bath, I bought a book on folk quilts. I had a go without really reading the instructions. I was a bit discouraged that the pieces that were perfectly triangular when cut out with scissors did not match up with the other pieces and they certainly did not have any points.
My first quilts were made from a metre of print on the front, fuzzy polyester wadding and a piece of fabric on the back. The edges of the back got folded over the front, sewn down and that was it!
I made huge curtains once I bought a basic sewing machine from the Co-Op so had another go at patchwork using squares and strips. These looked more like proper quilts and even had packaged bias binding attached. The pieces still did not really line up nicely and attempts at quilting always meant battling with bulky layers and large puckers seemed unavoidable.
I moved back to North East Scotland, where I had spent a few years as a child, in 2000 with my husband and two year old daughter, Freya. During that time I took time out from my career as a primary school teacher to have two more children, keep hens, have adventures with Landrovers & wild boars, attempt fire-walking and attend a couple of quilt classes.
I constructed a few other strange items without patterns. Gym bags, baby bibs with sleeves, dressing-up cloaks, coffee pot covers and a fleece fisherman’s smock. I had a brief encounter with craft fairs, making tablecloths and cushions with a great friend, Mo, who makes wonderful soft furnishings. We found it very difficult to make a profit but had great fun!
I finally burnt out my basic sewing machine and then came the turning point. My husband bought me a new Husqvarna sewing machine from a proper sewing machine shop. It came with manuals and lessons. I realised that I could go on courses and buy lots of books. Finally I joined a class and decided to tackle a real quilt pattern with stars.
I learned how to use a rotary cutter, bought a quarter inch foot, and learned about correct pressing. Then I bought more books and gadgets and a walking foot. I soon started to churn out large bed quilts.
I got a job as the Nursery School cleaning lady to pay for an embroidery machine, even more books, fabric, fancy threads, an embellisher, classes and a laptop. I made all sorts of things from notebook covers to journal quilts.
Next I wanted to try free motion quilting and loved it BUT realised that it is very hard work. I researched quilting frames and bought one. It was not easy – but great! I joined internet discussion forums to figure out how to stop the thread and needles from breaking and soon I found that people wanted me to do some quilting for them. I discovered that patchworkers love to piece but many hate to wrestle with the quilting. My smallish domestic frame soon proved to be rather limiting for custom work so I set my sights on a big American set-up.
I took over a large part of the garage, persuaded my husband that it was a worthwhile investment and took delivery of the APQS Millennium on a 14ft. frame in 2007. After the dealers drive off you realise that the rest is up to you. It’s down to practice, experimenting and chatting with other quilters on the internet for inspiration.
As a 40th birthday treat in 2008 I went on a trip to Paducah in Kentucky, USA which was fantastic. I did some classes, went to the AQS show and Quilt Museum, scrutinising every single quilt for ideas. I also met fabulous quilters!
This trip was the start of my journey to become a competition level quilter and then go on to aspire to be an internationally known tutor and author. In short space of time after becoming a novice longarm quilter, I made several show quilts for shows, not realising that genuine competitive quilters aim to make just ONE quilt per year!