Your Stories | Phillip Steiner’s Quilting Journey

Colorway inspiration from nature is all around us from golden yellows and browns to sunset oranges and fiery reds.  This week we’d like to share a project from one of our customers who has captured the essence of Autumn in a gorgeous colorway.  

Meet, Phillip.  At the age of four he put together his first four patch and now he is “knocking on the door of about 100 quilts” over his lifetime… so far!  Read our interview with Phillip as we discover how his Quiltster project, “Tigers at the Lakeshore”, went from ‘just a fun project’ to making a personal connection with the fabric which brought his story to life! 

Thank you, Phillip, for sharing your quilting journey  with us!  You are truly a talented quilter and we can’t wait to see more from you!

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View Phillip’s project, Tigers at the Lakeshore and leave him a nice comment or share his project using the share tools on the gallery page.

Phillip’s Story

How old were you when you learned how to quilt and who taught you?

When I was very young, my babysitters were the elderly women in town who were quilters at a local church.  When I was four years old, I remember playing underneath the quilting frame while they were quilting up above me. I remember that finally I asked them what they were doing because I couldn’t see the needles coming through, but I could see activity and finally asked them what it was and they showed me and helped me make a four patch with a hand sewing needle.  One of them put a lining in it and a drawstring and told me I could keep my marbles in it, which I did. I also used it to carry little plastic animals, toy cars, and other things, it was very well used.  That was my first project that someone finished for me.  I was very disappointed when I turned five and they weren’t able to tell me how to make a five patch!

When I was around 29 years old, I was a costumer for a theater company.  The project I was working on had precreated the costumes prior to casting and of course, they didn’t end up working.  I had to rebuild the entire show.  As we were travelling around the country, I was trying to get things the way they were supposed to be in time.  This meant I ended up having my sewing machine hooked up to the cigarette lighter in a van so I could lay down in the back and sew on my stomach, while we drove from city to city!  It was very awkward sewing that way but after three days of it, I got the costumes all caught up.  It actually worked pretty well so I thought about what I would do next and that is when I thought I would make my first real quilt.  One of my sisters and her husband met me at one of our first stops. I spotted them from far away. She was wearing vibrant red orange and he was wearing a purple jogging suit. Their colors inspired me. I combined three patterns for the quilt: God’s eye and split lemoyne stars in a garden maze. It was a bit intense for a first bed size quilt.

How many quilts would you say you have made in your life and have any of them been Judy Niemeyer designs?

Yes, actually I’d say I’ve made about 10 Judy Niemeyer quilts over the years and I’d guess that I’m knocking on the door of about 100 over my lifetime.

What do you do with quilts when you’re finished with them?

(laughs) I do give some of them away but I do keep most of them.  They can be a pretty big investment of time and money and so I still have a lot of them simply because I enjoy them. I enjoy the challenge and once I’ve gone through the challenge, I enjoy looking at it and I want to enjoy looking at them for a long time.  That’s why I enjoy Judy Niemeyer’s projects. They have a complexity to them so it’s a mental challenge, but they’re attainable too.

What was your method for choosing fabrics and colors prior to Quiltster? 

I would pull every bolt in the store and stack them on a table and try to figure out what fabrics you want to touch other fabrics to see how they would play with each other and with a whole bolt, sometimes it’s nearly impossible to really get a feel for how one would look with another.  I was amazed when I went to Quiltster and started putting fabric together because I could immediately see if there was enough value difference between two fabrics or I could tell if two fabrics looked boring next to each other because they are at the same level of activity.  These are things you ense when you’re physically stacking fabrics in a store but you don’t have the visual confirmation that I did when using Quiltster.  I’ve pulled out seams to try to replace a fabric before because it turned out not to work as well as I thought it would. I even tried to applique on top because I thought it might be better, but that’s time consuming too. It’s so much nicer  having that visual confirmation before you even start.

Have you tried to upload your own fabric to Quiltster?

Not yet!  But I will!  It’s nice to know I can go into a quilt shop, take a picture of fabric, upload it to Quiltster, go next door, have a sandwich, play on Quiltster and be able to say, “Oh, that’s how I could use that fabric!”.  This project (Tigers at the Lakeshore) was put together in probably 15 minutes.  Usually, the selection process is very long. I audition everything! Bolts, and bolts, and bolts! When I put fabrics together for Amazon Star, I spent three hours at the store, only to get discouraged and confused. I left without purchasing anything. It was so depressing that I nearly talked myself out of attempting the project. I probably spent another two hours picking out fabrics during my next shopping excursion.

What inspired the colorway for this project?

I was playing around and I was looking for fabric that had a lot of activity.  If you go through all the fabrics that are loaded on Quiltster, to me, that’s the most active one. My nephew has family from South Africa, so I built it with my little nephew in mind because the tiger fabric reminded me of tigers in Africa.  As I started to put things with it, it started to remind me of my mother who had beautiful auburn hair.  The more I looked at the colors, the more I thought of her and what colors she liked to wear which tended to be autumn colors like browns, oranges, copper, mocha and those colors.

What else do you want our readers to know about you or your thoughts on quilting?

It’s easy to say that a quilt is something utilitarian. It’s easy to say that a quilt might be a work of art, but at some level, a quilt is a means of communication.  Whether you’re trying to communicate your concept of nature, your memory of an event or your memory of a person, I think quilts are almost always the start of a conversation. If I’ve ever been working on a quilt in public, sitting somewhere sewing, people always come up and start a conversation.  It’s the same if you have a completed quilt.  People will come up to you and ask about it, so quilting is really great in that way.  

Thank you for sharing, Phillip!  It was an honor to learn more about your quilting story!  

To create beautiful, unique quilts online, just like Phillip, subscribe here and start coloring today!

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#MyQuiltStory #QuiltsterStories #TellYourStory

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