Today we are introducing Susan Sheath. Susan was born in England and pursued an international career with Shell as a commercial engineer. This bought her to Australia 25 years ago, where she married an Australian and never left. As part of her life plan, Susan gave up her professional career in her early fifties to pursue her other interests, including quilting, which she never had time to do when working.
Susan lives in Perth with her husband and in normal times travels extensively both in Australia and overseas and sews. Not wanting to be a drain on family finances when she retired, she set up a small company, Quirky Quilts, to pay for her hobby. She now makes quilts for pleasure and competition and for sale via her website and to commission.
Your first foray into the quilting world was?
I made my first quilt when I was about 22. It was a kingsize bed quilt made by hand using English paper pieced hexagons and totally inadequately quilted with occasional big running stitches. I used it on my bed for years! I’ve lost count of the number of quilts I have made for my bed – I change the decor frequently and have to make a quilt (and curtains!) to ‘match’. Our current quilt won a prize at QuiltWest last year and I notice it is now the featured as the banner on WAQA website homepage.
Have you won any quilt awards?
I have won several prizes at QuiltWest and have been successful twice in having quilts selected for both stitchedandbound and AQC juried exhibitions/competitions.
Do you belong to any WAQA small groups or any other craft groups?
I am an active member of Contemporary Quilt group and was part of the convenor team that ran the group for 3 years. This role forced me to be more creative and experimental and I learned a huge range of new techniques that I regularly incorporate in my work. The WAQA small group, QuIrky QuIlters, meets monthly at my house and I learn so much from the experienced members of this group. I am always delighted by the generosity of quilters to share their knowledge/ideas.
You may also know me by name via my lengthy involvement in the management of Alexander Park Craft House – a facility in north Perth used my many WAQA groups. I’m currently President.
Favourite quilting/sewing tool you can’t live without?
My 20.5” square ruler and my ‘line tamer’ quilting ruler
I can’t live without..
My quilting mates who are a constant source of ideas, inspiration and encouragement
How much has your quilting changed over the years?
My skills have increased beyond recognition. I have made hundreds of quilts over the years because I make many of them commercially. I rarely use patterns these days apart from using copyright free images on the internet for appliqué. My preference is to use bright fabrics – I can get quite down making dull quilts for others.
Personally I love making smallish art quilts for challenges/competitions which provide plenty of scope for lateral thinking and incorporating different techniques. I am happy to spend hours and hours working on such pieces.
On the other hand, when I make quilts commercially, they have to be simple and quick to make. My prices are based on time taken and cost of materials. While fabric these days is far from cheap, quilts are always high cost items but if you have to add the cost of a large number of ‘man hours’ to make, they become prohibitively expensive. The general public has no idea how long it takes to make quilts.
I have a general preference for bright contemporary quilts. But given that I spend so much time away from home, I always have a few hand projects (including appliqué, boro, shibori, embroidery) that accompany me on my travels.
Your favourite part of the whole quilting process?
Finishing! Quilts always look so much better when they have been quilted and bound – they really come to life. I am surprisingly disciplined in that I nearly always finish a quilt – I must have only 2 or 3 abandoned quilt tops. I am lucky in so far as if I don’t like a quilt, I just put it up for sale – it may appeal to someone else.
Your number one tip you can pass on to another quilter is?
Attend workshops to improve/extend your skills. You can learn a lot on YouTube and from books, but it is so much more interesting and fun to share the learning experience with others.
You can read and see more of Susan’s work on her blog, quirkyquilts.com.au
Thank you Susan for taking the time to answer all my questions and give all our readers some wonderful inspiration.