In every issue of Quiltmaker, Bonnie Hunter gives readers a scrappy block in her column Addicted to Scraps. You'll always find layout diagrams for these projects at quiltmaker.com under the Addicted to Scraps icon of any issue.
Bonnie Hunter’s Tropical Twist appears in the Jan/Feb ’09 issue (No. 125) of QUILTMAKER. If you cannot find this issue at your local quilt shop, order back issues at quiltandsewshop.com.
How did you decide to make working with quilts a career?
You know, I never decided to make it a career, not exactly! Quilting had always been my first love, and I was bound and determined not to have the "job" aspect of it burn out my passion for quilts. That was my big fear. If I turned it into a job, would I still love it? This had happened in my "other" career. I designed a line of stuffed animal and doll patterns under the name of "Needle in a Haystack!!" in the 1990s, and I was picked up by the Butterick Pattern Company. It was exhilarating, but after a while, being forced to come up with six new designs every six months wore on me. I was raising small children at the time. So that is when I switched gears to put the joy back in my life. I bought a longarm machine and have never looked back! Things just kind of grew on their own. The internet has helped greatly. I am amazed at how connected quilters can be!
This last move from South Carolina to North Carolina due to my husband's job was kind of the final catalyst for me. I had to leave my successful massage therapy practice behind. Within a few weeks of moving I had a book deal, and my traveling and teaching schedule had filled up the void that leaving my massage practice had created—all on its own, or so it seems! There is just no looking back now! It helps that my boys are grown and my availability to travel and teach has increased. I feel more free to do things that I couldn't do when I still had kids at home.
How has quiltmaking enriched your life?
Quilting has enriched my life mostly because of the people that come along with every aspect of quilting. As a general rule, there are just no better people than quilters. Giving, loving, funny, sharing…I can't list all the qualities I find in the quilters I meet every day, but these men and women are so open and warm that they would do anything to help anyone. Quilting is not just a hobby or an interest. It's an integral part of life for me and many others. Our lives revolve around it. It threads itself in and out of our everyday doings just like the quilting stitches that hold the quilt layers together. I honestly cannot imagine my life without quilting. I think it all boils down to that verse that says, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Quilters are such givers, but as we give, we get so much more back in return that we can't hold it all, and it enriches our lives to the point of overflowing.
When did you start making scrap quilts? What led you in that direction?
I have always loved scrap quilts best. I don't even know why myself! Yes I do…I think. When I was growing up, I didn't have any quilters in my life, but there was this one quilt…I know now that it was a triple Irish chain made in the 1930s, but at the time, I had no idea. This poor quilt had been used as a cover for our fort as kids, as a picnic blanket, as a paint drop cloth…it was threadbare, but oh so soft. We even used it as a beach blanket. (Oh for shame!!) And I can still see myself— about 11 or 12 years old—lying on the beach with it at Santa Cruz, feeling the warmth of the sand radiating up through the quilt, the sun warming me from the top as well. I remember being nose-to-nose with all these 1" squares of different fabrics—solids, prints, you name it, it was in there. I studied the hand stitches…it amazed me that someone could do stitches like that. It had a solid pink border quilted with clamshells.
Later, in my 20s, when I was quilting, I rescued that torn and battered quilt from the trunk of my dad's car and I kept what could be salvaged. Just one square, not very big. Most of the prints had faded to nothing. I learned that my grandmother’s grandmother had made it! She passed away long before I was born, and there have been no other quilters since then, until me. I feel a connection to this woman, and wish so much that I knew her, that I could talk to her about her quilts and her life. Since my grandmother has passed away I have inherited three more quilts from that side of the family. I cherish them.
Oh, but that doesn't exactly describe why I love scrap quilts so much! When I was in my 20s, married and raising 2 small boys, I had a neighbor a few houses away who had a dress shop. This was in the 1980s when "prairie skirts" and "gunny sack dresses" were so popular. She would bring me boxes of her scraps! It was like candy to me. My hubby was still in college and there wasn't a lot of money for buying "new" fabric. I just loved playing with her scraps and have never looked back!
Describe your perfect day.
I think it would be a day with no phone, no errands, no email, just the freedom to spend the day piecing or quilting to my heart’s content on something that I want to work on, not something that has a deadline. I feel like I have all the supplies I need at my fingertips and then some…I just need more time to sew up all the designs floating around in my mind.