Carolyn Beam has been an Associate Editor at QUILTMAKER since August 2005. Working at QUILTMAKER has given her the opportunity to be surrounded by beautiful quilts and to continue doing what she loves–designing and making quilts.
How did you get started in quiltmaking?
Ever since I was little, I have always loved crafts and working with my hands. I was knitting, crocheting and sewing before I was 10 years old. I made my first quilt, a "biscuit" quilt, after I graduated from college using whatever inexpensive fabrics I could find, and it certainly looked like it!
My family and I were living in Virginia in the late 1970s and a friend had just finished teaching a beginning quilting class. She told me that if I could get enough people interested, she would teach another one. After that first class, I was hooked. I made quilted pillows and wall quilts for friends and family. As the mom of three young boys, quilting became my creative outlet–something I did just for me.
Not too long after I learned to quilt, I began teaching quiltmaking. At first I used commercial patterns to teach, and then I started teaching my own designs. A quilt store in Colorado, where we currently live, asked me to write the pattern for a quilt I had designed and was planning to teach at their shop. It was a quilt pieced in horizontal rows, and the store wanted to buy it as a "row-of-the-month" pattern. The popularity of that pattern led to the decision to market more of my original patterns and I began my pattern business, Colorado Quilt Designs, Inc. I have developed a wonderful following for my patterns with my row quilts being my most popular patterns.
What are your favorite kinds of quilts to design? What inspires your designs?
I love traditional quilt designs, especially those with a little added twist. Sometimes I'll combine blocks into a new block, add new divisions to a block, experiment with creative block settings or play with coloring variations.
I see quilt designs wherever I go–sometimes a subtle design in a carpet pattern will inspire me or a lighthouse or landscape we saw on a trip. I look at buildings, trees, flowers, anything and everything. I take a lot of pictures that I save for reference. And I read a lot of books and magazines. I love antique quilts and draw inspiration from them. Talking to other quilters can trigger ideas–what if I did this? I never lack for ideas and I keep a notebook with sketches of quilts I'd like to make.
If you could offer one piece of advice for quiltmakers today, what would it be?
Don't be afraid to try anything. There are many different techniques in the quiltmaking process, and there is no one "right" way to do them. If something doesn't work for you, try a different way. Too many quilters give up because they don't like a particular method. Also, don't be hard on yourself if your quilting attempts aren't perfect. Although we all strive for perfection in our quilts, many techniques take practice–sometimes lots of it–to get it to come out just right. The main thing to remember is to enjoy the process. The recipients of your quilts won't see the imperfections. All they'll remember is that someone thought enough of them to create a beautiful quilt with them in mind.
Carolyn Beam's Mocha Mist quilt appears in the January/February '08 (No. 119) issue of QUILTMAKER magazine.