Diane Gaudynski's quilt work is shown internationally, and she has won numerous prestigious awards. Her quilts are collected by private individuals and museums. She was named a Master Quilter by the National Quilting Association in 2002.
Diane teaches and judges nationally, has appeared on many television programs, and is the author of the bestselling Guide to Machine Quilting and Quilt Savvy–Gaudynski's Machine Quilting Guidebook, both published by the American Quilter's Society. Learn more about Diane at her website, dianegaudynski.net and in this interview by Quiltmaker magazine.
How did you decide to make quiltmaking a career? What led you in that direction?
Quiltmaking as a career sneaked into my life through the back door when I wasn't looking. I had been making quilts and entering them in shows locally for a few years, then entered some national shows at the urging of friends. After that, every time I went to an event, a show or a shop, it seemed I was explaining how I did things to small groups. I attended my first quilt lecture by a visiting professional and knew right away that I wanted "to do that" too! Finally our local shop owner suggested I teach my knowledge formally, in classes–overnight I became a "professional." After winning my first national quilting awards, I was invited to write articles, teach and lecture at a national level. One thing led to another and now quiltmaking, in all its aspects, is my full-time profession.
What inspires your work? How do new ideas come to you in quiltmaking?
Color, nature, fabrics and combinations of these have always inspired me, but mostly I turn to antique quilts for ideas and inspiration. I always wanted that heavily quilted look they have, and I've worked hard to find ways to create techniques to achieve it on my home sewing machine. I see motifs and designs everywhere–even in the turn of a leaf, the branchings in a tree, a swirl in a fabric print or an antique plate.
How do you choose thread colors for your quilting?
I started out choosing only invisible thread for machine quilting back in 1988, but over the years, with the acceptance of machine quilting as a valid way to finish a quilt, I have now turned to opaque threads that allow the machine stitches to show. Because my background is sewing garments, I first tried diligently to match the thread color to each fabric precisely or to use a neutral to blend with a variety of fabrics in the quilt. It didn't occur to me until several years ago that by slightly shading thread colors, or even using a different color entirely, the quilting became more prominent and acted almost as an embellishment. I continue to prefer traditional quilts, so my quilting needs to be in colors that blend and harmonize well with the fabrics in the quilt without taking over. I find that if I use various shades of a color and not just one thread color choice, the quilting looks richer. Because I use very fine #100 silk thread, I pick colors that are the same value or lighter than my fabric and not darker or high contrast. The thread is so fine that it doesn't fill the stitch well, and dark fine threads on light colors look wobbly and spidery, not pretty at all. Pink on lilac is great, but chocolate brown on ecru fabric, in fine thread, is not a good look. A smaller stitch length is very important with fine weight threads, or the design looks ragged and not well done even if the stitches are even. You'll have to experiment with your thread choices to see what color and weight works best for your style of quilting. Of course, now I have a chest of drawers to hold all the beautiful threads I've collected!
If you could offer one piece of advice for quiltmakers today, what would it be?
Every time you make a quilt, work a bit harder to make it better. Don't simply practice, practice, practice. Look at your work, see what it is about it that you don't like or that doesn't measure up, and then work at changing it. Put time in playing with your machine quilting, but definitely make quilts. Practice isn't fun, it produces nothing and is good mostly for a warm-up before you quilt on a "real quilt." Those first ones are very valuable teaching lessons, plus you'll have some wonderful usable quilts to give away or use in your home for your family or even your pets! Take what you learned from the quilting, change and grow and expand your quilting horizons, and then tackle the next one. It will be easier, you'll learn more and you'll have another quilt. Use the best materials you can afford, even for practice, and let yourself take time out of your busy life to get in some sessions at your machine.
Diane Gaudynski's Echo Feathers article on quilting gorgeous freehand feathers appears in the January/February 2007 issue of Quiltmaker magazine.