Today’s spotlight is on Shelly Pagliai of Prairie Moon Quilts. I got to meet Shelly this past October at Quilt Market, and it was a real treat since I had heard so many wonderful things about her! Besides being super talented as a long arm quilter, Shelly also has some pieced and applique patterns in her shop.
Me: How were you introduced to long arm quilting? How long have you been doing it for?
Shelly: I’ve been making quilts for almost 40 years, and was a hand quilter at first, but then I realized I’d never get all the quilts finished that I want to, so I found a longarm quilter that I trusted, and started having her do them for me. She suffered an injury that made her have to cut her quilting hours way back, and since I operate on deadlines a lot, I didn’t feel right asking her to do rush jobs or put me in front of others, so I decided to get a machine of my own. I got my machine in May of 2009.
Me: What type of machine do you use, and what are some of the features on it that are your favorite?
Shelly: I have a Nolting 24 Pro, and I love everything about it. I especially like that it’s not as heavy as some machines. It’s not a computerized machine, but I didn’t want a computerized one, because I really don’t like to do the same thing twice, so I didn’t feel I needed that. And I love the Nolting folks – they take really good care of me and my machine, whose name is Ivy, by the way.
Me: When you receive a quilt to be long armed, what is your process usually like?
Shelly: When I first talk to the customer about it, I try to get a general idea of what they want done to their quilt (how they intend to use it, who it’s for, etc.). When I actually get the quilt in my possession, I usually have a more in-depth discussion with the customer about quilting designs, and how much they’d like to spend (which helps determine how much quilting gets done to the quilt). I also find out what thread color they’d like, and I measure the quilt and the backing to make sure the backing is big enough, so that can be corrected right away if it’s not, and I can get thread ordered if I need to. I also fill out a form I use to make notes about what we’ve discussed so that I don’t forget while the quilt is sitting in the “waiting queue.”
Me:What is your favorite type of quilt to work on? Do you like designs with a lot of negative space? Modern quilts?
Shelly: I like them all. I love variety. I like modern quilts, and I also like traditional ones. Negative space is like a huge playground, but applique quilts and traditional block quilts also give me a chance to get creative. All the different types provide me with opportunities to do lots of different things, which keeps it from getting boring for me, and I still learn something new with every quilt.
Me: Do you have a certain quilted design that is your favorite? (and do you have a photo of what the quilting looks like?)
Shelly: I really love feathers, but I still don’t feel I’m as good at them as I can yet be, so I keep practicing. It strikes both fear and excitement in my heart when someone requests feathers: “Ooh, this’ll be fun! But, what if I mess it up?” This is one of my favorites I’ve done (for a lady in California):
Me: Does thread color play a significant role in your quilting?
Shelly: I’ve never thought about that. I generally discuss the color with the customer, and as for my own quilts, I use what I like, depending on how much I want it to show up. Truthfully, I usually have My Cowboy give me his opinion on the thread colors I choose. His taste is usually right on the money. I tend to use way more solid colors than variegated.
Me: What type of thread and batting are your favorite to work with?
Shelly: I use mainly Superior Thread, and mainly OMNI. But I’m not afraid to try others, that’s just what I tend to buy the most of because I really like it. My favorite batting is Quilter’s Dream (any kind), and I also like Warm ‘n’ Natural a lot. If you’ve never tried Quilter’s Dream Orient, you should – it’s a real treat! Sooo soft.
Me: I have never had a quilt long armed. If someone is new to the process, like I am, what kinds of information would you tell them about your work, and in turn, what kinds of questions would you ask them to make sure they receive the best finished product possible?
Shelly: When I meet with a new customer, I try to point them to some examples of what they might want to start out with, or show them some quilts I’ve quilted during our initial meeting, so they can get some ideas of what’s possible. I also invite them to look at the examples I have posted on my web site beforehand. I discuss the differences in the pricing for the various styles as well, so they don’t end up in shock over a cost they weren’t expecting. And I make sure they know to make their backing at least 4 inches larger on all sides!
Me: What helpful tips can you provide for more successful machine quilting at home?
Shelly: I was never any good at machine quilting with my domestic machine before I got my longarm, so I wish I knew what tips might have helped me. Maybe “medicating” myself before I started, so I didn’t end up with gritted teeth, sore shoulders, and a neckache? Honestly, my best advice to anyone doing any kind of quilting is: don’t be afraid to try something you want to try. If you must, make a little practice sandwich first to get the hang of it. Watch videos – they really do help. Doodle on scrap paper with a sharpie – there’s really something to that “muscle memory” theory. Make it fun for yourself, so you don’t get frustrated and give up.
Me: When you have time to sew for yourself, what kinds of projects do you like to work on? What is your favorite sewing project that you have made (and please attach a photo if you have it!).
Shelly: I’m a truly addicted quilter, so when I sew for myself, it’s still usually quilts I’m making. My favorite things are working with really tiny pieces, and doing hand needle-turn appliqué, so I can be found in my comfy chair in the evenings working on something like that. I do, however, design and publish the pattern for a different Cowboy Boot Christmas Stocking every year, and I also make lots of them ready-made to sell and as custom orders, so this time of year, I’m exceptionally busy with that, and it’s a welcome break from quilting and gives me the satisfaction of being able to finish something in a shorter amount of time than a quilt generally takes. This year’s stocking is called Prairie Stars:
Thank you so much for playing along, Shelly!!