Today on the blog we have the pleasure of chatting with a couple of great guy quilters, Ryan and Charlie (whom you may know separately as I’m Just a Guy Who Quilts and Qubee Quilts, respectively) that have joined forces to start a new venture called Patchwork Squared. In fact, we featured the fantastic Bookworm quilt — a Patchwork Squared original! — in Issue 5 of Fat Quarterly.
Welcome to the blog, guys! For our readers who aren’t familiar with your blogs, can you tell us a bit about yourselves? We’d love to hear about your backgrounds, families, etc.
Ryan: I’m an 80’s child! Born and raised in upstate NY on the outskirts of the Catskill Mountains. Typical small town. Went to high school with my wife and sat next to her every day in Jazz Band. I swear she hated my guts then and never talked to me, (geek love at first sight) we didn’t start dating until after college. There, I studied Mortuary Science, returned home and now manage one location of a three-firm funeral establishment. Love every minute of it. Funeral directing can be very rewarding and utterly stressful at the same time. Lots of long hours and missed holidays/weekends. We luckily live right above the location that I manage so I’m not too far away when we have business there. Mandy and I have two boys, ages 5 and 2. Our oldest has just started kindergarten this year. We are very SLOWLY transitioning into being parents with kids in school. I can’t believe it. Still feels so weird to be attending school functions and sitting where our parents used to sit.
Charlie: I come from Kansas City, MO and live with Thomas, my partner of just over 6 years with our dog Zeus. I have worked at a fabric store for six years. Currently, I manage a major sewing machine manufacturer’s retail sales and education location, which is ranked one of the top stores. I think I might have a dream job, but then again all jobs have their days.
We’re no strangers to guy quilters here at FQ, obviously, we have our very own in John, but it’s not a ‘traditional’ male past-time, so how did you the 2 of you first get interested in quilting?
Ryan: Go manquilters! I spent lots of time with my grandmother when I was younger. I would sit and watch her quilt for hours. I believe she had a lot to do with my interest in the subject, but it wasn’t actually till I was married and my wife and I were expecting our first child that I made my first quilt. I remember learning to use the sewing machine for the first time in high school. I had to make a pair of boxer shorts in home economics class. I can still remember that proud feeling I got when I realized I made something I could actually wear. I think I did a pretty good job of hiding how much enjoyment I got out of using the sewing machine then. Now, I find quilting and sewing an everyday necessity. It’s my therapy, really.
Charlie: I first began quilting in 1998 after watching a friend piece a quilt. I thought it might be fun to try. She told me to pick out a quilt pattern from her library of books and buy some fabric. Her advice was not to start with anything too big in case I did not like it or it could become overwhelming. I picked out a log cabin quilt that measured 30” x 30”. I thought this would be the perfect first quilt.
I went to Jo-Ann’s for fabric even though I had no idea what I was doing. I was a fish out of water. I had no idea how to match colors. There weren’t fabric collections. All I found that would go together were a group of Christmas fabrics. I went to my friend’s house and showed her the fabrics and machine. She thought I was doing great. She told me just keep it up and call if I had any questions. I set the machine up and got to sewing on my new quilt! I liked this! I was half way done when I noticed that my blocks were not square. I went back to ask my friend about them and she took a look at my blocks and asked what pattern I was using. After a minute or two, she told me I was doing a miniature quilt! The quilt called for 6” blocks. She suggested it might be better if I made a small quilt using full size blocks. I placed that project in a shoebox and went in search of another quilt pattern and more fabric. Sorry to say I never finished that very first quilt.
The next pattern I took on was Court House Steps. I combined reds, yellows, greens and blues. It turned out great. I was hooked. I have never looked back since, nor been sorry I have gone down this road.
Do either of you have creative backgrounds?
Ryan: No. Unless you consider arranging flowers for calling hours “creative.” I haven’t taken any formal classes on quilting or quilt design. I’ve always been real interested in art, music, design and try to be somewhat creative every day.
Charlie: I’ve tried my hand at music and art and if it was not for Electric Quilt I would not be designing quilts. There are some days I can’t even sew a straight line. I took a few quilting classes at a local store to learn some of the basics, but for the most part have picked it all up on my own. I’m a make it up as I go along type person. Read everything I can about my craft and take it and make it my own.
We love to hear about quilters’ sewing spaces. Can you describe yours for us? Do you have to share with anyone else, such as a partner or kids? Do you listen to music — and if so, what kind? Do you sew ‘bareback’ (or at least without shoes? Any snacks on hand? And what do you have to drink?
Ryan: How much time do you have? I could talk about studios all day! OK, music: classic rock! Anything Zeppelin, Heart, Queen, Stones … (you can check out the music I’ve been listening to lately on my blog). I ALWAYS sew without shoes. Normally in socks or barefoot in the summer. Coke Zero is my drink of choice when putting the foot pedal to the metal. Snacks? Sometimes pretzels. Nothing that leaves residue or oils on my hands when I’m handling fabric. Right now I “share” my space with my wife who scrapbooks, but I admit I tend to spread out quite a bit when I’m working on a project and end up using her work surfaces. Sorry dear! My kids generally wander in and out of the studio when I’m working to entertain me.
Charlie: My sewing space is a small room — 12′ x 10′, give or take. It has my collection of fat quarters. I love to design quilts with lots of colors in them. The shelves came from my workplace and they are just the right size for my ever growing collection of FQ’s. I have a center island cart table that was meant to be used in the kitchen as my cutting table. It’s just the right size for a 26” x 24” cutting mat with a little extra room, and it’s the right height for cutting. I would not give it up for anything. I use an old style teacher’s desk for my sewing table. I picked it up at a junk store for $20. Score! I made my ironing board from press wood because I could not find one big enough and needed more space underneath for my yard goods of fabrics. I have a dresser in the room that I try to keep clean, but it’s becoming a catch-all. It used to be belong to my great grandmother. I have nowhere else in the house for it and it kind of just ended up in my sewing space. I would love to take it out and place another small table so I could sew with friends when they come over. It was not until about a month ago I even got a design wall. I just took the back of table cloth and pinned it behind the door.
I don’t sew “bareback” as you call it, or have too many snacks on hand when I quilt. I will have a bit of jelly beans or candy pieces when I sew. I don’t want anything about that might get on my fabric. I like to have my coffee or Kool-Aid to drink. Just don’t want to spill any and get it on the fabric.
Tell us all a bit about your exciting new venture, Patchwork Squared. How did it come about? Do you have clearly defined roles or you both do a bit of everything each?
Ryan: I guess you could say P2 developed out of a friendship Charlie and I formed through blogging. There aren’t many male quilters (or young quilters in general for that matter) in my area so I turned to the internet to find like minded folks to talk to. I started visiting blogs and found his. I think I commented on one if his posts and we started talking about fabric and quilt designs, etc. He came out with a few quilt designs under Qubee Quilts and I can’t remember if I asked (or maybe he did) if he would be interested in collaborating with me on patterns and it snowballed from there. He’s traditional, I’m modern and we wanted to see what we could come up with if we joined the two together. Our tag line has always been, “designing quilts from a different perspective.” I think it describes what we’re trying to accomplish pretty well. We’re two male quilters, the odd couple of quilting really. We’re taking two different perspectives (worldly and artistic) and joining them together to form one cohesive idea. In this case the idea is a quilt.
I handle most of the PR stuff like blogging and advertising, proof all the patterns and format everything. We work together on the quilt designs and construction. We will each come up with different ideas and send them to each other to look over and change. We typically go back and forth till they look the way we want them to. It’s definitely a challenge with him in Missouri and me in NY. We did get a chance to meet in person last October during Quilt Market in Houston.
How do your personal styles complement each other – do you have glaringly different tastes in fabrics/block styles? Or do you find that you both naturally veer toward the same lines?
Ryan: My quilting style has generally remained the same as when I first started quilting. I blame it on my general lack of education in the subject mostly. I’ve never been one to follow patterns and would construct quilts and blocks by looking at them and figuring out how to piece them on my own. In the beginning I had a large collection of primitive fabrics in dark colorways from Thimbleberries and the like. It was all you could find in the LQS’ around my area and was what my grandmother used. I would often freestyle piece blocks and found that the primitive fabrics would typically not mesh well with that construction style. So, I ventured on to 30’s and 40’s prints with a little more color and eventually grew to love more contemporary fabrics.
For the most part Charlie and I tend to be on the same page when it comes to design. He’s always remained more traditional though and that’s why I think we work so well together and why I hope our quilts will be interesting to people.
Charlie: I’m a traditionalist with a modern twist. Ryan and I like about the same thing. He does have a liking for the 30’s & 40’s prints where I like mine a little more modern and on the darker side of color like grays, browns and blacks. I still like some of the some bright homespuns, but they are getting harder to find. Ryan does more of the computer work where I do more of the designing and writing of the patterns.
OK, there’s a fire. Your family are safe and so is your sewing machine (phew!) – but you can only grab a handful of fabrics. Which 5 fat quarters do you grab?
Ryan: Gosh, only 5!? Have you seen my hands? I’ve got big hands and can fit more than 5 FQs in them sausages. I’d be stuffing FQ’s under my arms, down my pants, putting a few between my teeth… I’d be the guy throwing armfuls of fabric out my windows and into the front yard! For arguments sake, if I could only grab 5, they would be:
Charlie: I’m with Ryan on this. Only 5!? My room is becoming a Moda shrine and I would want to take them all.
We’re big on dreams here at FQHQ. Tell us your dream for Patchwork Squared. What does the future hold? And for you guys as individuals?
Ryan: Our main goal, you could say, is to write patterns for people like us who don’t generally buy patterns; to hopefully come up with fresh, new ideas that inspire and get people excited about quilting. We want to contribute in a positive way to the quilting industry and show everyone there’s a new generation of quilters out there. For now, baby steps. We’ll release a few patterns here and there with the hopes that someone will take notice and we’ll FINALLY be able to call this our REAL JOB!
Many thanks to the guys for taking time out of their busy schedules to chat with us. Head on over to Charlie’s blog to find out details of his latest quilt-along, a fun little weekend project set to start on the 10th of this month. And if you haven’t already check out the beautiful modern solids sampler quilt-along the guys recently ran on the Patchwork Squared blog. It’s never too late to join in!