In our new series, “Meet a Quilter”, we’ll be highlighting some of the unsung heroes of the quilting community — the long-arm quilters. These talented artists often work behind the scenes to take already-amazing (and even some not-so-amazing) quilt tops to the next level with their keen eye for pattern and design.

To kick off this series we’re excited to introduce our Fat Quarterly readers to Jackie Kunkel of Canton Village Quilt Works.

Hello Everyone,

My name is Jackie Kunkel and I am the owner of Canton Village Quilt Works. My blog is also the same name and can be found here. I would love it if you came for a visit and say hello!

I know you would like to find out a little more about me, so here goes…

1. How did you get interested in long-arm quilting?

I first became interested in long-arm quilting really out of need. I quilted a King Size quilt on my home sewing machine back in 1996 and had the most horrible time of it. When it was over and my body repented, I knew there must be a better way. So I sent my next quilt off to a long-arm quilt and was quite pleased. I did that with a few more and then knew it was time to bite the bullet.

At that point, a serendipitous moment occurred. My friend and long-arm quilter told me that she was moving and wanted to sell her machine. She asked if I would like to purchase it from her. I didn’t hesitate one moment. That night I came home and skipped into the living room and asked the hubs if he had any idea of what was coming to live in our home? When I told him, with glee I might add, he answered “how long is this going to last?” Apparently, I didn’t have a great track record and he was skeptical.

But TEN + years later I am still going strong. That first machine (a Gammill) was traded in after 5 years and upgraded. Then after 2 more years, I traded that one in and upgraded to a Gammill Statler stitcher. Which I just love!!!

2. What part of the quilting process do you love most?

This is an easy question… I love it all!! I have been a quilter for 17+ years and I honestly can say there is not much I don’t like. But if I had to pick one thing, it might be making the label. I seem to lack the motivation in this area. I know I need to get better.

3. What’s your favorite quilting style?

I have to say that I adore feathers. What quilter doesn’t? But not all quilts call for them. You have to really evaluate each quilt and determine what best fits them. Who they are for, what purpose will they serve, what the customer’s budget is, etc. There really is more that goes into planning the quilting than meets the eye.

4. What inspires you?

Color, plain and simple, color! I just love it. Pure saturated color. Then secondary to that is the designs that go on all that glorious color.

5. How do you come up with your quilting designs?

Like I had indicated before, a quilter must evaluate each quilt first. But often times, you may take you cue from a design in the fabric, maybe a motif or such. Is it modern with clean lines? Or traditional with repeating designs? Also, I always seek the customer?s input. Do they have a vision for this quilt? Then once I have all the answers to the questions, we can collaborate on the design, thread color, etc.

6. What is your favorite (or some of your favorite) quilts that you’ve completed?

Well, that is a difficult question. There are so many. I will share a few.

This is one that I made for my Dad’s 75th birthday. Very modern, hand dyes and a Southwestern feel.

This one I designed and was published in Quick Quilts last year. This was my first publication, so it holds a special place for me.

This one was custom quilted for a long-time customer and friend. I especially love this one. She used all scraps and a ton of Kaffe Fassett. A favorite of mine. Below is a close up of some of the quilting.

This next one is very special to me. My 7 year old nephew asked me to make him a quilt for his big boy bed. I couldn’t resist and did just that. I made something he will grow into for sure.

This is a close up of the quilting. Simple water like quilting for this modern quilt.

7. What are some of the biggest challenges you face as someone who quilts others’ items?

The biggest problems quilts that come in that may not be pieced very well. But I look at it as a learning experience for me and for the customer. It is an opportunity for me to help them learn better piecing techniques.

8. When did you realize you wanted to pursue this as a business?

I knew that I had to do it from the first time I purchased the machine. I had to pay for it, so it was a natural thing to do, go into business.

9. Do you ever sew your own quilt tops, or other items?

Oh yes!! That is how I began my business. It was a hobby first then a business. That is why I love it so much. Plus the fact that I am meeting wonderful people everyday. I learn so much from others and continue to do so daily.

10. What quilting trends or new items or fabrics are exciting you at the moment?

Loving solids, Kaffe Fassett, and Australian fabrics! They are all so dynamic and unique. When used in quilts they just make them sing!!

11. What tips or advice do you have for sewists who are considering working with a long-arm quilter?

Always communicate what you would like to see on your quilt, that is if you have any ideas of the feel you are trying to achieve. Ask the quilter for their ideas and collaborate. Be open minded. Also, if you have a budget say so, don?t be embarrassed. The quilter won?t know what you want or how much you want to pay without you telling them. Develop a good working relationship that will last for years to come! Happy Quilting!!

Thanks for the wonderful interview, Jackie! To learn more about Jackie and her business, Canton Village Quilt Works, be sure to visit Jackie’s site or blog, or contact her directly to discuss any questions you might have.