Happy Monday, Makers!
Here at AGF, we started a new way to feature our inspiring makers' work that allows them to also win our fabrics, but THE BEST PART is that we all get to know a little more about you! We encouraged makers to post their sewing projects using our fabrics via their social media using the hashtag #AGFMakerMonday, so we could see how talented you are and the amazing work you all do! Once we decide on the winner for the month, the maker receives a feature here on our AGF Blog AND of course...they win A 20-PIECE FQ BUNDLE of our fabric, based on their personal preference.
With that, I'm excited to introduce our October #AGFMAKERMONDAY FEATURE to you, "Gillian Martin Noonan." She's an incredible quilter based out of Newfoundland, Canada who specializes in English Paper Piecing! Let's get to know Gillian a little a better and hear her sewing story!
Hi Gillian! Congratulations on being our October's "AGF Maker Monday" feature! Can you please tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into quilting?
Home for me is 'Old Perlican, Newfoundland, Canada' - a small town on the edge of the North Atlantic. My two sons are the loves of my life. My oldest is a lieutenant in the Canadian Navy while my younger son has just finished four months of backpacking in Europe and North Africa. They both live in Halifax, Nova Scotia so I visit there as often as possible. Actually I have been travelling a lot this year (11 European countries and 5 Canadian provinces) because I retired from teaching elementary school kids, last November.
Stitching has been an integral part of my entire life. My mother adored sewing. All my clothes were made by her. When I was younger, I could come home from school and ask for something new to wear to a school dance that night, and she would whip it up. My mom made everything from quilts to a sofa! Her stash was huge and I still have a lot of it. Since she sewed so much, fabric shopping was always on the agenda at family vacation time. We visited bookstores and museums for my father, and fabric shops for my mother. At one store in Montreal, Quebec which we often frequented when I was a little girl, I got hoisted up into an attic like room filled with rolls of fabric, so I could pass down what I liked.
My grandmother also played a very important role in bringing me to sewing. Nan lived with us. She was a trained seamstress who believed I needed to be able to knit, crochet and do fancy work (embroidery) before I went to school. I did! I loved spending time with her. Nan’s sisters and her mother were embroiderers and quilters too. So, I was surrounded by passionate women who loved to work with their needles, and now when I stitch, I feel very connected to them and their love.
Quilting is my newest needle art. About 25 years ago, my best friend wanted to take a quilting class. I was supposed to go with her but stormy weather kept me from driving the two hours to the class. My mom went with her. They both loved it so it was only natural that I give it a try. I made my first quilt, a sampler using templates and scissors, just before my older son was born. My projects remained small because I preferred hand-sewing to my machine and my mother was happily covering my beds with quilts. Eventually I started to use my machine more, making throw quilts. While quilting has been part of my life for the last 25 years, I have never been without some kind of needlework – it is just who I am.
What inspires your work?
Color and shape inspire me. Always having my camera with me lets me quickly capture images/motifs. I love visiting art galleries and taking closeups of paintings to just focus on the palette used. A French artist who I met on holiday here in Newfoundland inspired me to look at “line” in my world. A Newfoundland painter challenged me to look for the pink in the morning snow. Conversations like these and reading about what motivates artists has motivated me to reflect on what I see around me. Quilting friends both near and far also inspire me with the beauty that they create.
Describe your design style in 3 words:
Storied, energetic, textured.
How did you get into “EPP?”
About 20 years ago, I needed a sewing project that didn’t require electricity and was compact. At the time, my family had a cabin in a secluded cove on the ocean. It was totally off the grid; you actually had to take an 80 minute boat ride to get to it. I had seen a "Grandmother’s Flower Garden" quilt in one of my mother’s books and I knew it was perfect. Blue scraps from my mother’s stash which reminded me of my grandmother’s dresses were chosen and my templates were hand drawn on freezer paper. I was set, but when I went to sew my hexie flowers together, they didn’t fit. My accuracy was off so, I put them aside for many years. Eventually I appliqued each to a background and joined the blocks together. It will be hand-quilted, once I finish embroidering the names of my mother, my grandmothers and great grandmothers on the blocks.
Getting some precut EPP papers on a magazine two years ago made me decide to try it again. This time the hexie flowers went together perfectly. In the Spring of 2017, I took part in the Girt By Sea quilt along. The central medallion was English Paper Pieced using Tales of Cloth’s precut papers. It was just the best sewing! I ordered another EPP kit as a retirement gift to myself and the first Mandolin block was included as a bonus. I loved making it as well as the next 17 blocks! Now I have so many EPP plans for the future.
What was the most “time consuming” EPP project you’ve ever completed?
My grandmother’s garden has been the EPP quilt that has been under construction the longest, but my Mandolin blocks have consumed more time as there are many more pieces to each block. I usually make a Mandolin block over three or four evenings. I made my first Mandolin block in January of this year and I have two big blocks and a bunch of joiners left to complete.
How do you stay motivated with your sewing projects?
The key to my motivation, I have come to realize, is that I do many things. I always have a pair of socks on my knitting needles and frequently a bigger knitting project like a sweater. There are several pieces of embroidery in progress, and lots of quilting projects in various stages. While I do enjoy a finished project, I believe that I am more process oriented. This year, my quilt guild has had a WIP challenge. I had 10 things on my list (definitely not all my WIPs) and I have completed two. I will get back to them – maybe. Learning something new is more important to me. This year, I've already have taken classes in goldwork and stumpwork embroidery, and in improv quilting. When I find my motivation lagging with my quilting, I just go work on a totally different thing.
What was the best quilting advice ever given to you?
There has been lots of advice given to me over the years probably because I am not afraid to ask questions. Some advice is specific like having an accurate but scant ¼” seam allowance. Other advice is broader like use the best fabric you can afford, but I think the overall best came from my grandmother who valued patience above everything. Patience lets you take time to get it done to your best. It encourages you to practice which improves everything, and patience lets you help others which opens you to receiving their help when it is needed.
5 things I can’t live without:
2. Wool and fabric (How could I choose?)
3. Peanut butter (A food group isn’t it?)
4. Needles (sewing, knitting, embroidery
5. The ocean (I have always lived near it and I miss it so when it is not near)
Where can other makers' find your work?
My Instagram @sewgolly - I enjoy the interaction and inspiration it provides with other artisans throughout the world!
Since Gillian LOVES "Amy Sinibaldi" and sweet florals, we curated this 20-piece bundle for her as her prize! :)
Thanks so much Gillian and to all you makers who have been posting away! It's incredibly inspiring to see what you all make and how you add your personal stories and styles to your projects. We'll be picking a winner and announcing them via the blog next month in November!
In the meantime, keep posting and sharing your beautiful handmade things with us using the hashtag #AGFMakerMonday for a chance to win.
Good luck and keep creating!