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A Patchwork Passion: How I Found my Artistic Voice in Quilting

In an instant- everything changed.


Covid changed the world for all of us, in one way or another. Sudden isolation, the world shut down around us. It was then that I knew that my life was going to be forever changed. I could either sit idly by while the world evolved. Or I could stand up and change with it.


Sondrasa in the background with three circles each showing art quilts in them

I'm getting ahead of myself.


A Patchwork Passion Begins


I first fell in love with quilting during my last year of university. I was studying woodworking and ceramics at Edinboro University. One afternoon my mom (who was a long time quilter and seamstress) called me over to the TV to see the newest episode of Sewing with Nancy. There on the screen was none other than Tula Pink. She was showcasing her new cornstalk quilt made with her new fabric line Pairsville.

Curly Maple sculptural chair
Whimsy in Wood

I'd never seen fabric like it before. It was bold, vibrant, I'd go as far as to call it quirky! Everything I once though quilting was not. It was a game changer. I went back to university and started carving blocks to print on fabric and pulling the most audacious fabrics to upholster with.


As the years went on, quilting became my new obsession. I moved quickly from beginner friendly patchwork quilts, to more time intense quilts like the New Hexagon Millefiori & 100 days 100 blocks. but piecing other designers projects just wasn't enough. I needed to create my own work, my own quilts!






From Pencil to Thread


With over a decade under my belt now, I'd like to think I've honed my method to my madness so there's a little less madness now a days.

Sketch

One of the most important tools in my arsenal is my sketch book. I always have a

pencil and a sketch book with me. Yes even a tiny one in my bag! You never know

when inspiration is going to strike.

If I really start to fall in love with a design, I will sketch that concept several times in

different layouts to really zero in on what I want to say with my concept.


Design

When I find a layout I enjoy, I then import my image into Adobe Illustrator and

finalize the concept and layout. This step also allows me to scale it to the size I

envision and print without making 5-10 versions. Early in my art quilting career,

I would make constant revisions all by hand. It was time consuming and I killed

way too many trees.


Fabric

The fabric pull is my favorite part of the process. I love going through all the

different colors and textures of my stash. When it comes to types of fabrics, I don't

limit myself to just solids, or batiks. I love the contrast that having prints against

solids mixed with batiks brings to a quilt. It adds a depth to the design that just

calls to me.


Thread

There are two points where I utilize thread: thread sketching and quilting

  • Thread Sketching- When it comes to thread sketching, I like to trace around the edges of all my raw edge applique first. Then I like to take my threads and start adding light shading and movement to my work. By doing this, not only am I tacking down my raw edge applique, but I'm also reintroducing the line movement that my original sketches had due to my pencil movements

  • Quilting- When it comes to quilting I am not known for frills and showstopping feather work. My quilting takes a back seat to my fabric art and is used to enhance the image. I will typically go over some of my thread sketching, but only just. The quilting for me is a way to create a bigger difference in the foreground and background.



The World Stopped


For 6 years I continued creating my art through fiber and thread. I began showing in local quilt guild shows, then larger area shows and county fairs. Even being accepted into international quilt shows around the country! My skills growing and my hunger to create ever expanding.


It was at this point that I started getting requests for personal quilt projects. Friends at first, but then through word of mouth I was getting genuine quilt commissions. I enjoyed these well enough. It brought in extra funds, and allowed me to keep creating. However, I would grow tired of the commissions rather quickly because I wasn't being asked to create my art, but to make very specific themes and quilts that the client wanted. I kept doing this for several years, It helped me make ends meet while raising my first child and taking care of my family.


But then Covid hit. The world shut down. There were no conventions, no quilt shows, no new clients. By this time in my life I had been through some major life changes. I had just gotten out of my first marriage, moved to a new state for a fresh start. When everything shut down, I was 6 months pregnant with my second child. I really wasn't overly concerned about making more quilts this far along in my pregnancy. I knew I'd be crazy busy and sleep deprived soon enough.


My second child was born a happy healthy little boy. The delivery was surreal with doctors and nurses in hazard gear like they were in a sci fi movie. It all seemed well and good, he was healthy, we were tired, normal new baby life. Two weeks later....not so much. I had caught Covid. We still don't really know where I caught it from. We had been so careful. But there I was, in the Covid ward with Swiss cheese for lungs, still pumping milk because my lil guy still needed milk. I remember watching from my room window as the nurse would run a cooler out to my partner who was waiting in a car with my infant son. I still don't like thinking about how close to the end I was then. But it lit a fire in me that had been dimming. My passion for creating. My passion for quilting, and a desire to share it with the world.


I spent the next two years after that dark moment learning more about business. I learned how to create patterns, to hone my quilting skills, and how to explain my creative process.



A New Chapter

Sondrasa of Art Quilts by Design

Here I am now.

When I look in the mirror, I barely recognize the person I have become, nevermind the business I started so many years ago. In the few short years that I've taken to transition my business from art quilt commissions to designer, I have released patterns and have had them sold in shops across the country! I'm now with a distributor, and have given talks on my Art Quilting and the way I run my business to include live streaming.


I never gave up. Though at times the voices in my head were loud and obnoxious about how I wasn't going to succeed. I never gave into those negative ideas. It sure didn't hurt to have a supportive group of friends and loved ones around to tell me different.


Bees n Peonys quilt pattern
1 down, many to come

Sure, there are still those nights that I can't sleep, eyes at the ceiling trying to figure it all out. But now, I know that I am good enough. I am smart enough. I am enough.


YOU are enough. Whatever your passion is. Don't give up. Life will take you down many twists and turns in your road. But in the end, you'll end up exactly where you're suppose to be.



Happy Stitching Quilty Crew,

Sondrasa






 

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