By now, you've certainly seen a number of great tutorials like this phenomenal GO! Qube Lap Quilt by our guest blogger Erin Burke Harris of House on Hill Road. Erin, mother of two teenage daughters and wife to Fatty (it's okay ... trust me), lives in Kentucky along with their beloved dog and cat. Even with a busy family life, Erin manages to carve out time every week for her sewing and quilting projects. Erin began sewing after a little nudge from her mom who encouraged her to take a home economics class in the 7th grade. She still sews garments periodically, but her true passion is making quilts.
Are you originally from Kentucky?
No... I am a transplant! I grew up in Chicago and went to college in Boston. I met my husband in Telluride, Colorado and we spent some time in the Chicago area after we were married. We moved to Kentucky 17 years ago and we love it here. It’s definitely home.
Dare I ask … why is your husband’s nickname Fatty if he’s not, you know, packing on the pounds?
Fatty is a college rugby nickname that he had when I met him. I had a difficult time calling him Fatty until I realized that he truly embraces it himself. All of our friends call him Fatty, and some don’t even know what his given name is! We even sign our Christmas cards “Erin and Fatty.”
Are your girls showing an interest in sewing/quilting?
Both of our girls are extremely creative and artistic. Jane, 16, is involved in musical theatre, choir and is in a visual arts program at her high school. She has not shown much interest in sewing and that’s fine with me. Kate, 14, on the other hand, has a little more interest. She has taken a few classes/sewing camps and is very competent behind the machine. She also enjoys writing and music.
Does your mom still sew? Is she also a quilter?
My mom learned to sew in 4-H and made clothes and costumes for my brother and I when we were small, but sewing was never her passion.
What prompted you to learn how to quilt?
When my daughters were young, I made a lot of our household items – curtains, duvets, crib sets, pillows – and many accessories such a bags and zip pouches. I think quilting came as a natural extension of sewing those kinds of things. I never made a conscious decision to learn to quilt. I just jumped in.
What would you be doing if you weren’t quilting/creating?
That’s a great question. I always seem to keep my hands busy and I enjoy knitting, crochet and embroidery in addition to sewing and quilting. I dabble a little in oil painting and love to spend time cooking, baking, reading and gardening. I can’t imagine living a life that wasn’t creative in some aspect.
What is your favorite part of your home studio? What would you change if you could?
I feel so lucky to have a dedicated space in my home for sewing. My studio is on the third floor of our house, and I love having the space to spread out my projects and store everything I need. If I could change anything, it might be to make it just a little cooler up there in the summer months. It’s not too bad, though.
Do you accessorize your home with a lot of projects you’ve made?
There is something I have made in almost every room in our house. I have made quilts for all of our beds and lots and lots of pillows! You can find potholders, aprons, tea towels, chair cushions in various rooms and some of my oil paintings are hanging on the walls.
What types of projects do you like creating the most? Do you get commissioned for work?
Quilts are definitely my favorite. I love every step of the process from picking out the fabrics to sewing the last binding stitch. I have worked with different fabric designers, magazines and book authors on specific projects, but I have never accepted personal commission projects. I prefer to spend that time working on my own items or making quilts for various charities.
You have a book called QuiltEssential: A Visual Directory of Contemporary Patterns, Fabrics, and Colors (2013, C&T Publishing) … what was the most challenging thing about writing it, if anything?
I enjoyed writing Quilt Essential immensely, but writing a book was very different than my usual design and creative processes. I don’t think I realized until I was in the thick of it just how solitary it would be. I am used to being able to work while in the company of my kids, husband or friends. The book writing process was so different! I had to set aside blocks of time so I would have uninterrupted hours to work instead of working as time allowed.
Do you have a favorite project that you’ve done that stands out?
It’s hard to pick a favorite. Right now, I think it’s my Rinse and Repeat quilt because it’s a very modern and versatile pattern. I am getting ready to release it as a pattern and the versions my testers did were so varied and beautiful – there were solids, limited color palettes, full scrappy versions. I’ve also made it twice myself, with plans for a third and I don’t often make something more than once.
I also made my husband a quilt for his 50th birthday out of 49 of his dress/work shirts that he has discarded over the years and 1 shirt that I stole out of his closet (to make it an even 50!). While I was making it, I revisited a lot of special moments and memories related to his shirts. I worked on it over the course of a couple days while he was out of town and I loved being able to surprise him on his birthday. It’s definitely a special keepsake.
You’ve been blogging since 2006, was there a driving force that made you start writing about and sharing your work this way?
It’s crazy to think that it’s been almost 10 years that I have blogging! I started the blog as a way to document what I was making after seeing that other people were doing the same. It’s been a wonderful vehicle for me to share my creations and make some wonderful, lasting friendships with like-minded people. It’s also provided me some amazing opportunities like magazine work and writing my book. I’m really glad I jumped in!
How do you find ample time for quilting/sewing while also keeping your blog current? Any tips for others who are struggling to find that balance?
This is the never-ending battle. For me, the quilting and sewing is always going to come first. It’s my true passion and is what gives me the most joy. I block out time every week to sew and, sometimes, I challenge myself with daily or weekly goals. That seems to work well if I want to get something finished. The blogging comes when I have the time. I love documenting and sharing my creations so I don’t think I will stop blogging even though blogging isn’t as popular anymore. I do share snippets of my work in progress on Instagram - that is a quick way to keep readers up to date on what I am doing if I haven’t had time to blog.
Would you consider your fabric stash level moderate, high, or off the charts?
High, for sure. Maybe off the charts? But this year I have challenged myself to use my stash as much as possible before running to the quilt store. Fabric, unlike wine, does not get better with age! That’s not to say I haven’t purchased anything new this year. I have! But I am trying to be extremely thoughtful about what I do buy (backings for particular quilts, solids to blend with fabrics I have, etc.) and I am cutting into previously hoarded fabrics at astonishing rates. All of my AccuQuilt projects this year have been done using fabric I had on hand! I’m pretty pleased about that.
What’s next for House on Hill Road?
I’m working to release some of my quilt designs as standalone patterns this year. That is my focus at the moment, but, like many things, it’s taking me much longer than I had anticipated. I want to make sure the patterns are well thought out, reflect my aesthetic and have been tested before I release them out to the world. I am also a mother and a wife and my family comes first, so I work on House on Hill Road business as time allows. It’s very important to me to spend as much time as I can with my girls while they are still living at home. I’ve also been on a quest to finish up all the unfinished items in the studio. So far, so good – I’ve knocked out over 10 quilts this year!
See some of Erin's amazing work below, and be sure to visit her at House on Hill Road.
Lynette A. Griffin is the Journalist Extraordinaire at AccuQuilt, and if you have a quilting story to share, she wants to hear it at email@example.com.