If you've been following our blog these past couple of years, then you have seen a ton of beautiful designs and detailed tutorials from Belinda Karls-Nace who is multi-talented as a quilter, needlework designer, and blogger. You could also add other talents to the pile ... pattern designer, photographer, crafter, which all allow her creativity to flourish at every possible angle. Belinda truly is the ultimate creative who has many accomplishments throughout her career thus far, so it's incredible that she still has plenty more that she wants to achieve.
Over a decade ago, Belinda started Blue Ribbon Designs, a needlework design business specializing in original counted cross stitch designs, needlework smalls, and sewing/quilting patterns. One of her goals this year is to turn some of her favorite original cross stitch designs into quilt patterns.
I caught up with Belinda recently to talk about all things creative as well as how her annual Komen 3-day walk for the cause went this past year.
Did you accomplish all the goals you set for yourself in 2015, and what does 2016 look like for you and/or Blue Ribbon Designs?
I didn't set too many goals specifically for 2015 - my goals are more long term: publish a book that combines my love of needlework and quilting, release my own sewing/quilting pattern line, and design a fabric collection. In 2015, I did create quite a few original sewing/quilting designs/patterns and hope to release a selection this year.
In 2016, I would really like to find a better balance between jobs that pay the bills and working on my own ideas. I find myself so focused on jobs that bring in the income, that I don't always have a chance to work on projects that bring me joy.
Share some of your proudest creations from 2015.
I am constantly creating - sewing, quilting, stitching, and crafting. I would have to say the GO! Talk to the Animals baby quilt I created for AccuQuilt ranks up towards the top because of the creativity involved...also my Snow Buddies Table Runner (recently featured on the AccuQuilt Blog) - it was one of those projects where the "design in my head" translated well to fabric. One more would be my "Kites in Flight" quilt that was featured in the May/June issue of Quiltmaker Magazine. I also designed/created a counted cross stitch project this past year titled "Pink Positive" that raised funds for my Komen 3-Day journey - it is bright and cheerful and contains many of my favorite motifs (see images I provided).
GO! Talk To The Animals Baby Quilt Pattern designed for AccuQuilt by Belinda Karls-Nace
Snow Buddies Table Runner by Belinda Karls-Nace
Kites in Flight by Belinda Karls-Nace
Pink Positive by Belinda Karls-Nace
Was there a project you found particularly challenging, and if so, was the finished product worth it?
I always enjoy a good challenge and enjoy perfecting quilt blocks or projects that are fussy...and I usually find the finished product was definitely worth the extra work. Quite often, the biggest challenge for me is not in the actual project, but the quick turnaround time requested. Most recently, when working on a large quilt block project, a handful of advanced quilt blocks had inset (Y) seams (of which I am not a fan) - I found those blocks particularly challenging, but did feel quite a sense of personal satisfaction once I had all of them complete.
Are you getting any closer to making a Dear Jane quilt?
Oh I wish! Maybe if I can find that balance I mentioned earlier, I will have the time and funds to start this dream project.
Did you learn any special quilting tips this year?
Being a self taught quilter, I am always learning and growing...and I am always looking for tips that make the creating process easier/smarter. One "new to me" tip that comes to mind...when sewing the lining of a tote, pouch, pillow, or anything that you leave an opening to turn it right side out, stitch off the edge on either end of the opening to make the lining naturally fold in - this makes it super easy to press and slip stitch the opening closed. I know it's super simple - but I found it works really well!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to quilt, but just doesn’t know where to start?
Start simple and have fun. Begin with simple shapes and small projects...and don't be afraid...you don't need to start with a bed quilt - try starting with a placemat or table runner and build your skills. Most importantly - have fun and make the project your own - quilting should bring you joy!
Who are some of your favorite quilters, sewists, or instructors?
I am inspired by so many quilting industry professionals - I have too many favorites to list. I like designers and instructors that think outside the box and are always pushing the boundaries of quilting. I also find I am drawn to quilters who have a style completely different from my own - they inspire me to try new things and push my creative limits.
How would you like to see the quilting industry improve in the coming years?
I find the quilting industry is continuously advancing and growing....which is a marvelous thing! There are always new tools and supplies on the market and new design ideas/techniques to inspire and spark creativity. Improvements are inevitable and that makes me a very happy sewist. I don't have a specific area I would like to see improve - I'm just along for the creative ride!
What are some of your favorite new sewing and quilting supplies?
I have a couple new favorite new gadgets - a Zirkel Magnetic Pin Holder and a Seam-Fix Seam Ripper Thread Remover...they both a have a permanent place next to my sewing machine. Of course, like most sewists, I have a fabric addiction and a weakness for trims and embellishments.
If you could invent something that would help quilters, what would it be?
I would invent some sort of tool that would make machine-stitched binding look as perfect as hand-stitched binding. I have tried a plethora of techniques for machine-stitched binding, but I never feel they look nearly as professional and crisp as a hand-stitched binding. I spend TONS of hours hand stitching binding on customer projects and I would love a solution that would save me hours and still look picture perfect.
Do you hand-sew and stitch most of your projects? If so, does it matter the size of the project?
When it comes to my needlework designs and projects - yes, all my models and designs are hand-stitched by me. I tend to focus on the design and not the size - I usually have a vision and I try to bring it to life - the size is secondary. Most of my larger needlework projects take months to complete. When it comes to quilting, the binding and occasional embellishments are really the only aspects I complete by hand - everything else, I tend to complete on a machine.
Are any of your quilts sent out to a longarmer, or do you quilt them yourself?
I quilt all my projects myself on a domestic machine....and dream (oh, how I dream) of the day I own a longarm machine!
What are some of your favorite line of fabrics?
I'm a serious fabriholic - admiring fabrics of all colors, styles, patterns, and types....and I never had a scrap I could throw away! Thank goodness my limited bank account keeps me from purchasing all the fabrics I desire. Like many quilters, I purchased quite a bit of fabric when I first started...but now I am good about only purchasing what I need - and usually with a particular project in mind...and even better, my friends gift me quite a bit of fabric (they know the way to my heart!). I let the project choose the fabrics, so I can't say I have favorite lines or collections - it really depends on what I am working on at the moment. I definitely have favorite motifs and colors.
Where does your inspiration and motivation come from? Is it difficult to come up with innovative, creative new projects, or are there so many ideas in your head that your fingers can’t keep up with them?
I find inspiration in all aspects of my daily life...from the pattern in the carpet at a local coffee house...to how the weights are stacked at the gym...to the icicles hanging from the front of our house. A lot of my inspiration comes from nature when taking long daily walks with my dogs. I even paused a television show a couple days ago (to my husband's dismay) and took a photo with my cell phone, as I could see a quilt in the building architecture. I always have a sketch book handy - this is where I jot down ideas, patterns, color combinations, and do quick drawings for future projects - pretty much anything I see that inspires me, I make a note - my sketch books are a constant source of pattern ideas. There is no way I could ever keep up with the ideas in my head - they are overflowing!
How did your Susan G. Komen 3-day breast cancer walk go this past year?
In 2015, I successfully walked the Komen 3-Day (60-miles) in Dallas, TX with my three Twinkle Toes teammates - together the four of us raised over $20,000, which I think is SPECTACULAR. We have walked in these events for a number of years and (as always) we had a wonderful time raising money for a great cause! Walking 20-miles a day for three days, showering in tractor-trailers, sleeping in pink tents, and using porta-potties may not sound like fun to some, but it truly is an incredible experience...and I am thrilled to be involved in such a heartwarming experience. It takes quite a bit of training, hard work, and discipline - but we are truly making a difference!!
Who are the members of your Twinkle Toes walking team?
Team Twinkle Toes is a team of four dear friends, and we are now training and fundraising for the 3-Day event in San Diego, CA - being held in November 2016!
Team Twinkle Toes from left to right: Sandy D., Lois M., Lori B., Belinda K-N
If you were granted three wishes to come true in life, what would they be?
Any three wishes covers a really broad spectrum, so I am going to narrow this down to three "quilting wishes" (and I truly hope the quilting genie is listening!!)...an endless supply of quality quilting materials, a longarm machine, and the obvious - more quilting/sewing/creating time!!
What is your idea of the perfect evening?
As long as my evening involves my husband and dogs, a nice glass of wine, and a bit of creativity, I'm a happy girl...
To keep up with Belinda and her amazing work, please be sure to stop by her blog, Samplings From a Blue Ribbon Girl! You can also see a few more of her lovely quilting projects/designs below.
All-Star Pinwheels by Belinda Karls-Nace
All-Star Team Quilt by Belinda Karls-Nace
Botanical Pillows by Belinda Karls-Nace
Dancing 'Round the Fountain by Belinda Karls-Nace
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.