With two quilting books already under her belt, quilter Sherri McConnell is putting her bachelor’s degree in English to good use. She also has plans to write more books in the future, but for now Sherri is content with helping other quilters through her blog, A Quilting Life, and by writing for Craftsy where she shares great tips on using up your fabric scraps among other things. Additionally, Sherri provides tutorials for the AccuQuilt Blog. You can see a few of them here.
Sherri says it was easy for her to decide to write about quilting once she realized how many people were looking for information about it online. Since she lives in a rural area in Nevada, it was hard for Sherri to travel to quilt events and guilds when her children were little; therefore, this reality made her want to provide information online for others who also faced the same challenges.
What is it like living in Nevada? Have you lived there all of your life?
I was born in Texas, and I attended college in Utah for a year and lived in California for a year when I was newly married. Other than those few years, I’ve been in Nevada. I live in a very rural part of Nevada where alfalfa farming is a big part of the community. But I’m just an hour away from Las Vegas where I grew up where there is a lot of shopping. We’re also close to southern Utah, which offers beautiful recreational areas like Zion National Park.
How old are your children? Can you tell yet if any of them will keep up the sewing/quilting tradition in your family?
My boys are 29 and 20, and my girls are 27 and 25. My younger daughter who designs fabric with me for Moda has just started sewing. She made her first quilt right before Christmas and has already made a second one. I’m pretty sure she is hooked. My older daughter has done a little bit of sewing, and I’m sure she’ll do more sewing projects as her family gets a little older.
What kind of “gentle push” did your grandmother give you in order to start quilting?
Her “gentle push” was telling me, “No. But I’ll help you,” when I asked her to make a twin sized quilt for my oldest. We went shopping together and she bought all of the fabric; she worked with me for an afternoon making the first blocks and then I was on my way.
Many years later I gave her a block of the month subscription for Christmas, and some of my fondest memories are of us getting together each month to make our blocks.
What was the first quilt you ever made, and do you still have it?
Yes, the first quilt I ever made was the double Irish chain for my son. It’s pretty worn now, but I still have it!
Do you gift or sell your creations, or is it a combination of both?
Many of the quilts I make reside in shops as samples to sell my patterns. I do gift a lot of the things I make; however, I’m getting quite a surplus these days and might consider a sale sometime.
Did you always know you wanted to marry your quilting career with blogging?
I started blogging just to keep track of my projects. I had tried keeping a journal of sorts and it just wasn’t working. Blogging seemed like the easiest way to record everything and then ended up leading to me moving my hobby to a career.
You’ve written two books, A Quilting Life: Creating a Handmade Home (2013, C&T Publishing), and most recently, Fresh Family Traditions: 18 Heirloom Quilts for a New Generation (2014, C&T Publishing) … what was that experience like? Are there any plans to write more books?
In college I was an English major (I teach freshman level composition courses at a local community college campus), so writing a book was always a goal. I absolutely loved the experience and do have plans for some other books. Being involved in fabric design put some of those plans temporarily on hold, but I’m ready to get working on them again.
Aside from the obvious things like a sewing machine, scissors, fabric … what are your top five must-have quilting/sewing products that you can’t function without?
Well…of course I love my GO! Cutter…I use it pretty regularly for cutting my hexagons for my ongoing Grandmother’s Flower Garden project. I also love Clover Wonder Clips for binding, my bobbin donut that holds pre-wound bobbins, my pincushion, and my Clover seam ripper!
Do you have any particular sewing tips for beginners?
I would say that perfecting your quarter inch seam and your scant quarter inch seam are the most important things for a beginner to learn.
What is your favorite part of the quilting process?
Playing with the fabrics! Next would be binding because I can look over the quilt while I’m finishing it and savor my favorite fabrics and blocks in the quilt.
Who are some of your favorite quilting icons?
There are so many amazingly creative people in this industry that it’s hard to name a few. But I must mention Joanna Figueroa of Fig Tree & Company. I’ve sewn samples for her for several years and have really learned a lot from her. Lissa Alexander is another one of my quilting icons. She has a knack for being on trend in the quilting world and is an incredible designer and quilter.
How many quilting projects would you estimate you’ve created since you started quilting?
A few years ago I did a count when I was doing a trunk show at a retreat. It was over 200 then, and I’m sure I’ve done a couple hundred more since then.
Is there a particular project that you’re most proud of?
My favorite project right now is my “Fan Fare” quilt, which was recently published in the February 2016 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting. My great great grandmother made this quilt using much smaller blocks in the last years of her life. It was a great honor to re-create it in today’s modern fabrics.
How did the opportunity come about to design fabrics for Moda?
It was really a combination of things. I always wanted to design fabric but just didn’t feel like I had all of the skills I would need to do that. Then one day it dawned on me that my younger daughter had the exact skills I lacked. I asked her if she’d like to do it together, and we were on our way. We were also very blessed by Moda who has been fabulous to work with us on this journey.
Do you have any specific quilting goals that you’re trying to accomplish for 2016 and beyond?
I’m really hoping to work on some new designs that appear difficult and provide methods to make them more accessible for intermediate level quilters.
What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned thus far in life?
My most valuable lessons have been to try to keep focus and perspective on what the important things in life really are. I’ve also tried to keep my commitments to a manageable level!
Where are your favorite places to travel?
I love visiting US historical sites. My favorite so far has been Washington, D.C. I was able to visit for just a week and feel like I need at least a month there!
What are you currently reading?
My Southern Journey by Rick Bragg. I’ve taught some of his short stories in my English classes and love his writing. He writes a monthly column for Southern Living magazine, and this book came as a result of putting many of those columns into book form.
What would you be doing if you weren’t enjoying A Quilting Life?
I’m really not sure…I love quilting!
See some of Sherri's work below.