I am honored to introduce you to master quilter Cindy Stohn. I met her this past summer, when I decided to hire a professional to quilt a top I’d made maybe ten years ago. I checked the Arizona Quilters Guild website for a local quilter, saw Cindy listed, checked out her website, and gave her a call. I’m absolutely delighted with the results! (I’ll show pictures in a future post.) I recently invited Cindy to answer some questions about her work.
ARHtistic License: Tell us how you got started quilting.
Cindy Stohn: I come from a long line of quilters and creative people that make and fix or invent things. Several generations of the family – however not everyone quilts. I made my first quilt when I was 15. I adopted a work in progress that my Mom had started – piecing by hand – medium sized hexagon shapes cut from the scraps of the baby clothes she had made me. All very 1970’s fabrics. Fabrics included denim, corduroy, flannel, among standard woven cottons. We tied it with yarn. I remember shopping with her for the backing fabric and I intentionally looked for something hideous, because in my mind at the time, a quilt could even make an ugly fabric look good. I still have the quilt, but it has not held up well. I didn’t make many more until my kids were born – then I started making them left and right.
AL: Would you hazard a guess as to how many quilts you’ve made or how many quilts you’ve quilted for others?
CS: I have probably made 200 or so quilts personally – all sizes, most very easy patterns. We all start out that way. I tried different stuff along the way. I can’t say there is much that I don’t like. I’ve quilted about 550 quilts for others (since I started my business), several for family before that.
AL: What kind of quilts do you most like to make?
CS: I love scrap quilts, modern quilts, and art quilts. When I started getting into quilting heavily about 20 years ago, I made a LOT of string quilts. I liked the idea of creating my own fabric and using pieces left over from the clothing I had made for the girls. Truly there isn’t much I don’t like. As of late, most of my quilts have been art quilts, or quilts made with the express intention of entering them for competition. A baby quilt or two might sneak on the list.
AL: Do you design your own quilts, or do you use traditional or commercial patterns?
CS: For the most part I design my own projects. That was not always the case; especially in the beginning, I always used patterns. Then I started to modify the pattern, or choose a different layout, then after my skills improved I had the confidence to just figure my own design out by myself. Not to say that it is a smooth process. There are plenty of times I need to rip something out because I have made something the wrong size or put it together in the wrong order.
AL: Tell us about your fabric stash.
CS: Out of control. No doubt. I will say that I have moved low grade fabrics out of my stash. At one point I decided that if I was going to put so much time and energy into these quilts, and I wanted them to last and the for colors stay their best, the higher grade quilting fabrics are they way to go. I have several projects I made early on that my family loves, but they are faded, and not as I would like to see them. But that’s okay – it’s what I could afford. We learn as we go.
AL: What are your favorite colors?
CS: I cannot choose.
AL: What kind of batting do you like?
CS: For the past few years I have used Quilter’s Dream batting – almost exclusively. But that does not mean that others are not good too. I used Warm and Natural for a long time, and I still like it. Hobbs had a good product as well. Again, I would go with quality for anything that we pour our hearts into the way we do with quilts for those we love.
AL: Did you tell me you had quilts at Houston? Or was it Paducah?
CS: I have had my work displayed in several AQS (American Quilter’s Society) shows including Paducah – but my pieces have not ribboned there so far. Still trying to up my game for that! I have also had pieces in the Road to California Show where two of my pieces were awarded ribbons. I entered for the first time this year in the IAQ (International Quilt Association) Quilt Festival in Houston. I had two pieces accepted, and one was awarded a ribbon. I was able to attend the award ceremony on Oct 29th, and was awarded 2nd place in the People Portraits and Figures category. It is an honor just to be accepted into these shows, and I LOVE to attend and see what everyone is doing. My favorite thing is to see if I can talk to the quilt makers there at the show. It is always fascinating to me the evolution of the pieces. Rarely, it would seem, does the quilt we see in the show reflect the original vision of the maker.
AL: Tell us about your Guild affiliations. How has being a Guild member influenced your quilting journey?
CS: For most of my quilting years I was an “introvert quilter.” I stayed in my sewing room, was educated by TV shows or on (what I like to call) the University of YouTube. I did whatever projects I liked and I showed it to nobody outside my immediate family and friends. I had no interest in quilt guild meetings. It was a nice existence. But once again, as time has taught me, what I say I don’t like – MAYBE I do. Since I stared attending some of the local Arizona Quilt Guild chapters a couple years ago as well as the PHX Modern Quilt group, I have made so many friends and met so many lovely, lovey people who can really help expand the knowledge of quilting, and who can appreciate all that goes into what we do. My family appreciates the quilts I make – but they do not notice the little extra effort or detail that a fellow quilter will notice and comment on. PLUS – every meeting has show and tell – and you already know that I love hearing people talk about their projects.
AL: Tell us about the quilt(s) you’re making right now.
CS: I’m making an art collage quilt – sort of – a Day of the Dead lady in costume. I hope it works out. I’ve inventing the process as I go along.
AL: Tell us about the favorite quilt you’ve made.
CS: My favorite quilt – if I have to pick – is usually my latest project because each project stretched my skill set. I try to learn from each project. So for today, it is the one I sent to this year’s Quilt Festival in Houston. I like it because I believe that the technique is original – something that has not been done before – and it was challenging – and I pushed myself to finish – even when it was not going well.
AL: What are some of the joys and challenges of running a quilting business?
CS: I don’t know if I’d say there are any real challenges – time management maybe. Sometimes I get clients who do not quilt, but are in the possession of quilt tops – usually very old quilt tops from family that have sentimental value. These folks sometimes need a lot of education about the quilting world, and how a quilt goes together, the time and materials involved. They usually just are not exposed to the process and have no idea. Sometimes these are projects can be challenging to work on, and the tops are usually hand pieced and generally do not lay flat or square, etc. However, they bring the greatest rewards and people seem to reconnect to family and memories through textiles and quilts. I think that’s the most amazing thing.
AL: What long arm machine do you use, and why did you choose that particular one?
CS:I chose the Innova Longarm Machine by ABM. I chose it because I felt is was more industrial, and I liked the software.
AL: Do you have any funny quilting stories?
CS: Only the people at the quilting groups. There are some crazy hilarious folks out there.
AL: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or your quilts?
CS: Maybe not so much about my quilts – but in general:
- People should make what they love – the love will show.
- Don’t apologize for any mistakes in your work. We were all beginners once, and I can tell you (for an absolute fact) that there are mistakes in the quilts that make it to the shows – even the ones that win. Be proud that you finished. When someone is warmed by your quilt they do not care that the points don’t match.
- Try something new and different. it’s the only way we grow.
All the quilts pictured and all the images in this article are by Cindy Stohn. To see more of Cindy’s quilts, check out her Instagram page.