by Mary Beth Krapil
Birgit Schuller lives in Riegelsberg, Germany and quilts on an HQ Infinity with Pro-Stitcher. She began quilting on her domestic machine when her children were young, around 2001. Birgit has been operating a successful longarm quilting business since 2005. She is an award winning quilter for both her quilts and her quilted garments. Birgit designs, pieces and quilts all of her show pieces herself. She likes to take traditional patchwork designs to new contemporary levels. Her quilting style combines playful and elegant elements. Let’s pull up a chair and have a chat with Birgit.
HQ: What does being an HQ Ambassador mean to you?
BS: As a professional longarm quilter of 12+ years, international teacher, and quilt show competitor, I think that I have a pretty good idea of the quilting world in my area and all over the world – at least from the point of view of a quilter and business woman.
Since I’ve become an HQ Ambassador, I have been able to add quite a bit of insight into the situation, requirements and problems of the “other”, i.e., the industry side of the quilting world. This is a pretty rare opportunity and I’m thankful for it.
Also, being an HQ Ambassador allows me to meet even more quilters and other people in the industry both personally – through the classes I teach, the fairs, and conferences I attend, working the HQ booth – and virtually, via social media and forums.
I’m a huge fan of sharing – sharing knowledge, sharing experience, sharing advice, sharing ideas. And this is something I was able to do even better since I’ve become an HQ Ambassador.
HQ: How long have you been an HQ Ambassador?
BS: I was asked to become an HQ Ambassador in the fall of 2015. The official announcement followed at the beginning of 2016.
HQ: What is the most fun thing you have done as an Ambassador?
BS: It’s supposed to have been work, I know, but the absolutely best and most fun thing I was allowed to do so far as an HQ Ambassador was to teach at the 2017 HQ Academy Down Under! I had the best time in Queensland, Australia, very much enjoyed the people (quilters and non-quilters alike), loved the country and honestly, I’d go back there in a heartbeat – any time!
HQ: Of all your quilts, which is your favorite?
BS: Since I started to do patchwork back in 2001, I have created an uncountable number of quilts and I always had the feeling that the latest one is my best, my favorite one. I guess, that’s how it should be when you try to continuously develop your skills, to refine techniques, to come up with new and unique ideas.
But there still are those special quilts – or in my case special quilted garments, too – which tend to take a special spot in the long array of quilts I made.
Basically, there are four quilts and one dress that are very special to me – and all of them did (or are doing) extremely well on the quilt show circuit, too.
Shooting Stars (2009) is one of my earlier quilts. It’s foundation-pieced in bright batiks and free-motion quilted. The quilted line of stars around the center star was my idea and I’m still thrilled that I was able to realize it!
Licorice & Lace (2010) is a quilt that I used a piecing design which I had previously only used in smaller scale. I used a jelly roll and some of the fabrics were quite a challenge. But the most important difference on this quilt is that I used highly contrasting thread for the entire background quilting for the first time, creating a strong visual impact.
Masquerade (2012) saw another first, as I used a wild mixture of fabrics – commercial cottons, batiks, some of my hand-dyed fabrics and silk! What was more important than the fiber content of the fabric, was that the color was right. Also, I created the top from the outside in, starting with the eleven stars that form the outer border. Another “first” was the fact that my husband, Thilo, helped me enlarge some of the masks from the focus fabric and create templates for the thread-painted masks forming the center of this quilt. And to round off this family collaboration, my daughter, Alisha, was the one to insist that I simply HAD to quilt bird feathers in-between the masks – an advice that proved to be 100 percent right!
Madame Butterfly (2012) is the third ballroom dress I ever made. It’s a samba-style dress that I wear when Thilo and I go to ballroom dances. There’s one special memory attached to this dress; in the summer of 2013, my entire family accompanied me on a teaching trip, turned family vacation. I taught at the Upper MidWest Quilt Show that year and had this dress entered in the Wearable Art category. Not only did it win the Best of Show Garment award, but Thilo and I had prepared a surprise for the fashion show. When it was my turn and I had walked up the aisle, Thilo turned on the stereo and we did our cha-cha routine as a surprise and a thank you for both the audience and the organizers!
The Sprinter (2017) is my newest show quilt. It’s entirely different from what I have done before. Again, I needed Thilo’s help. I asked him to digitize a 12-step sequence of a runner that I then could manipulate and stitch out in different sizes using my HQ Pro-Stitcher. This was the first time that I used any computerized quilting in a show quilt!
Writing about my favorite quilts, I come to realize that they all have a few things in common – they all have been created using some type of “first” for me, they all have been very successful and they all have, at some point, taken over in the process and developed a life of their own! This was scary when I experienced it first, but whenever it happens now (which by far does not happen with every quilt), I embrace this feeling like a good friend!
HQ: Do you still have your first quilt?
BS: Yes, I do – and I’m not ashamed to show pictures of it – although I didn’t know back then that I had created a “quilt”.
HQ: Who is your inspiration/muse?
BS:I take inspiration from everywhere. It can be a fabric print, a color, a view, a sight, a piece of music, a vacation spot, an emotion, an event, a person, a poem or quote, a song, etc. you name it. Inspiration is all around us, we just have to open our eyes, mind, and heart to find it!
HQ: Of all the “tasks” in creating a quilt, which is your favorite and least favorite?
BS: Creating a quilt for me is a process. It starts with the idea and sometimes it can be really hard to find ways to turn this idea into a manageable design. This transition time can be tedious, even hurtful. And yes, I have discarded ideas. What I love about the process is to experience that I actually can implement the original idea using fabric and thread. When everything falls into place, that’s an uplifting feeling. And, of course, the quilting process. Sometimes the first few stitches are intimidating – and they may even get ripped out again – but once the concept has evolved, quilting is pure joy – provided that it doesn’t take longer than three weeks, though!
My least favorite part of making quilts is to hand-stitch the binding to the quilt’s back – especially with the irregular edges, that I love to use in my show quilts.
HQ: Thanks Birgit! Your quilts are amazing. We are honored to have you in the Handi Quilter family. Any last thoughts?
BS: Besides sharing as mentioned above, I love to inspire, to encourage, to network, because I’m convinced that by joining talents and abilities and by assisting each other we can achieve so much more than what a single person could ever do!
Happy stitching everyone!
Go to Birgit’s website www.creativebits.biz to find her professional biography, awards gallery, information about upcoming shows and classes.