by Mary Beth Krapil
Karlee Porter is a Utah based quilter, graphic designer, hand-letterer, best-selling author and internationally recognized free-motion quilting teacher. She is best know for her book, Graffiti Quilting. She has been quilting since 2009, but an artist all her life. She graduated in 2017 with an Art Degree from Weber State University, and has owned her own custom sewing and quilting design firm since the summer of 2013. Her website includes over 1,000 computerized quilting designs, some of which are actually her free-motion graffiti quilting. She runs a digital design loyalty club and loves pushing the limits of what technology can do. She enjoys designing and quilting custom printed fabric, and also loves blinging out her quilts with Swarovski hot-fix crystals. This young quilter is one busy lady.
We sat down with Karlee to get to know her a little better. Here’s what she had to say:
HQ: What does being an HQ Ambassador mean to you?KP: Being an Ambassador for Handi Quilter is so much more than just a professional partnership. To me, Handi Quilter has been my family, and my interest in the company runs deeper than simply shopping for a quilting machine. I owe so much to this amazing company, and I am honored to call myself an Ambassador, because I have always stood behind these machines (literally and metaphorically) from the moment I first joined the quilting industry in 2009. Being an HQ ambassador means always having a support system within the industry as I bring my creative dreams to life. It means knowing that I will always have the tools and resources I need to finish my quilts. It means being part of a community where we all lift each other up, encourage each other to keep on learning, and create an environment where there is room for everyone to explore, ask questions, and blaze a trail for quilt-makers in generations to come. Being a “young quilter”, (I am currently in my mid-twenties), it is such a wonderful feeling to have a sense of belonging, and know that I will have a space to create for many, many years to come. Just as my grandmother and mother enjoyed quilting, I hope that I will be able to teach it to my children and grand-children.HQ: How long have you been an HQ Ambassador?KP: I have only officially been an HQ Ambassador since the Spring of 2018, but I have been part of the HQ family since 2009. I was first introduced to the wonderful world of machine quilting when I was hired at Handi Quilter to be a production worker, building machine components, testing quilting machines, answering phone calls, shipping these machines across the world, and then ultimately working within the engineering department beta-testing products before they would be released to the public. Right after my book, Graffiti Quilting, was published in the Fall of 2014, I ventured off on my own, leaving my full-time work at Handi Quilter to finish my college degree and pursue my design firm full-time. While I was off on my own, I traveled internationally to teach free-motion quilting, all while creating my quilts using my Handi Quilter machines. I currently own a HQ Sweet Sixteen sit-down quilting machine, as well as an HQ Infinity with Pro-Stitcher (computerized quilting). While I am able to finish SOOO many quilts with my Infinity, I still have a special place in my heart for my Sweet 16. That is the machine where the Graffiti Quilting technique was born, and to this day, is the machine that I like to say “is where the magic happens.”HQ: What is the most fun thing you have done as an HQ Ambassador?KP: While I haven’t done much yet as an official Ambassador, I can tell you some of the things that I am looking forward to in the future. I really loved traveling internationally in the summer of 2015 as I shared my Graffiti Quilting technique, and I am looking forward to seeing where else in the world my quilting skills may take me. I love to teach and connect with other quilters, and I am looking forward to those teaching opportunities as an Ambassador. I am also really looking forward to advancing the possibilities that we can see within the industry in regards to computerized quilting. I have been creating computerized quilting designs since 2010, and it is so awesome to see how we can use these crazy cool machines to really push the limits of what we can do with technology. To this day, the Pro-Stitcher blows my mind with all the ways we can use it to create art.HQ: Of all your quilts, which is your favorite?KP: It is so hard to pick a favorite! So, here are just a couple of my favorites with a short explanation as to why I chose them as my favorites:1. “Shimmering Symphony” This quilt will always be one of my very favorite quilts that I have ever made. It was the first time in my life that a quilt turned out EXACTLY how I pictured it in my head. It went on to win 1st place in an International Quilt Competition put on by Swarovski. Since then, it has been reproduced and the pattern is still to this day one of my top selling products in my shop. On top of that, it has become so widely popular with quilters and non-quilters alike that I now teach an interactive online class where I teach you how to create this stunning masterpiece from start to finish.2. “Mini Graffiti Quilt” This quilt, while small, will always be one of the most impactful to me. I would consider this the first Graffiti Quilting quilt I ever created, where I knew that I was on to something with this free-motion quilting style. It went on to grace the cover of my first ever published book, Graffiti Quilting, and is a quilt that I reference time and time again when I teach my Graffiti Quilting Class.3. “Our Baby Boy” This quilt is very very dear to my heart. After years of struggling to conceive, I finally got pregnant in the fall of 2016. While I was pregnant, I created this quilt for my son who is now almost 1 year old. The technique by why I made it is cutting edge- I created the custom-lettered design on my iPad, and then had the design printed onto fabric using a large format printer. All of the quotes and sayings were created over the course of my pregnancy and are very meaningful. I left the center of the design blank, with plans to add his personal information after he was born. I ended up simply appliquéing the letter “N” into the middle, a couple months after he was born. It is a quilt that he will be able to use and abuse for years to come. It has also been a great portfolio piece where I have been able to make quilts with the same technique for others who were searching for meaningful gifts for their loved ones. I call the over-all technique of custom-lettering on these quilts the “Sentimental Snuggles” series.HQ: Do you still have your first quilt?KP: I do have the first quilt that I ever machine quilted, and as you can guess, it is not anything spectacular. It is a quilt I made for my husband for the first Christmas that we were married. I had been working at Handi Quilter for about 6 months at that point, so the sweet ladies in the education department helped me to quilt it and put it all together. We are big Apple nerds, and so I digitized the Apple logo and just repeated it in rows and stitched it across the quilt. It is definitely not made of any fancy fabrics, and when you fold it up, it definitely isn’t perfectly square. But it is very warm and super snugly. It spent many nights on the couch with my husband and I as we binge watched The Office.HQ: Who is your inspiration/muse?KP: Here are a few people, along with why they inspire me: Jessica Hische, because she is unapologetic and extremely pragmatic in her design work. Alphonse Mucha, because he created for the pure sake of making art that was beautiful and pleasing to look at. Stefan Kunz, because he isn’t afraid to use his art to convey important messages and testify of his love for God. Shepard Fairey, because he used his skills to promote mindfulness and activism, but also isn’t afraid change his mind when he gains new insight about his political agendas. Alison Glass, because her textile design work is so polished, yet organic, as well as introspective and genuine. Jamie Wallen, for reminding me that my skills and talents have value, and that it is okay to be paid well for my time and work, even if I enjoy every single second of it. James Jean, because his attention to detail and ornate compositions are utterly mind-boggling. Ammon, because he taught me that it is OK to be extremely happy and proud about the things you accomplish, but always giving credit where credit is due and acknowledge how God blesses you in your successes. Lauren Hom, because she reminds me to not take myself too seriously, and that its OK to joke around and enjoy a good pun. My Dad, for teaching me to dream and my Mom, for teaching me to execute. Seriously I could go on and on…HQ: Of all the “tasks” in creating a quilt, which is your fave and least favorite?KP: Easy. Favorite is the quilting. Least favorite is the binding. Piecing is alright, but I do skip that a lot of the time and just quilt “whole cloth” quilts. So quilting is the most favorite. I would say a close second would be creating a super dope composition and then holding the printed fabric. Sheesh. It’s soooo good.
HQ: Thanks Karlee, we look forward to seeing what you will do next!