Thursday, May 20, 2010

Judy Niemeyer's signature design: Paper Pieced Points

One look and you know who designed this quilt. And anyone familiar with the designer knows this is a challenge for the paper piecer. Traditional in origin, but using today's techniques, technology and equipment to create a project in perfection, Judy Niemeyer brings us yet another year of her luscious, intricate and oh so beautiful paper piecing designs. And now she's joined us at Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles.

It was on the Subversive Stitchers facebook page that we had a friendly discussion of paper piecing that immediately pointed to Judy. Thanks everyone who contributed to that discussion which led to this guest blog.

The photograph is a quilt made using Judy's paper piecing pattern: Golden Harvest.

Welcome Judy!

by Judy Niemeyer

My family and I embarked on publishing paper pieced patterns in the late 1990s as a family project driven by my desire to see traditional patterns re-thought…brought into the modern world.

Photo: Cattails in the Meadow pattern, new for 2010.

My family, including my husband and three children, is much different from me. They are engineering and technology addicts. They believe in what I do, which I am grateful for, both as a business owner and as their mother! My daughter, Judel, has recently taken a role with the company as Business Manager. Bradley, my oldest son, is crucial to the pattern design process as he completes the drafting required to produce the foundation units. My youngest son, Billy, does graphic design and website maintenance and development for the company. My husband, Del, keeps the day to day computer systems running and helps out wherever necessary to keep the company moving. His most recent endeavor was the extensive remodel of a building that I am excited to announce is the new home of Judy Niemeyer Quilting!

Photo: Bed runner in the Bali Wedding Star, new for 2010

I, on the other hand, spend most days working with my hands, perfecting details, and focusing my attention on what I can see, what I can mold, and what I can visually influence. What I learned by watching them function in their world while I functioned in mine, was that there is a place where these two worlds can come together…and in the quilting world, that place is paper piecing.

When someone asks me what inspires me, I often don’t know how to answer the question. I’ve even felt awkward in the past as it seems the world expects a “designer” to create by being “inspired.” In fact, I am almost never inspired by an idea, or a moment, a passion, a thought, etc. More often, I design by what I see in front of me at the time, and what I intuitively understand about the details necessary to successfully complete a project.
Photo: Celtic Wave pattern, new for 2010.

It’s true that I begin with something in mind, which is not usually a creative thought of my own, but rather something I’ve grown to love over time…something traditional and complicated that I think I can bring to everyone in a new way, and with techniques I’ve developed to make it possible for anyone to make.

Techniques I feel are critical to successful paper piecing include floating points, strip-piecing and speed-sewing, pre-cutting techniques that always keep your fabric cut on the grain and keep a quilter organized while saving time, and stepwise processes that take complicated ideas and break them down to keep quilters on track.

Photo: Barbed Rail Fence design for 2010.

Paper piecing helps to make sure that a design I create is not only beautiful, but is functional as well. Knowing that I can pass along techniques and tools to help organize quilters in a manner that leads to beautiful quilts over and over again is why I design and teach paper piecing. I feel so strongly about it, in fact, I doubt that in my life, I will ever create another design without paper piecing.

In 2010, I have a number of patterns that will be published that continue to build on ideas I’ve already had, along with some new ones as well.

We’ve redesigned color layouts, expanded the size of existing patterns, used units from other patterns in new layouts, and cut them up and combined more than one block together to present new ideas.

We’ve also expanded our list of table runners and are beginning publication of a line of bed runners to provide smaller projects to our customers without time to take on a full-size quilt or wall hanging.

We are even working with new instructors and a few select shops to roll out a technique of the month quilt, we are sure that paper-piecers will love!

Photo: Meandering Star Sampler new for 2010.

Many of our early 2010 publications will focus on quilts that lend themselves wonderfully to using up a stash of fabrics, focusing on color, value, and texture rather than a central fabric theme to communicate an idea to an audience.

The Coxcomb is my newest endeavor, bringing a traditional design pattern into the world of paper piecing. This project has been on my mind for over a year and I’ve had to change some of the paper piecing rules a bit to pull it off.

I’m excited to reveal this project in the coming months! I hope that it becomes a staple for quilters, pulling together paper piecing, traditional piecing, and appliqué. It is a true example of what technology has given to the world of quilters, with thoughtful consideration for helping even the newest of quilters to develop the skills necessary to complete it.

I continue to be proud of my part in bringing these designs to quilters in both the patterns that I publish and the workshops that I teach. I’m pleased when someone sends me a picture of a completed project or I hear that one of my patterns has helped them to win an award for their efforts. It’s a wonderful accomplishment to be recognized for being artistic and creating something that is a visual draw, particularly as it compares to others.
Photo: Weeping Willow quilt design, new for 2010.
I cannot wait to see where this endeavor continues to take us and look forward to many more years of designing paper pieced patterns in the quilting industry.  -- Judy Niemeyer
For a peek at more of Judy's designs and patterns, visit her website: Quiltworx.

Judy's daughter, Judel Buls wrote in answer to my question about Judy's involvement in sewing the quilts. She started out in her capacity as public relations representative and ended up as a daughter talking about her Mom. So here's Judel in her own words:

Judy has been making quilts since she was a child. She's been selling them since she graduated from highschool. She made quilts for others and handquilted them when we were in grade school. She is an unbelievably talented hand quilter, but doesn't have much time to do it anymore because she is working on her business. But, as part of the business, she does tons of sewing. She makes part or all of at least one of every quilt she designs.

Every once in awhile, she pulls a project aside for her own. She did that with the Hawaiian Star, the Amazon Star, now she's doing it with a new patterns she's working on based on the Coxcomb. The quilt will have a new paper piecing technique (at least for Judy's patterns) in it involving curved sewing lines in the units. It's something she hasn't put into her patterns before. She does all of the applique on the quilts she makes.

She is by far most satisfied with the finished product. She's usually up late into the night sewing and designing and she finishes almost everything she works on. Probably the one challenge she has been most happy in finding a solution for is when she started floating the points in all of her patterns.

Putting her older designs together can still be complicated because matching the points up is the most complicated part of many of her patterns. She spent a lot of time herself pulling seams and also helping her students learn to get the points in the right place. When she started floating them in the background, she not only cut hours of time out of her own sewing, but did the same for students. She spends quite a bit of time making sure that when people sew her units together in all her newer designs, that the process does not require careful piecing to accomplish success.

As far as I am concerned, I'm OK admitting I don't sew or quilt. I have done it a few times, but only for a really good reason. Everything I've ever done has been a gift and Judy usually finished it. I'm an engineer, a business manager, and a mom. -- Judel Buls


Elisabeth Fuchs said...

brilliant and highly interesting article, thanks!

Carol said...

As always I am in awe of any design that Judy produces.

Kelly Kroon said...

Judy is inspiring and I love her patterns. I feel so successful when I do her patterns.