Sunday, November 1, 2009

Kay Mackenzie: Armed with Needles Stitches Up Applique and a Business

Kay Mackenzie's quirky quilt, Shopping Bags, size 40-inch x 40-inch, caught my eye when I was checking out quilts at the Blogger Quilt Show. I was glad when Kay agreed to share her work and a bit of herself with all of us.

Her quilts and designs look like they flow from a happy, lets-have-fun spirit. Kay also demonstrates another aspect of quilting/fabric as a business selling her books, designs and sewing products via her online site. She also introduced me to Martingale and Company publishing through her book. And her innovative applique method makes my fingers itch to give it a try. Please Welcome Kay Mackenzie. -- Dawn

Kay in her own words --

I was so pleased when Dawn extended the invitation to be a guest on the blog. I can't claim to be very subversive, though I do admire the spirit. However, I am definitely armed with needles!

There are three main needles in my life.

Size 10 milliner/straw needles (same thing), Size 7 cotton darners, and sharp-tipped sewing machine needles, size 70/10 (shown above).

My nature as a quilter is as an appliquér. 

The straw needles are long and skinny. I can get a good grip on them and they glide through fabric easily without resistance. I use 10s instead of 11s because I bend the 11s like the wind! The 10s last until the finish wears off. Here's a quilt I made when I used to use the freezer-paper-on-top method.
(Photo) Sixteen Baskets by Kay Mackenzie, 38 x 38. This is the cover quilt for my book Baskets to Applique .

Now I've become a convert to the back-basting method, where no templates are required. The large cotton darners are perfect for the basting step when you want a thick needle. Here's a quilt that I made using back-basting hand applique.
(Photo) Blooms in Red and Yellow by Kay Mackenzie, 32 x 32.

This is a sampler of some of the flower blocks in my recent book from That Patchwork Place Martingale and Company publishing, Easy Blocks: 50 Designs in 5 Sizes. I'm so excited about this book because it comes with &;CD that enables you to print any of the 50 blocks at home, in five different sizes, or in reverse when you need a flipped pattern. Such a convenience!

When I became a professional I learned to machine appliqué so that I could get additional samples done more quickly. The Microtex needles (or other similar needles) are just right for raw-edge fusible machine appliqué with the blanket stitch on my Bernina. I also use them for machine quilting, another thing I had to learn along the way. Here's one of my machine-appliquéd quilts.

Delicious Tea by Kay Mackenzie, 24 x 10.

The apple teapot design is from my Teapots 2 to Applique.

Okay now I'll show you the closest I've come, in my estimation, to making an art quilt.

Free Flowers by Kay Mackenzie, 27 x 21.

This was a personal challenge that I issued to myself, to use no templates and to finish no edges. I pre-fused the fabrics and free-hand scissor-cut all the shapes, placing them improvisationally as I went. I kept going until I felt it was packed enough, then fused everything down. I quilted close to the edges of all the motifs. I love this one! It's so not me!

My company is By Kay Mackenzie. All of my books and patterns are available there. I also offer a few notions for appliquérs, and a back-basting intro kit that has everything you need to become acquainted with this very cool method. I write a blog called&;All About Appliqué, which is how Dawn contacted me. It's devoted to appliqué - any kind! There's lots of great information there. If you click on the category "Back Basting" it'll bring up a photo tutorial.

I grew up in North Carolina, went to school in Colorado, then lived in Los Angeles for a number of years. During all that time I had not one stitch of quilting heritage. I started in a beginning quilting class about 17 years ago after I got married and we were living in central Ohio. When I told my instructor that I enjoyed the Dresden Plate the most out of all the blocks in the sampler, she told me, “You just might be an appliqué person.” I still wonder whether that observation shaped my destiny, because it turned out to be so true!

From that class on I was gripped with the quilt pox. For a long time I made quilts from patterns or pictures. Then I began to branch out, modifying designs in some way. We moved to Santa Cruz, California, and I got my own computer. When I learned some skills in illustrating, I finally broke through to creating original appliqué designs of my own. I can’t draw at all with my hands, but the computer gave me the tool I needed. I was taking some classes in digital media at my local community college, and just loved the information on typography and page layout that was presented in addition to learning the drawing programs.

And so it happened that a peculiar combinations of interests in my strange brain led me to become a publisher of books for quilters… quilting, computer illustration, writing, editing, typography, and page layout all combined!  My company By Kay Mackenzie has six titles in print now. 

My most famous books are Baskets to Appliqué and Teapots 2 to Appliqué.;

I fill every position in my company I’m the quilt designer, quiltmaker, writer, illustrator, book designer, and publisher. I’m accounts receivable, accounts payable, marketing manager, and the fulfillment department. (I’ve become an experienced bubble wrap wrangler.) I love it all.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m also the webmistress. It’s amazing what you can learn when you’re interested and you roll  up your sleeves. While you’re admiring my ‘coding skills’ over at By Kay Makenzie be sure to check out my Giveaway For Kids.

Thanks so much for the opportunity to show you what I do when armed with needles!


Susan Brubaker Knapp said...

I love Kay's quilts, and she is a strong, smart, sweetheart of a woman to boot! I enjoyed seeing "Free Flowers" -- I don't think I had ever seen it before, and it is great, even if it isn't "her." Thanks for featuring her!

Kay Mackenzie said...

Aw, thanks Susan! Glad you enjoyed my 'art-ish' quilt.