Thursday, December 30, 2010

Victoria Findlay Wolfe - Issue 3 Contributor

Some of you may have come across Victoria before and seen some of her amazing quilts. We were very excited to have her as part of our Designer Challenge panel in issue 3. I chatted to Victoria to get to know her better and to find out more about some of the projects she is involved in.

How did you start quilting?

Both my parents sew. My father has an upholstery business, and my mother always made quilts for family weddings, and her mother was a quilter. I would sit at my grandmother’s kitchen table with her tracing patterns pieces on fabric and cut them out for her. Sewing was a natural progression for me. I learned to hand sew patchwork in jr. high school, when they still taught those sorts of things. At the age of 19, I made my first quilt for my niece, It wasn’t very pretty, but it has been deeply loved!

How would you describe your style of quilting?

Free form is the best description. I rarely have a clear idea of a quilt before I start. Like the way I paint, I start from the inside, and work my way out. I make decisions quickly and make what I have “work.” My choices are based on instinct, and trusting my eye, and not over thinking. My favorite quilts start with random thoughts I've put together, like a stream of consciousness, I grab from a selection of fabrics and find a way for them to all live nicely with each other. I also like making fabric from bits of scraps, using them as found objects, and putting them together like a giant jig-saw puzzle. You can see more of my work here: at my blog

What is the favorite quilt you have made?

That would easily be my "Everything but the kitchen sink," quilt.
I grew up with my grandmothers crazy quilts on my bed, and I was all amazed at how they went together all willy nilly and yet worked! I wanted to make a quilt like that, so ten years ago, I made an attempt at doing so. If you look at the bottom of this quilt there is a 16" band across it which is what I made in 2000. I took an old sheet, and arranged the pieces on top of it and machine appliqued them down. I got so bored, that I stopped and put it away for nine years. I pulled it back out a year ago, cut it off the sheet, and placed it at the bottom of the "new" quilt that I had laid out and arranged on my design wall. So, basically, I started trying to do it my grandmother’s way, and came back to making it in a way that was more exciting for me. I now see years of learning experience in this quilt. Simple piecing, machine and hand applique, scrap fabric making, and Y seams. But beyond that, color choices, balance, composition, the difference using lights, mediums and darks, movement, and plainly, instinct and trusting my eye, how to make it look pleasing to the eye, changing it till it works, and how pattern is as important as color. I also learned how letting go of a lot of "rules" can give you just as pleasing a look than planning an entire quilt with preconceived ideas.

What are your favorite colors / prints to use in quilts?

I use a lot of RED. I've made more red quilts then any other, and nearly every quilt I have made has red in it somewhere. That being said, I don't intentionally go for red. When I walk into a fabric shop, I usually go the sale racks and buy what other might consider the ugliest fabrics they have. Odd off colors, weird color combos, strange prints. It's easy to find a nice red, or nice yellow, but it's the puke green, swampy browns, and sickly ochres that I am after, it makes for a well rounded stash. I don’t want to make rainbow colored quilts, I want the 1,000 tones and values in between red and yellow and blue. For me, there are no ugly fabrics

What is your favorite part of the process?

First and foremost is the beginning challenge. Finding the thing that says, OOH! I have to play with that! Recently, my 15minutes play group did a scrap swap, and in the swap, was a piece of made fabric from bits of batiks. It was already a great start. The lightbulb went off and I dug through my stash to find my 8 batik blocks I made the first time I played with batiks, and had never done anything with them. My blocks were very blue, and the piece I was starting with was very greens and purples etc... I put it up on my wall, and played. I stuck things up, and moved them around, and added different colors. What I thought at first would be the final decision was totally scrapped and I took off in another direction. I played until I heard that sound of angels singing in my head.... awwww!!!! Then I know I've reached my stopping point.

That part, that moment, is what makes me want to make another quilt...

Do you have any tips to share with our readers?

Yes, if you find you get hung up on making choices, play. Stop thinking, take your scraps and work for 15 minutes a day. Think of it like this, a runner warms up before he runs a marathon, a writer starts writing with run on sentences and no punctuation, and an artist does 30 second sketches to get his eyes trained for seeing. We can do the same thing, by working quickly and making "sketches” in fabrics. It makes you better at seeing, and you will find certain things that you find difficult will be easier and your sewing in general will become better, if you relax your brain. Trial and error is a great way to learn a new skill, make it up as you go, this leads to new ways, new ideas, and new quilts!

You have set up "15 minutes Play." Can you explain to us what that is? Is it still open for our readers to participate?

As I just mentioned, is a way to get yourself to loosen up. It gives you permission to play, just a few minutes a day, without have a "PLAN" as you start sewing. You make a block a day, you work out a new idea, you play with scraps do whatever you want, as long as you do it without thinking. After a while you have a load of blocks, and then you find you have something you might not have set about making to start with.. Now, how will you PLAY them to make them fit together? How can you keep the stream of consciousness flowing as you set the blocks? What other technique can you add that you wouldn't normally do? Can you sash them, set them on point? cut them up again? It's a site of play, and a place to share it, and bounce ideas off of, and show us your process for feedback. No patterns. Be willing to play and put the rules aside, just for 15 minutes a day and you will find making choice and trusting your eye will become easier.

This site is always open to more participants, the more the merrier. Just send me an email...

Tell us a bit about the NYC MOD QUILTER Guild. How can people join? What can people expect from being a part of a guild?

Amy of Commonplace Life and I started the NYC metro MOD quilters. We decided we wanted to see if there were other folks who were out there that wanted to find a community to share their work with. Everyone wants to find their community, so we set it up and quickly had 50-60 people. We had a couple of meetings and were feeling ourselves out, and at the last meeting we think we've found we are a GROUP of quilters who can come together, and share and bounce ideas with. We run it more as a group than a guild, we're all equals, and we have started making group quilts. We meet the first Saturday every other month at my home, we bring our block challenges, and as a group decided how the blocks or strips will go together. Some say, too many cooks in the kitchen spoils to soup, but we found with more people working on a project, miraculously, we find a solution that is both modern and exciting. We are working on having a show the end of 2011 showing the quilts we have made as a group

We now have 108 members. Our group consists of all kinds of quilters. i.e. art quilters, traditional quilters, and beginners and anything in between. Show and tell is always exceptional and everyone leaves with a big smile on their face eagerly returning with their next months challenges...
You can join here: you can follow our blog for inspiration here:

Tell us more about your BUMBLE BEANS INC. BASICS QUILT GATHER for homeless families. How can our readers get involved?

After asking a friend of mine who runs a local organization if he could take a few quilts for his families, and he said, “ Do you have 700?” I saw a need and started the "BUMBLE BEANS BASICS QUILT DRIVE," which gathers COMPLETED QUILTS to be given to families taken out of shelters, and are being put into the transitional housing by BASICS.

The drive is on going, there is no end, so keep the quilts coming. We have received about 120 quilts so far, and when we receive 200, We will draw a name from those who have donated a quilt for a chance to win a Janome Sewing machine.

There is always a need for quilts. There is no deadline. We will always accept quilts for the families.

November 10th, is our first distribution event where 50 families from one housing unit in the Bronx, will receive quilts. Photographs will be taken, the names of the person who donated will be honored, and hugs will be given...

Knowing that they will be warm this winter, brings me happy tears.

I’ve learned that one little idea can bring a whole lot of happiness to many people.

You can help spread that happiness.

Information for donating a quilt can be found at the quilt info link at:


  1. Awesome interview. Thank you so much for the behind-the-scenes insight.

  2. Wow Victoria, your brain is probably wired the opposite way to mine - yours being intuitive and artistic and mine being mathematical, symetrical, geometric, OCD, scared of making mistakes - so an injection of your way of working into my way of working is exactly what I need. Penny sewtakeahike told me to buy Jean Wells intuitive colour and design and that was a huge step forward for me and this whole 15 minutes idea would be sooooooo good for me. Kick me out of my little safety box. I'm going to watch-a-long for a while before I decide whether to commit to play a long - my problem is I get so caught up in making whatever it is I'm making that taking even 15 minutes out is almost impossible. But you have really got me thinking...which is a good thing! And I LOVE the kitchen sink - as I know I have told you before! Happy New Year BTW.

  3. Wow what a great interview and an insight into Victoria's creativity! I'll be sure to check out the links! Happy New Year!

  4. Really super interesting interview! Thanks FQ! Love those quilts, such color and pattern! And the info re quilts for those in need is great for those of us who love to sew for charity. Thanks for a great blog!

  5. "Everything But The Kitchen Sink" says it all for a sampler quilt. When I first saw it on the screen, I thought there's every block imaginable in this thing. Thanks for sharing and the information on Bumble Beans and it's mission. What a worthy cause!