Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Visit with Katja Marek

As I (Kara) mentioned last week in the Windy City Wrap Up, the quilting world is made up of all types of quilters, and each one of us can be inspired by many different things. What inspires one quilter might not appeal to the next, but one type of quilt-making that is inspiring many quilters today is English paper piecing. While not a new method, it is currently experiencing a resurgence in popularity.

A very popular English paper piecing pattern is one created by Katja Marek to accompany her book, The New Hexagon. Katja was kind enough to offer this pattern as an online quilt-along for quilters who had bought her book. I had the privilege of meeting Katja at Quilt Festival Chicago while I was marveling at the exhibit featuring her New Hexagon Millefiore quilt pattern. The exhibit was called The Hexagon Revolution and was sponsored by our friends at Paper Pieces.  It was one of the most popular exhibits at the festival!

by Melinda Smith, quilted by Sue Rowles
Glebe, New South Wales, Australia 

Katja graciously agreed to be the subject of a blog post and answered a few questions for us about the surprising popularity of her New Hexagon movement. Interspersed between the questions will be some of the beautiful quilts from the exhibit, made with the New Hexagon Millefiore Quilt-Along pattern or "Millie" as the quilt is affectionately known.

How did you become a quilter and when?

I've been a sewer as long as I remember. My mom was a tailor by trade and in order to stay home with my sister and I, took in sewing and alterations at home. We visited with my mom in the sewing room. I don't remember ever being taught to sew, I simply did. I sewed clothing (including many pieces of my wardrobe) and quilted items over the years, but it was not until I moved to Kamloops in 1988 and joined the quilt guild, that I learned that much of what I had been sewing over the years was called quilting.

My Millie
by Roberta (Robynn) Van Horne
Evansville, Indiana, USA

Carnival Hexagons
by Kim McLean, quilted by Kay Fernihough
Lindfield, New South Wales, Australia

What inspired you to begin the New Hexagon Millefiore quilt project?

As part of my publisher Martingale's direction to their authors, they indicated that they expect their authors to help promote their books. When the publication of my book was approaching. I received part of my Kaffe Fasset Collective shipment for my shop. One of the fabrics was called Millefiore. I fell in love with the fabric when I was shown it by the sales rep, and when I received it, I looked up the word "Millefiore" that I found on the selvedge. I found out that Millefiore was Italian for "thousand flowers" and that it refers to a glass caning technique where canes (thin rods) of glass are fused together in floral-like units, which are then crosscut, fused together into kaleidoscope designs, and embedded in clear glass to make paperweights, vases, etc. I am also a huge fan of any type of colored glass and immediately decided I wanted to replicate this effect in fabric, specifically using the blocks from my book about to be published. I decided that in order to thank quilters who had purchased my book, I would give them something else they could do with the blocks from my book by launching my FREE online quilt-along, The New Hexagon-Millefiore Quilt-Along.

Thoroughly Modern Millie
by Sharon Camping,
Robin Sutherlin, Marilyn Brisendine, Ann Seitz, Trina Camping
quilted by Gina Siembieda
Los Angeles, California, USA

Millie on a Whim
by Amy Varner
Kansas City, Missouri, USA

How has The New Hexagon-Millefiore Quilt-Along exceeded your expectations?

From the moment I announced it's launch, I had daily sign-ups and just after posting my first rosette, I received multiple requests to start a Facebook sharing group. I thought this would be a difficult task, but learned it was easy. I set up a group that night and by the next day had the first 364 members. Members joined daily and now we have over 12,000 members in that first group. I now have a second Facebook group: Katja Marek's Quilt With Me for all things after the Millie, such as my 2nd and 3rd quilt alongs: Blocks on the Go, for Quilts on the Grow and Perpetually Hexie.

The New Hexagon Millefiore
by Sue Hicks and Telene Jeffreys
Barberton, Mpumalanga, South Africa

What advice do you have for quilters just beginning this project?

English paper piecing is pretty straight forward; jumping in is the best way to start. It's a really great technique for traveling or for anyone on the go with kids at sports games or snowbirds. Glue is what made it doable for me, more than the traditional thread basting. I approached each rosette individually, knowing that I wanted a riot of color with each rosette being distinct from the ones next to it, like an English country garden.

Millefiore Quilt Along
by Karen Vosen,
quilted by Shawna Crawford
Havre, Montana, USA

Indian Summer Glow
by Yolande Ankersmit, quilted by Anne Kipping
Deventer, Overijssel, Netherlands

How did the exhibit at the Quilt Festival Chicago happen?

The Chicago exhibit, The Hexagon Revolution, was proposed by someone who was a fan of my work. It had already been submitted and accepted by the time I found out about it. Paper Pieces, who are producers of all my English paper piecing papers, signed on as sponsors. I immediately decided I needed to go to the show. This was the first show based on my designs and I decided I wasn't going to miss being there. It was so much fun to lead the tours at the show and to interact with everyone attending the show and the feedback was fabulous!

Katja leading a tour

Katja Marek (middle) and two exhibitors who became friends through the quilt-along

I have had Katja's book for some time now and am a member of the Facebook group, but given all the moving craziness, I haven't had a chance to try any of the 52 blocks in her book. With all the inspiration from the show, I thought I would at least make a start.

Block 9, Doris, is the center block in the first Millie rosette

I need to work a bit on my fussy cutting skill, but at least I have it started. As my father-in-law would say, "inch by inch, it's a cinch"—and that is appropriate advice for this project! The instructions were so easy to follow and I look forward to making progress on my "Millie".

My first block!

Unfortunately, my pictures did not do this exhibit justice, however, I hope you have gotten a small glimpse of the glorious colors and shapes these quilts have. As you can see from the captions, the quilt makers in this exhibit come from all around the world. Each quilt is different and offers a reflection of its maker(s). A big thanks to Katja for sharing her story with us and for sharing this amazing quilt! You can visit her website and see all the wonderful things she has to offer by clicking here. Have you caught the English paper piecing bug? We would love to hear how you got hooked and learn what inspired you.

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