This interview is part of the Canadian Quilters Showcase series. I wanted to share with the world some of the amazing talent found here in our country. Quilters from across Canada have submitted quilts with their stories and are featured monthly. Know someone who should be showcased? Nominate them!
Meet Debby Gray!
Debby grew up in Nova Scotia, started her quilting journey there in 1998, and moved to Vancouver, BC in 2004. When she moved to Vancouver one of the first things she did was look up quilt guilds online, found the Vancouver Quilters’ Guild and has been a member ever since. She’s been President of the guild for the past 4 years and this year has become their webmaster. Debby has spent the last 13 years as Vancouver’s representative for Quilts of Valour-Canada and has made several quilts for them. Debby discovered a chatroom of quilters online about 18 years ago and became a regular there, getting to know many quilters all around the world. She now hosts the facebook group that goes along with it.
I absolutely love this quilt! The flow of the vines, the curves and the custom quilting makes this quilt sing!
Quilt name: Give & Take
Finished size: 69″ x 86″
Pieced by: Debby
Quilted by: Debby
Why did you choose this pattern? How long did it take to make this quilt? Where did you get the pattern? Fabric?
This quilt is a combination of things that I love: curved appliqué, blue & green, and feathers. I’d made a similar quilt a few years ago for someone in dark country colours. It was a lot of fun to make but really not my colours, so I had been thinking for a while about making one for myself in blues and greens. The main pattern is from the traditional “Rob Peter to Pay Paul”, with a feathered centerpiece that I designed. I love doing needleturn appliqué, especially on curved pieces, circles, and feathers so I had a lot of fun doing this one from the very start. Most of the quilts I make for myself are blue and green so I always have a lot of those colours in my scrap bin, all I had to buy new for this was the backing.
Why do you quilt? What do you like most about it? What do you like least about it?
I had sewed my whole life (I remember sitting on my bedroom floor making barbie clothes and hearing on the radio that Elvis had died, so it’s been a while). I made all my own clothes for years, did cross-stitch, rug hooking, crochet, knitting, you name it. Then I discovered quilting and have been at it ever since. I see things around me when I go anywhere and immediately think of how it could be incorporated into a quilt, inspiration is everywhere.
I do almost everything by hand, so I love that I can take something with me to work on just about anywhere I go. If I know I’ll be sitting and waiting for any amount of time I can pop something into a bag and I have something to do while I wait. I find that when I’m quilting the rest of the world just falls away and my mind settles.
I don’t use a frame or hoop, just quilt loosely in my lap, so thread basting doesn’t work for me and I don’t have the patience to do it anyhow. I don’t like basting. At all. I pin baste, and minimally just so the quilt doesn’t shift around while I”m quilting it. I’m also not a big fan of marking, though if I’m doing any kind of fancy quilting design I pretty much have to mark it out, so I usually do it all at once to get it out of the way.
Were there special people or circumstances that encouraged you to begin to quilt?
About 14 years ago I left an abusive marriage, moved clear across the country to get to a safe place. Since then I’ve had problems with depression, PTSD, the whole 9 yards. I had been quilting for a few years when I left, just as a casual hobby, but now it became a kind of therapy. It calms me, helps me focus, keeps me tethered to the earth on days when I feel like I’m flying apart.
What do you do with your finished quilts?
A lot of my quilts are made on a whim, some quirky idea I had that made me want to make a quilt of it, so many of them are small wall hangings that hang in my house or sit folded in a bookcase (my cats think they’re the princess & the pea sleeping on them in there). I make a lot for gifts, of course. I have a shop on ebay and my website where I sell some. I’m also now what I call a “hit quilter”, or quilter for hire…. people custom order quilts or hire me to quilt a top they’ve made. I’m the Vancouver representative for Quilts of Valour-Canada and have made several quilts for them. I also volunteer at the Canuck Place Children’s Hospice and have made several for them and the BC Children’s Hospital.
What do you think of Give & Take? Tell us in the comments!