And I Quilt Celebrity Catherine Aitken

Have you seen Catherine Aitken’s And I Quilt video? You don’t want to miss the beautiful scenes and quilty inspiration of her video. And I Quilt Celebrity, Catherine Aitken is a wildlife photographer, a retired business professional, and she QUILTS! She joins us here on the Handi Quilter blog with a lovely guest post about her quilting inspirations and lessons.

Catherine Aitken - And I Quilt

Here’s Catherine

As I was working on the piece I’m about to tell you about, I realized just how collaborative quilting is for me, even if I’m working on my own.

When I first started quilting – no sewing machine, no quilting tools, no knowledge, I did hand quilting. Two queen sized pre-printed whole cloth quilts and ten months later, I realized there had to be a faster way. Enter my first collaborators, my local quilt shop. Help with fabric, rulers, scissors and a sewing machine and I was off and running (sort of). I still had to learn the hard way that a 1/4 inch seam really is a 1/4 inch seam, if you ever want pieces to fit together. A quick trip to emergency, to get the tip of my finger sewn back on, showed me the importance of cutting carefully with a rotary cutter.

This was before Facebook, on-line resources and videos from all the quilting “gurus”. Just magazines and books. (I have dated myself with just one sentence!)

My muses

Today, the quilt I just finished had help and inspiration from Cindy Needham (stencils), Jamie Wallen (design rulers), Telene Jeffries (patterns) and Debra Linker (fabrics). Not to mention Handi Quilter rulers, videos and my loved Simply Sixteen (no computer on board). Not all of them are in this specific piece but they have all contributed to the journey to here.

This wall hanging is a comedy of errors (had to remind myself to laugh occasionally). I have really wanted to focus on whole cloth quilts since I started quilting. I enjoy free motion quilting my club members patchwork quilts, but I really love whole cloth quilts. However, I could never figure out how to design one or to do one on my machine with free motion quilting.

Finally, courtesy of those I mentioned, I decided to give it a try. Using one of my many beautiful fabrics from Debra Linker and a pattern from a Lady Jane Quilts (Telene), I started and started and started. I kept trying with encouragement from them on Facebook. I must have worked on four or five of different sizes. Finally, I think I’m getting it.

Deep inside, though, I still wanted to create my own design. So I went for it with a practice piece. I grabbed two odd pieces of fabric I had, a piece of batting that at least was the same size as the top piece and slapped it together. Used stencil and rulers to rough out – (really rough). In fact I ended up with a ‘quilt design as you go pattern’. Not the best way to do it. Then on to my machine…..

Catherine Aitken wholecloth

I brought it upstairs after a while to look at and John (my husband) loved it! And wanted it for the house! Lovely, but it’s a scrap piece as you can see. So I took it back to work on more carefully.

Of course the problems (challenges) began. There wasn’t enough batting for a border. And actually I hadn’t planned on a border but needed something to complete it. I liked the back better than the front colour and they didn’t have much in common. Did I mention that I didn’t have any of the front fabric left to use? And the only fabric that went with it didn’t go with the back? So I needed two different pieces – one for the front and one for the back!

Borders found

And of course I would have to patch batting in, as there wasn’t enough batting in the piece.

Comedy of errors. I was finding it hard to laugh at that point, but I liked the design so onward and upward. Things had to get better. I tried to measure correctly (not) so fudging became an important tool. And I learned just how important it is to ‘divide’ the piece into smaller sections in creating the design. When you do that there isn’t a huge blank space facing you that needs to be filled. Framing sections really helped in the designing process both before loading and on the machine.


Two mistakes later, and yes, no one else might see them, I was ready for the binding. The two mistakes? One side has the feathers that are flipped and I stopped the border quilting short of the binding so there is a gap.

But with binding finished I like it. Thank heavens for that!

Am I ready for the next piece? Yes! With my team mates and their expertise available on-line I have started my new piece already. And I’m going to put to use all the lessons I learned from the first piece. Hopefully.


What are they?

  • Treat each quilt as if it will be a finished work, not a practice piece.
  • Divide the piece into sections to create the design.
  • Create the design on paper before starting on the quilt.
  • Mark the fabric precisely, and check that the marks stay on as long as you need them, but still come off.
  • Have all the fabric you need for the finished piece.
  • Watch what you are doing so that the pattern is correct over the whole piece.
  • Don’t get too complicated.

Nothing earth shattering but points to abide by.

Last but not least,

  • Get as much guidance from sources like Handi Quilter and my friends, among many others. Google designs, watch magazines and other places like Pinterest. There are design ideas galore out there.

In other words,

Plan Ahead

And laugh when you make a mistake! And do have fun.

Now on to the next one, using one of my wildlife photos on fabric.

Thank you

To Catherine Aitken, And I Quilt Celebrity, for sharing your story.  That quilt taught you some great lessons that we can all learn from!

To our readers, what is your most valuable quilting lesson? Please share in the comments!

Mary Beth Krapil, Handi Quilter National Educator