Designer Profile: Meet quilter, Christa Watson
“A friend invited me to help tie quilts for charity. It was love at first stitch. Although I’ve been quilting for 24 years I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the potential that’s out there.” – Christa Watson
Christa discovered quilting in 1994, when she was a young married college student, but like most of us, her sewing journey began in her childhood. When she was about four years old she hand-sewed a pincushion, and her mother — like all proud mothers — “still keeps it in her sewing box”, Christa shares.
When discussing the first quilt she made, Christa says, “I made it for my husband; we’d been married for about a year. I knew nothing about seam allowances and wanted to make a throw from 4in squares, so I cut out 4in squares. I didn’t know they’d shrink down to 3½in — or less since my seams weren’t exactly even.” She describes it as “… an ugly thing, made of mismatched flannels from the $2 fabric store tied with thick yarn and backed with a flannel sheet.” She says the binding was atrocious, but she loved making it and her husband still uses it to this day.
Late in 1997, after she’d had her first child, Christa started teaching at some of her local fabric and quilt shops and loved it. “Although I was still a relatively new quilter, I was encouraged to learn new techniques so I could teach them to my students,” she recalls. From the beginning, she taught her students how to make a quilt from start to finish, including machine quilting it themselves. “I kept teaching regularly until I had my third child in 2003 and then took a break for a few years.” During this time she started selling left-over fabrics online. “I was encouraged to do so by one of my quilting students. Then in 2006 my husband, Jason, quit his job as a CPA to work with me full-time from home.” By 2014, he took over the fabric-selling side of their business and shifted the focus to selling precuts exclusively from their online store, ThePrecutStore.com. “This freed me up to do more of the ‘fun’ stuff: travelling, teaching, designing, writing and, of course, creating!” she says.
Christa’s journey has covered various styles and techniques along the way, but her focus on machine quilting has not wavered. Her depth of knowledge and willingness to share it is tremendous. Her first ribbon in a national quilt show, for Charming Chevrons, gave her the validation to machine quilt on a regular home sewing machine and helped encourage her to start teaching her methods on a national (and international) level. “I now regularly enter my quilts into international quilting competitions and am always pleased when one of them earns a ribbon,” she states.
Christa’s quilting style is inspired by her love of modern, geometric designs and she is also inspired by art, nature and architecture. “Whenever I see an interesting shape, I take a picture or sketch it out so that I can do something with it later,” she says. “In fact, one of my recent quilts, Improv Squares, was inspired by a broken wooden fence that I spotted several years ago. I kept that picture in my phone until I was ready to make a design from it. The pieced squares in my design represent random holes in the fence and I love how it turned out.”
Teaching herself to make traditional quilts from books and instructional quilting TV shows was her starting point in the ‘90s. “A big turning point in my style came when I made my first modern quilt in 2012 and attended QuiltCon in 2013,” reveals Christa. “I’ve always loved quilting my own quilts and discovering modern quilting gave me a new kind of freedom to add ‘modern machine quilting’ to my quilts — interesting geometric and asymmetrical designs that don’t have to be marked or perfectly lined up to be textural and beautiful.” These days she describes her style as ‘modern, with a nod to tradition’.
While travelling, designing, teaching and creating, as well as being a wife and mother, Christa has written three books on machine quilting, filmed three online classes with Craftsy, and launched two fabric lines with Benartex. “I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the process of fabric design,” she recalls, “and I especially enjoy seeing what others make from my fabric.” Christa is well into designing her third line and has “nailed down the idea for my next book, so it’s never a dull moment around here”!
Christa’s books, classes and teaching are all focused on encouraging her students to have faith to try out machine quilting. “Just dive in and give it a go. It can be very rewarding to take ownership of every step in the process and I’m here to cheer you on,” she exclaims.
Christa taught at the Australian Machine Quilting Festival (AMQF) in September 2018 — encouraging Australian quilters to ‘give it a try’ and develop their domestic machine quilting skills. At the same time, Christa visited some of Australia’s best-known tourist spots such as Tasmania and the Great Barrier Reef, ticking a few things off her bucket list!