Do you love quilting without a pattern? Diving in and playing with scraps to end up somewhere new? Then you’re going to love today’s What’s in Your Sewing Bag? Special Guest: Cheryl Arkison.
When I started quilting back in 2015, it didn’t take me long before Cheryl’s work came on my radar. I’m not 100% sure which I noticed first, her book or her improv quilts on Instagram, but I suspect it was Sunday Morning Quilts. It’s a book Cheryl co-wrote with Amanda Jean and it’s the first quilt book I ever picked up. To this day, I still refer back to that book for general inspiration. What I love is how encouraging the ladies are in diving in and having fun with your quilting practice. The idea of slowing down and finding some creative time for yourself on a Sunday is just such a lovely idea.
Skip ahead to the fall of 2016 when my local Montreal Modern Quilt Guild invited Cheryl to teach us Perfect Curves. Getting to meet Cheryl and learn from her in person was a definite highlight.
I then had a total pinch-me moment when, in the spring of 2020, Cheryl reached out to invite me to participate in the Canadian Virtual Trunk Show. I already had immense respect for Cheryl – she’s not only fiercely independent in her thought, and courageous in standing up for what she believes, but also has the softest heart and cares for her community. Being invited to participate was probably the moment that solidified my absolute admiration of Cheryl – here we were in the middle of a pandemic and Cheryl’s busy thinking up ways to help our community stay connected and feel inspired when it was absolute uncertainty in every other area of our life. She rallied us together and we’re still going strong with Season 3.
I’m excited for you to get to know Cheryl and see what notions and tools she likes to keep in her sewing kit!
*This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission.
Introduction – tell us a little about yourself! How did you get started on your quilting journey?
I’ve been quilting for half my life! My mom taught me how to sew as a girl and I did Home Ec but I only discovered quilting as a hobby in my 20s. I would walk by one store, then another, and admire the fabric. I think I bought a fat quarter once, hemmed it, and turned it into a fancy napkin just for me. But when my future sister-in-law announced she was pregnant I finally tried it. I’ll admit, I thought it was odd that a twenty-something would quilt but no one could fault me for making a baby quilt, right? So, it began.
Fabric is what got me sewing in the first place too, Cheryl! I just loved looking and feeling fabric that I figured I should learn to do something with it – ha!
What kind of sewing bag do you have? (e.g. did you make it? Buy it?)
I’m a quilter at heart, which means zippers are not in my repertoire. This bag was designed and made by Charis Birchall (@charisrose). I met Charis through Contextural, a textile design group based here in Calgary, and purchased my bag at their annual show. It’s just a simple but beautiful little bag.
I love that your bag is made by a local maker! It seems to make the creative journey that much more special when the tools and items you use are made by a fellow maker 😊
What are your all-star essentials? Your tried-and-true must-haves that you can never run out of?
Needles seem like an obvious answer! There is always a range of sizes because I need a few options. Appliqué needles for binding and needle-turn. Self-threading needles for burying threads from machine quilting. Embroidery needles for hand quilting with thicker thread.
Don’t forget about the little scissors. I’ve had them taken away twice – once while travelling in Australia and more recently when reporting for jury duty. Always check the rules! They don’t have to be fancy, just enough to cut thread. My latest replacement pair came from the dollar store.
Bleurgh, I’ve often wondered how some people manage to get their little scissors through airport security and others don’t ☹ How sad to have had yours confiscated before that loooong flight to Australia. I’m with you on stocking a variety of needle options in my sewing bag too. Although, I still need to get myself some self-threading ones – thanks for the reminder!
What is your favourite item in your kit? Why?
I don’t know about favourite, but it has come in handy more than once. I keep a few tampons in my sewing kit. You never know when you might need them! Especially as a perimenopausal woman.
Smart! I normally tuck those into the hidden zippered compartments in my purse but having an extra set in my sewing kit couldn’t hurt. I recently listened to We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle: Menopause: What We Deserve to Know with Dr. Jen Gunter and the lady mentioned not having had her period for over a year and was just about to take off on an overnight international flight when she got her period. Better to be over-prepared 😉
What’s one thing we’d be surprised to find in your bag?
I’m not headed to the post office – my least favourite errand – I use the packing tape for English Paper Piecing. I love the flat back method learned from Karen @theQuiltKitCo (formerly known as @thediyaddict) and tape is essential. As I have a long-term EPP project almost always in my bag, the roll of packing tape is always in there too.
Oh, I’ve seen Karen do the flat back method! I’ve tried it a few times, but I seem to have better success by clipping them together and whip-stitching them. Maybe I just need to whip out some packing tape!
QUILT KITS WILL TRAVEL
When do you find yourself using your kit the most? (Travelling, on the sofa, attending sew-ins?)
My sewing kit is a traveller. She is usually parked in my purse unless I am home finishing a quilt or watching F1. I used to do a lot of hand work when my kids were at activities, and it wasn’t feasible to drive home. So, I’ve stitched on pool decks and dance studios a lot! When Covid hit and we weren’t allowed to be in the facilities my hand sewing nearly disappeared, but I’ve been bringing it back. So now my EPP often happens while watching F1 on Sunday mornings.
That is so funny that you mentioned F1 (Formula 1 racing, in case you’re reading this wondering what we’re talking about!). My family was big into racing as my dad raced professionally for a few years. My uncle would come over on Sundays and we’d all watch the race together. I’m happy to hear that you’ve adjusted your EPP practice to align with watching F1!
What’s your favourite travel memory with your sewing bag?
I like to take her when we go camping. I will sit and stitch in the still mornings or when the kids are running through the forest. Hand sewing is such a reflective activity and doing it outdoors, especially surrounded by the trees and maybe with a view of the mountains, is second to none.
First off, I love your dedication to your morning makes practice. Sticking with it even while on the road camping is next-level commitment! I also get it as I’m 100% with you on how glorious it is to hand sew in nature. I especially love it when I can hear the birds chirping and flying around me while looking at the lake – total bliss!
WHERE CAN WE FIND YOU?
Tell people where we can find you?
I also have an online adventure called Quilters Playcation. Quilters’ Playcation is all about you taking the time for yourself, your craft, your hobby. We all deserve the time off or the time away. Playcation isn’t at the beach or a grand city, it’s in your sewing room, the corner of the bedroom, the dining table. www.quiltersplaycation.com
I love your Quilters Playcation, such a genius idea to allow quilters to connect with you and other sewers from the comfort of their own sewing room all while getting to dive into different quilting techniques. It’s like going to a virtual camp but for quilters!!
Anything else you’d like to share?
This year I’ve been running a free weekly sewalong on Instagram. The Quilters Playcation Adventure Sewalong is me giving you free tutorials for one improv block each week for all of 2022. I love bringing that spirit of play to everyone and we are seeing some incredible interpretations of the blocks. Everyone is making it their own, playing in a way that makes them happy. All the tutorials are saved so you can join at any time. For me, it’s been a fun way to play with teaching and presenting online, something I do a lot of now.
What a great way to encourage quilters to dive into improv, Cheryl!
Thank you so much for being a guest in the What’s in Your Sewing Bag? Series. As I suspected, you brought your own unique flair to the responses (hello tampons and packing tape!) and I just love how down-to-earth and encouraging you are. Thank you for always being so generous with your quilting knowledge. Keep it up, my friend!
For more What’s in Your Sewing Bag fun, check out these guests:
- Cheri from Tinkerellen
- Lisa from Sew Curated
- Tiffany from Village Bound Quilts
- Saija from Saija Elina
- Claire from Made Just Sew