The Quilt Quine

Linzi Upton in Houston

As a child I loved fabric and haberdashery shops. The sounds of ripping fabric and the sight of the enormous scissors were so exciting. My mother did a lot of dressmaking and tried to encourage me to follow suit but I never seemed to be able to understand the instructions.

I did a lot of sewing as a student to disguise the grotty décor. Lumpy foam cushions were covered in Liberty prints and a bath that lacked a panel wore a made to measure gingham skirt. This was mostly done by hand; I only knew about running stitch and slip stitch.

I had always been fascinated by patchwork and after a visit to the American Museum in Bath, I bought a book on folk quilts. I had a go without really reading the instructions. I was a bit discouraged that the pieces that were perfectly triangular when cut out with scissors did not match up with the other pieces and they certainly did not have any points.

My first quilts were made from a metre of print on the front, fuzzy polyester wadding and a piece of fabric on the back. The edges of the back got folded over the front, sewn down and that was it!

I made some quite big curtains once I bought a basic sewing machine from the Co-Op so had another go at patchwork using squares and strips. These looked more like proper quilts and even had packaged bias binding attached. The pieces still did not really line up nicely and attempts at quilting always meant battling with bulky layers and large puckers seemed unavoidable.

I constructed a few other strange items without patterns. Gym bags, baby bibs with sleeves, dressing-up cloaks, coffee pot covers and a fleece fisherman’s smock. I had a brief encounter with craft fairs, making tablecloths and cushions with a great friend, Mo, who makes wonderful soft furnishings. We found it very difficult to make a profit but had great fun!

I finally burnt out my basic sewing machine and then came the turning point. My husband bought me a new Husqvarna sewing machine from a proper sewing machine shop. It came with manuals and lessons. I realised that I could go on courses and buy lots of books. Finally I joined a class and decided to tackle a real quilt pattern with stars.

I learned how to use a rotary cutter, bought a quarter inch foot, and learned about correct pressing. Then I bought more books and gadgets and a walking foot. I soon started to churn out large bed quilts.

I got a job as the Nursery School cleaning lady to pay for an embroidery machine, even more books, fabric, fancy threads, an embellisher, classes and a laptop. I made all sorts of things from notebook covers to journal quilts.

Next I wanted to try free motion quilting and loved it BUT realised that it is very hard work. I researched quilting frames and bought one. It was not easy – but great! I joined internet discussion forums to figure out how to stop the thread and needles from breaking and soon I found that people wanted me to do some quilting for them. I discovered that patchworkers love to piece but many hate to wrestle with the quilting. My smallish domestic frame soon proved to be rather limiting for custom work so I set my sights on a big American set-up.

I took over a large part of the garage, persuaded my husband that it was a worthwhile investment and took delivery of the APQS Millennium on a 14ft. frame in 2007. After the dealers drive off you realise that the rest is up to you. It’s down to practice, experimenting and chatting with other quilters on the internet for inspiration.

I entered a couple of British shows and was encouraged by the judges’ comments but wanted to produce work like the amazingly talented American longarm quilters.

As a 40th birthday treat in 2008 I went on a trip to Paducah in Kentucky, USA which was fantastic. I did some classes, went to the AQS show and Quilt Museum, scrutinising every single quilt for ideas. I also met fabulous quilters!

My greatest quilting thrill came in May 2008 when I received a ‘phone call from the judges of the Loch Lomond Quilt Show. I could not believe the news that “Silent Movie Star” was the winner of the Open Competition.

In 2009 “Enlightenment” was selected to represent QGBI Region 16 Scotland for a touring exhibition entitled “Pearls of Wisdom”, “Smashing Crockery” toured with a blue & white quilt collection in Hungary, “Botannica Kentuckii” appeared at Paducah in their 25th anniversary year, “Bewitched” was shown at OEQC in Veldhoven NL. 

In 2010 “Linzi in the Sky with Diamondz” was shown at “Road to California” and received a judge’s choice award at MQX in Rhode Island. I went on another adventure in the USA and had a great time in New York. The Quilted Yurt was completed and launched at the Loch Lomond Quilt Show. I was featured in British “Patchwork & Quilting Magazine” and “Popular Patchwork”

My future plans include running frame quilting tuition weekends, teaching & lecturing to quilt groups in the UK and abroad and writing a book about the amazing experience of creating the Quilted Yurt...

The Quilted Yurt USA was exhibited at AQS Des Moines and the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts in 2011. An unusual commission from BMW resulted in the production of a full-sized Smart Car cover made from cast-off celebrity clothing.

An experiment with metallic lamé fabrics in 2012 led to creating the Norse Ostrych Series and Odin’s Trilogy which won a prize for Merit Machine Quilting at IQA Houston in 2012.

More 3D projects were created in 2013 including The Coracle, a wicker boat covered in spandex and chamois leather, and the first 3 Totems for a seasonal Celtic stone circle installation. Nine further totems, featuring improvised patchwork and beaded, quilted leather were made over the next couple of years along with customer quilts plus another trip to Paducah and Nashville in the USA.

2016 was a busy year - I became the Bernina UK longarm ambassador and made a prize-winning quilt, Tartan Tattoo which was successful in the UK, The Netherlands and won the World Quilt Show’s Best in Country award. A hidden quilt called Purdah, revealed in layers and a curtain made from washable sanitary pads, entitled Touch the Pickle were exhibited at Festival of Quilts, UK.

Another Norse inspired quilt, Shield Maiden - made from linen and a woad dyed shawl followed in 2017 then I completed a coloured wholecloth quilt that had been marked out some time before. Beelzebub won the contemporary quilts category at FOQ then went on to be juried into MQX, AQS shows in Lancaster, Grand Rapids, Daytona Beach, Paducah and IQA Houston.

I travelled extensively both teaching and for fun in 2017 to Russia, USA, Germany twice, and France. Every now and then I would have a go at dress-making, usually still finding myself flummoxed by the most straightforward of projects, and displaying my attempts on the Daphne the Dummy because the garments suited her more than me.

The trip to St Isaac’s cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia inspired a quilt called Iconoclast, based on the colours of malachite, lapis lazuli and small pieces of amber. I ironically entered a quilt about Domestic servants into the elusive and elite FOQ Fine Art Quilt Masters 2018 and it was accepted. It was made from scruffy antique table linen, quilted over top clothes lines and a slideshow was projected onto it.

I celebrated my 50th birthday in 2018 by embarking on a textile tour to India led by Pam Holland where I encountered vibrant colour, texture and had the most amazing experience which I hope will inspire me to continue experimenting with a variety of fabrics, quilting motifs, printing, dyeing and embellishments.

Ten years on from becoming The Quilt Quine I am still writing a weekly blog, have started filming daily vlogs of 30 seconds or less, still having too many ideas at once to ever make all of the projects that I consider. I love to teach,  write, design, meet other textile fanatics and travel as much as possible!



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