Nancy Purvis seems like a busy lady. She’s a quilter, quilt designer, Etsy shop owner, blogger at Owen’s Olivia, and the author of the forthcoming book Quilting from Every Angle. Her quilts look amazingly intricate and complex, but I’m guessing (and we’ll see when the book comes out) that they’re just really well designed. Not surprisingly, I love Nancy’s modern-traditionalist aesthetic; she has a knack for making traditional shapes and styles look fresh and new. But she’s also got some mean improv talent, which makes her that much more interesting.
Thankfully, Nancy agreed to come on Right Sides Together to explain her work and approach. Here’s what makes her tick!
Who has been your biggest influence in quilting?
I would have to credit Danny Heyen of the blog Mommy For Reals. She was the one who introduced me to quilting, and we became good friends through that. If it were not for her, I am not sure when I would have gotten involved with this thing called quilting.
You have such a varied aesthetic! Do you prefer traditional piecing or improv?
I really appreciate those who hone their skills in one particular style, but I find it to be too restrictive for me. I think I have ADD for quilting; I have a hard time focusing and finishing through one project at a time, and I find working on two completely different styles during any given time to be therapeutic. I really love clean lines and structured designs, but if I ever feel the need to explore the unknown, I love branching out to improvisational piecing. I really love both equally as much. Is that possible? I know you cannot serve two masters, but they both challenge me in good ways. Each have their own unique advantages.
Where do you find inspiration for your quilt designs, and by what process do they finally reach your sewing table?
I find inspiration in a lot places and things, which I talk about in my book, Quilting from Every Angle. I really love graphic design, so I pull a lot of inspiration from that. I usually sketch out my designs on paper to get my thoughts out. Up until recently, I would go straight to cutting fabric after sketching. Just these past few months, I have been learning Illustrator, so now I will sketch my drawings there and add the fabrics I am thinking about using. But I do not always do this. Using a digital medium is great, and I am happy that I have taught myself how to use it, but I think I will always sketch first simply because I love working with pencil and paper. I feel really connected to the designs when I do this.
Besides your sewing machine, what other quilting tool is absolutely invaluable to you?
There are so many that I absolutely love! I use Elmer’s glue a lot, which replaces pinning for me. I recently learned about hooch spray, which has been awesome. It’s a 50/50 mix of cheap 80 proof vodka and water. It gets blocks so flat, but does not offer any body to the fabric like starch does.
If you could give advice to someone just starting out in sewing or quilting, what would it be?
Please do not get hung up on other people’s opinions so much that it stops you from being who you want to be a as a maker. If it makes you happy, do it. Oh, and just start. Just start. Everyone starts at the beginning.
What project (either in progress or completed) are you most proud of?
I have one black and white HST project that is my absolute favorite! It is also the one project that I have not found the time to quilt yet. It will get done though, and soon! I really let go in that project, and I ignored about every quilting rule out there. Over the course of my few short years in quilting, I have allowed myself to build up these quilting ideals, these rights and wrongs, these “rules” that have been vomited on me ever since I was a beginner quilter. Of course, this is all subjective and self-induced. I let all those go and embraced the joy of making, and because of that I love the quilt so much. I think that if some people could let go and not be so critical of their work (I’m guilty), others will recognize that joy from within and possibly will want to experience that joy for themselves. It helps people, in my opinion, to see exactly why we as quilters love the tedious process of making. We can exude that pride, and others can see it. It is a quilt that I will cherish for a very long time.