Then & Now: Becoming a Modern Quilt Teacher with Katie Pedersen

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For this Then and Now Feature, we spotlight Seattle MQG Founder Katie Pedersen. This modern quilting teacher shares her love for the craft and how it’s graphic aesthetic initially grabbed her interest. 

 

How/why did you become a modern quilter?

I didn’t start out thinking “I want to be a modern quilter,” I just found a lot of joy in creating and gifting quilts. Now, when a person asks what I do for a living, I enjoy guessing what their response will be when I say I am a ‘Modern Quilting Teacher.’ There are generally two camps: what I call ‘eyes glazed over look,’ or an inquiry of genuine interest of what modern quilting is because they or someone in their lives loves or loved quilting.

 

I didn’t get to modern quilting fully by accident, there was a lot of hard work. My story includes a love affair with improvisational techniques, which in turn led me to filling a niche teaching in my local quilt shops, starting my blog SEW KATIE DID, a book collaboration with Jacquie Gering, and opening my Seattle quilting & sewing studio. Writing Quilting Modern: Techniques and Projects for Improvisational Quilts with Jacquie was instrumental in how I look at making and designing quilts. I tease Jacquie she was the best (and only) blind date I’ve ever had since she was so integral in helping me see beyond an ‘expected’ design. Like everything, developing my aesthetic has been a process, and with practice I’ve found myself drawn more to what I’d consider modern graphic designs, shapes and my own style. Teaching keeps me surrounded with all types of quilters, their different perspectives on designing with the techniques, and their own evolving take on what modern quilting is.

Seattle Modern Quilt Guild's First Board of Directors.

Why did you decide to start your own chapter of the Modern Quilt Guild?

Well, I certainly didn’t do it alone. In the beginning I was surrounded by a group of women that pooled and shared their knowledge and skills beyond quilting. Together we did exhibits, organized the first PNW Meet Up with Portland and Vancouver, and continued to outgrow our sew-in spaces. We decided as a group it was time to formalize as a non-profit mostly to fund sew-ins. I believe Seattle was one of the first to go through the non-profit filing process. As I was looking through the photos for this article, I was reminded of how quilting brought so many close friends into my tribe and that I have some nostalgia for what was. Seattle MQG has 160 members now with a board and members that go far beyond anything I did in keeping members active within the guild and the community. Many of the original members went on to form MQGs in their own communities.

We have 160 members so it's hard to get everyone together, but here's a photo from fall 2019. Photo taken by Matt Macomb.

What’s your favorite part about being a part of the MQG?

I wish I could spend more time with the Seattle Guild members, especially at their retreats and sew-ins, but life doesn’t allow for that at the moment. I’ve enjoyed watching the artistic growth of a growing number of members from afar on social media. However, hands down my favorite part of the MQG, is QuiltCon’s exhibit. If you know me, you know it doesn’t hurt that the event lands on National Margarita Day either, but seriously, seeing modern quilting’s development over the years at these shows, and particular artists I admire grow into their own style, is so inspiring. I think the bar has been seriously raised when it comes to quilting with this show and I can’t wait to see this coming year’s exhibit.

Skewed Symmetry by Katie Pedersen. Photo by Lauren Hunt

How has modern quilting and the MQG impacted your life?

I’m grateful quilting has provided me with a low-stress career that allows me to funnel my creativity, travel or work at home, and hang out with people that want to learn. As a bonus, we get to make something not only beautiful, but useful. Though I grew up around quilting, and admired traditional quilts, it wasn’t what I ever envisioned creating. Modern quilting’s graphic aesthetic grabbed my interest and the rest is history. While I know there will always be people interested in learning the art, I feel the MQG and our local MQGs have helped to reach a widening audience and build a community of individuals wanting to explore quilting with a fresh perspective too. As a teacher, author, and studio owner, this outreach has guided my career in helping students and guilds that are thirsty to learn a new technique, and share the fun and pride of creating something by hand.