The Internet and a love of scraps brought bloggers Amanda Jean Nyberg and Cheryl Arkison together. Those same two things enabled and inspired them to co-write the book Sunday Morning Quilts; over the many months it took to complete the volume, they met face-to-face only once, and not until the book was well underway.
“It never felt funny to be in different locations,” says Amanda Jean. “That’s just how our relationship was.”
The women first “met” when they read one another’s blogs, left comments, and wrote emails — Amanda Jean blogs at Crazy Mom Quilts in Wisconsin, Cheryl at Dining Room Empire in Calgary, Alberta. In the process they shared thoughts on parenting young children and balancing family obligations with the yen to create.
“Eventually we decided to ‘take our relationship to the next level’ and talk on the phone” says Cheryl wryly. “It was a little nerve-wracking, but from the very first moment it felt comfortable. I laid across my bed like I was a teenager.”
Through their communiqués, they uncovered a mutual obsession with scrap quilting. Both women dislike wasting the inevitable bits and bobs that result from cutting and piecing a quilt.
“I love the frugal nature of quilting, of using it all,” says Amanda Jean. “It goes to the heart of traditional quilting, women making something beautiful and functional out of what they have. Being frugal is in my nature, and it’s also a creative challenge.”
Cheryl, who spent years in corporate and nonprofit positions working on climate change issues, says her interest in sustainability dovetails with her love of using scraps. “I couldn’t throw little pieces away because I couldn’t justify the waste,” she says. “Amanda Jean inspired me to think about more ways to use them.”
About six months after that first conversation, they started talking about working on a book together. The resulting volume, Sunday Morning Quilts, features patterns for cozy, modern scrap quilts. But the heart of the book lies in its subtitle: “Sort, Store, and Use Every Last Bit of Your Treasured Fabrics.” They offer multiple ideas for dealing with the inevitable snippets of fabric that result from quilt and sewing projects. Their organizational suggestions make it possible to actually use scraps, rather than being overwhelmed by a jumble of ragged strips.
“There’s so much potential in scraps,” says Amanda Jean. “We’re really passionate about getting people excited about them, rather than dreading them. You buy fabric because you love it, you pay $10 for a yard for it, and you should use it all.”
Using it all also makes a quilt personal. Cheryl notes it’s a point of pride that it’s impossible to take one of their patterns, walk into a fabric shop, and say “I want to make a quilt exactly like this.”
“The use of scraps and our slab technique means that no two quilts will be alike,” says Cheryl. “It’s about going forward and tackling your scraps so they’ll be your quilt, your way.”
In putting the book together, Cheryl and Amanda Jean each made some quilts their own way. “But it’s not like we retreated into our own bubbles,” says Cheryl. “There were some quilts each of us was passionate about, but on others there was lots of back and forthing.” Skype, email, and the occasional phone call provided the means to collaborate. When the projects and quilt samples were complete, the women finally met.
“We thought we’d get together to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on the manuscript,” says Cheryl. “We had a very intense week at Amanda Jean’s house.”
Though they’ve only met face-to-face one time since — at International Quilt Market last May where they pitched their book to shop owners — the relationship is still going strong.
“It’s a risk taking on a huge project that your heart and soul goes into,” says Amanda Jean. “It was easier to collaborate than I’d expected, and that was a fabulous surprise.”
“It worked well and we’re still friends, probably better friends now,” says Cheryl. “Every time we talk about quilts we get off on a tangent about kids or family or something and then ‘Oh, yeah, we need to talk about the book.’ It’s hard working with other people — sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. We worked.”
Amanda Jean and Cheryl are available to teach classes and share their quilts as a trunk show. For more information, visit Crazy Mom Quilts or Cheryl’s website. To download a short tutorial from Sunday Morning Quilts on how to knit a fabric mat, click here.