May I introduce Martha Wolf? Sometimes (and the older you get, the faster you know), you meet people and know instantly that you’ll stay in contact; even if you don’t see each other in ages, you stay somehow close. That’s what it is like with Martha. She lives in Texas, one of those states I haven’t been able to visit (yet!), and we haven’t managed to meet somewhere else ever since.
But still – and I guess social media changed our lives substantially – it feels like Martha was right around the corner. And actually, she’s just one email away.
I met Martha in September 2016 in Chicago. Another wonderful souvenir from a fantastic event (that I will write about, I will).
At said conference in Chicago, she said she’d speak German. I smiled friendly, because mostly, that means that someone took a couple of years of German at high school. And knowing how hard it is to learn a quirky language like mine, I usually don’t expect a lot. But to my surprise, Martha DOES speak German! That’s because her father was born near Zweibrücken, and his job as an American scientist brought them to Karlsruhe. So, Martha lived and went to school in Germany when she was little, and all of her father’s family is still there. In 2019, we almost met in Frankfurt, I think we missed each other by hours.
HOW, WHEN AND WHY DID YOU START QUILTING OR SEWING?
I started sewing when I was 4. My sister started at 2 because she would sit still when holding a needle, but at 2 I was still running around like a crazy person so my mother waited til I was 4. By 8 I was making my own clothes. We didn’t have a lot of money and back then sewing clothes was much cheaper than buying them new, and my mother couldn’t sew for all of us, so my sister and I both made a lot of our own clothes. I made my first quilt in High School and loved it. I didn’t make another one until 1989, but once I started again I haven’t stoppe
And the sixty four thousand dollar question: Modern, traditional, contemporary, art quilting: what does spark true joy? And why?
I tend to be a traditional quilter. I am not a fan of modern art so it doesn’t surprise me that I prefer traditional quilt patterns. I am an engineer so I like repeating patterns that are more regular than a lot of the modern quilting. I find a lot of peace in quilts with the same shape over and over.
Let’s get personal: Who is you, Martha? Tell us a bit about you. What should we definitively know about you? Do you have a day job? Will you reveal your best cherished quirk or your most beloved pet peeve?
By day I am a network engineer. I have multiple engineering degrees and started on my PhD but never finished. The rest of the time I am a quilter and knitter. I will skip housework and go for needlework every single time but as I get older I’m getting better about keeping up with my chores.
What do you do when you’re not quilting? How does a perfect Martha-day look like?
Well this is two different things. A perfect Martha day is all day in my studio until I’m too tired to think. LOL. When I’m not quilting, I’m working first, then I live on little farm so there’s chores outside to do and stuff to keep up with around the house. I sew or knit every single day of my life. Some days it’s just hand sewing sitting in my big chair after a long day at work, other days, it’s up at 6 and in the studio by 7:30 and ready to spend the whole day in there.
Back to quilting: What do you like best of the quilting process?
I am a piecer at heart. I quilt to finish things. I bind so that it doesn’t ravel in the washer. I hate cutting but I love sewing, so I put up with the cutting to get to where I can sew things.
Would you show us your favorite quilt?
My favorite quilt is just a bunch of large pinwheels. A group of friends swapped 5” squares. I pieced them into 8” pinwheel blocks and put them all together. I love that I see secondary patterns in that quilt since there is no sashing separating the pinwheels and I love that I see my friends in every piece of that quilt. There are actually a couple of glow in the dark fabrics and I laugh every time I turn the light out and I see one of those pieces.
How do you beat creative blocks?
I find the best way to get over a block is to do. I will go in my room and just start to sew on something. Anything. When I do that, my mind relaxes and I slowly start to come up with ideas. Sometimes this takes hours, sometimes it takes days but I always break through that way.
Do you share your coolest trick, best practice, lesson learned – quilt related or not?
I think my best trick is that I wind my piecing bobbins 12 at a time. When a bobbin runs out I don’t want to have to stop to wind a new one, so I always have a box of full bobbins next to the machine ready to go.
Are you member of a quilt guild? If so, what would you tell someone who does not even know guilds?
I am a member of 4 guilds. I enjoy the companionship of people who have a similar hobby but very diverse backgrounds. I always get inspiration from seeing what other people are working on, and when I get stuck, I always have a good 15 or 20 opinions on how to fix my problem which is helpful. I have a group now who sew together every Saturday on Zoom. We love hanging out and we all sew and show what we are doing and chat. It’s wonderful.
Why do you quilt? Can you explain the magic of quilts?
I am a frustrated artist. I cannot draw at all but I love color, so quilting lets me create with color in a way that I have some decent skills. The practical side of me loves that I can create art but that it also serves a purpose in my house to keep me warm. I like to decorate with quilts too, I love having something that I created on display in my home.