Collaborating with Quilter Gail Stepanek

In the November/December 2017 issue, Jan Hutchinson shares with you her tips and secrets on “Collaborative Quilting”.  Today, we caught up with Gail Stepanek, Jan’s long time collaborator and the  creator of the intricate quilt tops that Jan so masterfully quilts.

How long have you been sewing?  When did you make your first quilt?

I started sewing when I was in high school when making your own clothing was cheaper than buying them.  My mother was a great seamstress which came in handy with three girls in the family.  After a very long period of doing other art work (crocheting, knitting, cross stitch, flower arranging, crewel, etc) I made my first quilt in the early 1980’s and was immediately hooked. That reminds me, I hooked rugs, too.  Ha ha!

How did you think about collaborating with another quilter to quilt your tops for you?

I was a hand quilter but when I started doing more complicated piecing, I knew that quilting them by hand wasn’t an option.  Large quilts, a lack of desire to tackle them on my domestic, a lack of talent for quilting designs, and wrist surgery all led me to looking for a longarm quilter.

Do you design your quilts around how you think Jan will be quilting them?

I don’t design quilts to match Jan’s quilting.  It’s the other way around.  She has to figure out what to do with the tops I send her.  As I progress, I send her pictures so by the time she receives the quilt she has a good idea as to how she’s going to quilt it.  She has an amazing talent that I lack.

What advice do you have for finding a quilter to collaborate with?

Quilting for show and collaborating is a whole different ball game to a longarmer.  More time, more thread and a chance that their efforts won’t be rewarded at shows.  I can’t tell you how many well known quilters turned me down because of their busy schedule of paying customers or their unwillingness to take a chance.  Look for someone whose quilting style fits your type of quilt.  Check her out on the Internet. Has she won any awards?.  Will she be able to fit your quilts into her schedule?

When you find someone willing to collaborate on quilts, go over all the details of working together.  Who pays for entry fees, shipping, and all things that go into the quilt making.  What happens when the quilt wins a cash prize?  Who owns the quilt?   How soon will the quilt be quilted?   What happens if the quilt wins a major prize in Paducah? (Something we never thought of in our initial agreement!)

Thanks Gail! To see more of Jan and Gail’s collaborations, and to read Jan’s side of the story, be sure to check out the “Collaborative Quilting” article in the November/December 2017 issue!

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