Carol Doak has been a quilter for 17 years, and a teacher of
quilting for nearly as long. She has authored eight books on
quilting, and has gained a national reputation as an effective
and entertaining teacher. She has of late become something of a
guru in the very popular paper foundation piecing technique.
"I became involved in paper piecing by virtue of several
coincidental events," Carol says. "I had just visited a
quilt guild on Cape Cod to present workshops and they were having
several small pineapple block rubber stamps made for foundation
piecing on muslin. I placed an order for one. When my stamp
arrived in the mail, I stamped my muslin square and made my first
foundation block. When I completed the block, I was pleased with
the precision. But as a hand quilter, I felt I had just made a
pot holder because I would never quilt through that extra layer.
"At about the same time, I was searching for a topic for
my next, 'Tricks of the Trade' column in 'Quick
& Easy Quilting' magazine. I drew a few simple trees, a
house and a boat using straight seam sequenced design lines on
graph paper and explained foundation piecing on paper so that it
could be removed. I experimented with sewing machine needle size
and stitch length so the paper could be removed easily. The focus
of the article was 'Traveling Down a New Path.' I wrote that if
you approached patchwork in a different way you might discover
new avenues that you would not have discovered using your routine
method." One of the results of this curiosity about the
technique is Carol's four books from That Patchwork Place,"Easy
Machine Paper Piecing," "Easy
Paper-Pieced Keepsake Quilts," "Easy
Mix & Match Paper Piecing", and "Show
Me How to Paper Piece."
Asked to comment on the current craze among quilters for
foundation piecing, Carol observed "I think the popularity
of paper-pieced designs comes from two avenues. Many of the
designs are different from traditional block designs offering
exciting new opportunities; it is also a vehicle to create
intricate or small designs that you would not attempt using
traditional piecing methods. The second reason is that paper
piecing is a method rather than an acquired skill. Both a
beginner quilter and a veteran quilter can produce accurate
patchwork blocks right from the start. As a teacher, it is such a
fun technique to teach because the end result for the student, no
matter what their quilt experience level, is super."
Although she is an experimenter and innovator, Carol's
foundation is in traditional quilts. She has a particular affinity for
medallion style quilts. "I love medallion style quilts
because of the impact of the central focus and the variety and
opportunities offered in the borders. Although I have made
applique quilts, I guess I prefer to piece quilts and often add
just a touch of applique.
"Except for an occasional small project, I hand quilt all
my quilts and consider the hand quilting designs to be just as
important as the patchwork aspect. I believe the texture and
design opportunities of quilting are an important part of a quilt
and they are often considered during the design process. My
primary quilting style is founded in traditional quilts but I
enjoy making variations or new twists on these designs. I really
enjoy secondary designs, unexpected surprises and a bit of
non-conformity. I guess that means there is a bit of the rebel in
me. I love it when a quilt makes me smile because it looks
complex but is really simple, because it says something of value,
because it expresses how I felt at that time, or just because it
Asked about the origins of her interest in quilting, Carol
says it rather took her by surprise. "My introduction to
patchwork began when our family moved from Connecticut to
Worthington, Ohio in 1979. I was invited to sign up for an Adult
Education Basic Quilting class by a new friend and neighbor. At
first I resisted (I really didn't like to sew!), but I finally
gave in and went because I thought it might be a good opportunity
to meet some new friends."
There is a quilting tradition in Carol's family, but you have
to go back a few generations to find it. "My mom has never
quilted. She once asked me how come I waited until I left home to
become so talented and accomplish so much. But, her grandmother
made patchwork quilts. My mom inherited a few quilt tops from her
and I quilted them for her right after I began quilting. It was
almost eerie as I worked on those patched scrap quilts. I noticed
bits of fabric that were patched carefully so the stripes matched
in order to make a piece large enough for a small 2" square.
Although I never had the opportunity to know my great
grandmother, I felt a sense of kinship and understanding as I
worked on her tops."
Carol's teaching career began at almost the same time as her
interest in quilting. "Believe it or not, I was asked to
teach the class I took the following year. I fell in love with
patchwork designs immediately and couldn't get enough of it.
"Fortunately for me, the class I took gave me a good
foundation in patchwork design and empowered me to do anything I
wanted. I wanted to share my excitement with others and empower
them to express themselves. I had never been a 'stand up in front
of others and talk' type of person, so they only way I felt
comfortable was to do my homework and be prepared for class.
"I was always searching for an easier way to approach
some aspect of quilting or teach it to others. I loved coming up
with 'Tricks of the Trade." I'm sure that my investment in
being prepared to teach others provided me with quite a bit more
knowledge and experience more quickly than if I had been quilting
for my own satisfaction. I soon discovered that I loved teaching
others and watching them grow in their quilting."
Carol's career as a writer came along a little later, but also
had its origins in her early quilting experiences. "My
writing began with a request by a quilt magazine editor to write
a few articles about quilting. To me, that was just another way
to share my enthusiasm and teach others.
"My first book, 'Quiltmaker's Guide: Basics & Beyond,'
was really the result of students repeatedly suggesting that I
should write a book. I heard that comment so frequently, that I
finally decided that there was value in at least writing down
this information I had been teaching in my classes. I don't
believe I sincerely thought it would ever be published as a book
as I never considered myself an author. The book proposal was
accepted and published by The American
Quilter's Society. What I wasn't prepared for when the book
was published and I returned to teach my next Basic Quilting
Class, was the repeated question, 'Is that in the book?' My book
gave students a sense of confidence to know that this information
they had just been presented was written down with illustrations
in a book they would have as a reference."
Carol has now published multiple books through That
Patchwork Place, and I asked her to talk a little about
the process of putting together a quilting book. "Well,
first you have to have an idea or concept that you are really
excited about and committed to," she said. "It is sort
of akin to selecting that wonderful fabric that you are going to
cut up into thousands of little pieces and spend the next few
years sewing back together again in a wonderful patchwork design.
You are going to be working with, dissecting and handling it a
lot, so you better be committed to it.
"Once you have a concept, it needs to be developed
through examples, a book outline, sample writing style and
directions and proposed to a publisher. I usually begin with the
quilt designs and write the directions. I make the quilts from
the directions to proof them and to make sure they are clear. I
am a visual learner so I rely on lots of illustrations. For me,
writing the text for books is easy. I just sit down with an
outline so my concepts are organized and let my fingers do the
talking on the keyboard. I tend to write just like I talk. My
friends and workshop students have told me often, "I can
just hear you say that". Next I work on drawing the
illustrations and [extensive proofreading] getting the manuscript
ready to send to the publisher.
"The time this all takes varies from book to book and
from publisher to publisher. My first book took me two years to
write and about a year and a half to publish. Some of my
subsequent books were written in 6 months and published in 9
"Once the manuscript, illustrations, directions and
projects are completed, it is sent off to the publisher. You will
receive page proofs back, (usually several times), so you can
proofread again. Once the text, illustrations and photos have
been integrated and proofed, it goes off to the printer for the
birth of your book.
"Just like with any project, there are frustrations and
joys. The frustrations come when you are sure you have proofread
something accurately and on the next reading you find an error
that you need to correct. (I'm convinced sometimes they are
invisible seeds and then they just sprout!) Again, kind of like
birth . . . you don't quite remember these labor pains once the
book is published.
"The joys come when you receive personable thank you
letters, pictures of quilts and e-mail from readers who are
enjoying your designs and books or you watch a student take what
you have presented and make it their own with a sense of
satisfaction and accomplishment."
Speaking of e-mail, Carol is an active participant in the
Sewing and Quilting Forum on CompuServe and has a website at http://quilt.com/Artists/CarolDoak/CarolDoak.html.
She became acquainted with the online world as so many others
have, through a free
software disk from America Online. "In traveling around
the country, I had been hearing more and more about 'on-line
quilt guilds.' My husband's new computer came equipped with a
modem and the ability to sign on AOL. Being the curious type, I
asked him to find the Quilt Forum for me so I could explore this
high tech quilt world.
"My initial impression was that this was just like a
quilt guild but comprised of quilters from all over the U.S.
There was lots of sharing going on. I enjoyed reading what was
going on across the country and the ability to receive and
respond to e-mail from friends and new friends was fun. Since
that time, the explosion of quilt-related pages on the World Wide
Web and other avenues has been just amazing and wonderful.
Personally, I think today's quilters are adapting and using these
high tech tools to do what they did during the quilting bees . .
. communicate, inspire, share and provide fellowship. I use my
computer to communicate with quilters all over the world."
Carol also uses quilt design software (primarily Electric Quilt)
to assist her in all of her quilt-related activities.
Like so many traveling, teaching, writing quilters, Carol
credits her family for indispensable support. "My children
have grown up with their mom being a quilter. That means you
don't walk around in your bare feet in our house! Today quilting
is a full time (and then some) job for me, but when my two sons
were younger, I taught locally during the winter months and sort
of took the summers off. As they grew and became more
independent, I became more involved and began to travel more.
"I can remember when I was knee-deep in my first book, my
youngest son would call to me upstairs where I was working on the
manuscript and ask, 'Is this a make-your-own-dinner night?' My
frequent affirmative replies resulted in his being a very good
cook. Now, when he returns home from college, I ask him, 'What's
for dinner honey? Actually, I do get quite a bit of support and
understanding from the three men in my life. My husband has a
good grasp of computers and has been extremely supportive. Last
Christmas he surprised me with a scanner. My thank you went
something like this: 'I know I'm going to love it when I figure
out how it works!'
Figuring out how it works has been the hallmark of Carol
Doak's career as a quilter as she has not only taught herself to
be a quilter, teacher, and writer, but has taken the art of
quilting beyond the old techniques and approaches into new
Carol Doak's books on foundation paper piecing are available
at a discount from Planet Patchwork in association with
Amazon.com. Click here for
more information on Carol's popular books!