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Bethany S. Reynolds
Bethany S. Reynolds' new book from American Quilters' Society, "Magic Stack-n-Whack Quilts," has been a hot item on the quilting best-seller lists. At one point earlier this year, the book ranked as the third best selling title in Amazon Books' immense inventory. That's quite an accomplishment for any book, but particularly one for a niche market. The book continues to rank in Amazon's top 2,000 best sellers.
The premise of the book is that kaleidoscope quilts, infamous for their difficulty and the precision required, can be made by faster and easier methods than traditional template piecing. Bethany developed a technique for rotary cutting stacks of fabric in a certain way to create stunning designs almost magically.
How did this amazing phenomenon come to be? Bethany says it was because she was all wet: "Don't laugh . . . I come up with most of my creative ideas and solutions in the shower! Once the initial idea of stacking repeats and cutting all the necessary pieces had been worked out, the task was to come up with good designs to use with the technique. I eliminated a lot of possible designs because I felt the blocks were too tedious to piece, or would take so many identical repeats that the fabric requirements would be huge. The other important challenge was figuring yardages and cutting directions, since fabric repeat lengths vary so much. It's no coincidence that each design in the book has a certain number of blocks; it was important to make sure quilters would get enough blocks out of the stack for the project, regardless of their fabric choice."
Bethany's exploration of the mysteries of kaleidoscopes began with a general interest in pattern and design. "I love pattern and graphic design, whether in new quilts or antique ones. Long before I tried quilting, I did some silk screening and block printing - anything to put a pattern in repeat! Fortunately, quilting is less messy. And of course I get inspiration from fabrics. Certain fabrics make me want to race to my sewing room!
"I got started quilting because I had a fabric store and wanted to offer classes. There is a quilting tradition in my family, too. I have a '30s quilt made by my father's grandmother, and several nineteenth century quilts and tops from my mother's side. My prize possession is a doll quilt made by my great-grandmother in the 1870's, with big childish quilt stitches, but pieced with some of the tiniest scraps I've seen."
The designs of Bethany's quilts are not limited to kaleidoscopes. "I like a lot of contrast in my work," she says. "Sometimes that means light/dark contrast, other times it's color contrast, but one way or another, it has to have some 'punch' to make me happy! I make many types of quilts besides Stack-n-Whack designs, including paper pieced and conventionally pieced designs and machine applique. Using a variety of techniques and designs helps keep my creative spirit fresh. Often what I learn will carry over to the next project, even if the style or technique is very different.
"When it comes to techniques, I'm mostly self-taught. I've taken classes with many teachers, and learned something from each one - about teaching as well as quiltmaking. Dot Krueger of Plymouth, MA gets a big 'thanks' for getting me started doing free motion quilting."
Asked about computers, Bethany says she uses hers in her design work, but doesn't use a quilt design program. "I use my Mac for all my design work. I work in Macromedia FreeHand. It's a very powerful graphics and layout program. It would be overkill for a lot of quilters, and it doesn't have the special features some of the quilt software has, like figuring yardage. But I'm able to do very detailed illustrations for my patterns and books, and can combine the text and graphics more easily than I could with the quilt programs."
As for the internet, Bethany is also active there. "I subscribe to QuiltBee, and check regularly at a lot of quilt sites. Keeping in touch with other quilters on-line has been a lot of fun and very helpful to me. I often test new projects using on-line 'quilt lab rats.' The Internet is revolutionizing quilting - not to mention human communications!" Bethany has recently established her own website at the World Wide Quilting Page, at http://ttsw.com/Artists/BethanyReynolds/BethanyReynolds.html You can see more pictures of her quilts and read about the various workshops she teaches.
For future endeavors, Bethany has a few things in mind: "I'm currently working on a new book for AQS, though it probably won't be released until Spring 2000. It features LeMoyne Star variations with interchangeable settings - sort of a 'Chinese take-out' approach. Some of the designs involve paper piecing, and there are no set-in seams in sight! I'm teaching workshops in these designs now, and they've been very well received by quilters who love this traditional block, but not the traditional way of piecing it! And yes, there will probably be a sequel to 'Magic Stack-n-Whack' down the road. I'm storing up design ideas for that!"
You can read a review of Bethany's "Magic Stack-n-Whack Quilts" at http://planetpatchwork.com/bookbriefs3.htm and you can purchase a copy at a 20% discount through the Planet Patchwork Quilters' Bookstore at: