Monday, 28 January 2013

Kathy K. Wylie

She is charming and down to earth, and can make you stop in your tracks when you see her quilts.   She won what some say, is the biggest quilting award in North America, and she is Canada's own quilting sensation.  It is my pleasure to introduce Kathy K. Wylie.

Please tell us a little about yourself outside of your quilting career.
I was born and raised in Ottawa, ON. After graduating from McGill University with a business degree, I moved to Toronto to begin a career in marketing with IBM Canada. Seven years later, I resigned to stay at home and raise my family. This was when I started quilting.
I now live in Whitby, ON with my husband and two sons (when they are home from university) and enjoy spending summers at our cottage in Muskoka.

You have won numerous awards, including one of the big ones at Houston, can you elaborate on your success as a quilter?
I entered my first quilting competition in 2002, the “Great Lakes, Great Quilts” Challenge. My quilt “Lake Ontario Fan” was accepted as one of 17 finalists and came in third place. As a result of going to see the exhibit in Houston, I saw the amazing work being done by quilters around the world and what I needed to do to make my work better.

"Instruments of Praise"

I continued to enter my work into a variety of competitions, learning more about my art and craft with each one. “Instruments of Praise” received the Bernina Machine Workmanship Award at the American Quilter’s Society show in Paducah and now resides in the U.S. National Quilt Museum. “Flourish on the Vine” was honoured with the International Quilt Association Founders’ Award last fall in Houston.

"Flourish on the Vine"

Kathy, you have one book published, did I read somewhere you have another one coming out?
My first book is called Sewflakes: Papercut Applique Quilts. It was published by C&T Publishing in 2008.
C&T is also publishing Pattern Packs for my quilts “Flourish on the Vine” and “Instruments of Praise”. Pattern Packs are an ideal format for an applique quilt. Inside the glossy 8 1/2” x 12” cardboard envelope are full-size pattern drawings and a 16-page colour instruction booklet. The pattern for "Flourish on the Vine" is out now and "Instruments of Praise" will be available next June.

Tell us a little about your work as a quilt author?  
Writing a quilting book was a dream of mine. I remember attending the professional development sessions at Quilt Canada 2004 to hear the sessions on publishing and pattern designing. I had an idea; I just had to figure out what to do about it.
I downloaded the submission guidelines from two or three publishers. I decided to start with C&T Publishing because of their excellent photography and the “look and feel” of their books. Carefully following the guidelines, I completed my proposal and submitted it in June 2006. The proposal included a questionnaire, sample chapter, sample project, plus two quilt samples. It wasn’t until November that I learned that C&T had accepted my proposal!

We agreed on a deadline of May 2007, which would mean the book would be released in May 2008. There were some intense moments, but the process went smoothly for the most part. I was in a good position since most, if not all, of the quilts were already completed so I wasn’t scrambling to finish quilts and a manuscript at the same time.
Editors are great and they make my work better. Still, it was sometimes a challenge to clearly communicate the changes/edits I wanted made. It was so much easier this last time around, now that technology offers so many more options!
Writing a book is very much like making a quilt. It is a creative challenge; there is a lot of editing and problem-solving required along the way; it takes time and energy; and the end result is extremely rewarding. 

Your quilts show a lot of hand appliqué work, is this a favourite technique? 
Yes, hand applique has really emerged as my signature technique. I have always liked hand work and now that I quilt exclusively by machine, I find my quiet meditative enjoyment in the applique. I also find that I have the most control and get the best results with needle-turn applique.

Your quilts have been related to passages/terms in the Bible, is that a source of inspiration for you?
Definitely! Thank you for asking. My faith and my relationship with God are very important to me. He has given me this gift of quilting and I want to use it to honour and glorify Him.

How do you go about designing/coming up with an idea of a quilt and getting that onto fabric?
There are three main tools I use for designing:
1. Computer - I find EQ Quilt Design software very helpful for auditioning layouts, border widths, even fabrics. Some quilts have been designed exclusively in EQ; others in part. But I find it indispensable! I also use CorelDraw software for drawing, editing clip art, or manipulating images/photos.
2. Paper and pencil (and eraser!) - Sometimes it’s still easier to do it by hand - especially the hand applique motifs. I often work in combination with the computer: scanning my hand drawings or tracing my computer printouts.
3. Design wall - Here is where the actual fabrics get placed into the design. It is risky business to rely on the computer screen for this - it has to be live. I might use EQ for colour schemes, but I still want to see the actual fabrics working together on the design wall before stitching them into the quilt.
Close up of "Flourish on the Vine"

What are some of your favourite aspects of quilting?
As long as I’m being creative, I’m not unhappy. I think my favourite times are quietly stitching my applique or machine quilting my quilt into life. But I receive great joy and energy from quilters at guild meetings and students in the classroom. The challenge is finding balance between the two!

How often do you get into your studio?
Not as often as I would like! (Doesn’t everyone say this?) My strategy this fall has been working really well: I have scheduled a minimum of one day per week as studio time on my calendar. I treat it as an appointment and won’t schedule anything else on those days if I can help it.
Hand applique doesn’t require studio time and I find I am able to get in a couple hours most evenings.

If you could describe your studio in a few sentences, what would you say?  
Well, I actually have two studios…
My home studio is a room in the basement. It has two tables in the middle of the room, surrounded by book shelves filled with fabric, books, thread, notions, and tools. It is a comfortable and efficient workspace - not always as tidy as I would like.
Home Studio

My cottage studio is new, so therefore blessedly uncluttered. It has three walls of windows and is filled with natural light. It looks out over the side yard and I can even see glimpses of the lake. I am still learning how to manage the back-and-forth, but I’m not complaining about finally having a dedicated space to create in the summer months!
Cottage Studio

What is your favourite food while quilting?
Um, there’s no food while quilting! a) I couldn’t possibly eat and stitch at the same time and b) I wouldn’t want to get my quilt dirty! I do like to have a bottle of water nearby.


  1. Jackie, Can you ask Kathy about the set up in her home studio. Kathy, I notice tht you have a table "setup" to hold your quilt while FMQ. Did you have that specially built to fit around your Bernina, or is this just a sort of "jerry rigged" piece that you did yourself?

  2. Hi Renate,
    Both actually! Specially built by my husband and son according to my specifications. :) You can read all about it on one of my blog posts at I have since replaced the blocks of wood under the second table with adjustable table legs from Ikea.