In the Spotlight: Lori Phillips and Kerry Dwyer

 

Terry Skrabanek, the owner of Lone Star Quiltworks, recently published the class offerings starting in January 2022.    Once again Terry has outdone herself in getting some of the most talented, creative, and patient teachers to teach a wide variety of courses at the shop. This month in our spotlight will be the two amazing gals who teach the Machine Embroidery classes the shop offers, Lori Phillips and Kerry Dwyer.

Interview with Lori Phillips

Tell me a little about yourself, your family, your hobbies, your creative background.  How did you get started sewing/quilting?  How old were you when you made your first quilt?

Lori:  I am the youngest of 5 children and have been married for 36 years.  My husband and I have 6 children and 3 grandchildren.  I started sewing somewhere around 8 years old, making doll clothes by hand with a needle and thread.  It wasn't until I was 10 that my mother taught me to use her Singer Featherweight.  I started making clothing and crafts.  I made my first quilt around junior high school, cutting squares from whatever scraps my mother would give me.  I used scissors and a sandpaper template, then tied it after it was sewn.  Eventually, each of my 3 sisters received one of these "lovely" quilts and for some reason my brother got a crocheted afghan.

I've also tried my hand at most crafts. In college I picked up cross stitching and took a job at the local cross stitch store. I still enjoy cross stitching to this day.  I really didn't get serious about quilting until 1993 when we moved back to College Station.  I took a few classes and joined the Block of the Month club at Hancock Fabrics and found that I really enjoyed it.

We left College Station in 2006 and it took us 10 years to get back here in 2016.  On that journey I worked for two different quilt stores and met some amazing people who fed my love for quilting and introduced me to machine embroidery.  I feel so fortunate to have found yet another quilt store with amazing people who continue to push me to do more.

Who taught you to quilt?

Lori:  I joined a Block of the Month (BOM) Club at Hancock Fabrics Fabric Store.  It was one of those clubs in which you pay so much to get the first block then if you bring it back the next week done you get the next one for free.  I did a couple of these before I started doing BOM’s at other stores as well and took some classes.

What is your favorite sewing tool/notion?

Lori:  There are so many depending on the job at hand.  But I love Wonder Clips.  They can be used for so many things.  I have even used them for chip clips and to hang stockings at Christmas when we didn't have a mantle.  Ran a wire between two nails in the brick fireplace and used the Wonder Clips to hold the stockings.

What is your favorite quilt block? 

Lori:  The one that I finish, and it looks good and comes out the correct size!

What is your favorite color? 

Lori:  Blue.  And I really like it mixed with yellow.

Any advice for quilters?

Lori:  Take a class, you will always learn something new!  Be patient and don't beat yourself up if it isn't perfect the first time.  Try new things.

Do you belong to a quilters' guild or club? If so, for how long? What groups?

Lori:  I joined the Boho Heart Club recently at Lone Star Quiltworks and it is WAY out of the box for me.

What got you interested in Machine embroidery?

Lori:  My husband thought I needed an embroidery machine so that I could do some things for him.  That led to me getting digitizing software because I wasn't able to just push a button and do a design he wanted.  Which also led to my first job at a quilt store where I met some very enthusiastic machine embroiderers, and they wore off on me.

What do you like best about Machine embroidery?

Lori: I enjoy doing In the Hoop projects and applique.  I never could get my stitches around my applique to look good until I started with machine embroidery.  And it is so mesmerizing to just sit and watch the designs stitch out.

Many folks are under the impression that machine embroidery is just the stitching that happens at the machine.  For example, you take a small piece of fabric that is hooped, you load the thread, push a few buttons and voila a design magically appears.  All the focus is on the machine stitching and the rest of the process is ignored.  What should folks interested in machine embroidery know about the process?

Lori:  It is addicting.  The cheapest part is the machine!  There are so many digitizers and designs out there that you can pretty much find anything you want unless you need a special logo and there are people who will digitize those for you as well.  Designs range in price as well.  When you look at the cost of a set, you have to take into consideration how many files do you really get for your money.  Each of those files had to be digitized by someone.   And digitizing a good design is NOT just the push of a button.  I have tried.  And failed.  Those designs take time.  So, when you are thinking about that $50 set with 25 designs in it remember that is only $2 per design and someone spent hours designing, digitizing, and testing.

For someone new to machine embroidery, what essential tools should they acquire?

Lori:  The biggest hoop you can afford because you will outgrow the machine faster than you think.  You need stabilizers, embroidery thread, various scissors for different jobs but most important a good pair of curved scissors.  And so many more you will find you need along the way.

How do you learn which stabilizers to use with what projects?

Lori:  I was fortunate to work with someone who had years of experience and who is still teaching me today.  Take classes, ask others, try different ones and find the one that works best for you.

What are your favorite things to embroider?

Lori:  Gifts for friends and family.  There are so many options and ideas out there to choose from.

What do you wish someone had told you when you first started with machine embroidery?

Lori:  To find a wealthy uncle to leave me his fortune to support my habit.

Is there a particular thread you like to use?

Lori: Polyester because it is strong and doesn't run or fade like Rayon.

What is your favorite machine embroidery tool or accessory?

Lori:  Definitely a good pair of curved scissors!  I have multiple types for different jobs.

You and Kerry teach the embroidery club each month.    What is your teaching style? Memorable moments so far in your teaching career?

Lori:  I prefer hands on, in person.  But as everyone knows we have had to adapt this past year and a half and do things virtually.  Now we are doing hybrid classes.  Our students are so patient, and understanding, with us that it has made it easy.  Memorable moments...helping the students learn new things and understand their machines better so that they can be successful.  Many laughs and aha moments.

Any advice for machine embroiderers?

Lori:  Learn the word "NO".  When people find out you have an embroidery machine they ask if you can do something quick for them.  Remember, it is not just pushing a button.  And it is not just a little fabric and thread, even if they provide the item to embroider on.  There is stabilizer and time involved.

 


 Interview with Kerry Dwyer 

Tell me a little about yourself, your family, your hobbies, your creative background. 

Kerry:  I grew up in upstate New York and first came to Texas to go to college at Sam Houston State.  After living in Tennessee and South Carolina, I came back to Texas to be near my only son and many of my nine brothers and sisters.

 I guess I got what creativity I have from my grandmother and my mother.  My grandmother did all sorts of needlework including weaving, tatting, knitting, crochet, etc.  My mother did a good bit of sewing and knitting.  My paternal grandmother was a quilter and made many quilts for her 11 children.


How did you get started sewing/quilting? 

Kerry:  I got started sewing when I was about 10 years old.  My family moved into an old farmhouse and a treadle machine had been left in the garage.  About the same time, I joined 4H and one of our projects was to make an apron.  My mother wouldn’t let me use her Singer machine until I learned how to “stitch” lines on a piece of paper with the treadle machine.

How old were you when you made your first quilt? 

Kerry:  I was about 31 when I made my first actual pieced quilt.  A friend and I were both pregnant at the same time and we each wanted to make a baby quilt.  We took a class together and made a small sampler quilt.  I didn’t get back to quilting until much later when I took another sampler class.

Who taught you to quilt? 

Kerry:  I can’t say that any one person taught me to quilt.  I have taken many classes both here in Texas and in South Carolina.  My sister Peggy, and the dear friend of a friend of mine, Martha Kraft were the two people who inspired me to learn to quilt.

What is your favorite sewing tool/notion?

Kerry:  My favorite sewing tool or notion I guess would be my sewing/embroidery machine.

What is your favorite quilt block?

Kerry:  I don’t really have a favorite quilt block, although I really like log cabin blocks.  They are very versatile.

What is your favorite color?

Kerry:  Again, I don’t have a favorite color.  When I first started collecting fabric, I was drawn to bright colors and designs.  As I have aged, I find more muted colors and designs appearing in my stash.

Any advice for quilters?

Kerry:  My advice to new quilters would be to buy the best machines and tools that you can afford.  It will really pay off in the long run.  Also, I would advise quilters to take classes and never stop learning.

Do you belong to a quilters' guild or club? If so, for how long? What groups?

Kerry:  I belong to the Brazos Bluebonnet Quilt Guild, and I joined when I first moved to Bryan in 2006. I belonged to the Cobblestone Quilt Guild in Charleston, South Carolina before that.

What got you interested in Machine embroidery? 

Kerry:  I got interested in Machine Embroidery back in 2008.  My niece and I bought matching sewing machines, but she bought the embroidery unit with hers.  A group of friends decided to do a pizza box quilt block exchange, and one of the members had cats as her theme.  I knew that our machines had an embroidery design with cat’s eyes, so I borrowed my niece’s embroidery unit and figured out how to use it.  The rest, as they say, is history.

What do you like best about Machine embroidery?  

Kerry:  I love the versatility of machine embroidery.  You can do so many things, from fine lace to putting in a zipper.  The possibilities are endless.  

Many folks are under the illusion that machine embroidery is just the
stitching that happens at the machine.  For example, you take a small
piece of fabric that is hooped, you load the thread, push a few
buttons, and voila a design magically appears.  All the focus is on
the machine stitching, and the rest of the process is ignored.  What
should folks interested in machine embroidery know about the process?
 

Kerry:  When I first started machine embroidery, I was fascinated with how the machine knew what stitches to make, and what part of the design to do next.  I took a few classes in digitizing designs and at the least the concept of how the digitizing works.  I have also learned a good deal about stabilizers, threads, and how to hoop and stitch on various fabrics.

For someone new to machine embroidery, what essential tools should they acquire? 

Kerry:  The very first thing a newbie to machine embroidery should acquire is a good machine.  Purchase a name brand machine with the largest hoop that you can afford.  I have seen several friends buy machines that only used a 4x4 or a 5x7 hoop and they soon realized that they wanted to stitch out larger designs.  I would say get a machine that will hold a 6x10 inch hoop, if possible.  Also, purchase your machine from a reputable dealer that will offer classes on how to use it.  Stabilizers are also an important part of machine embroidery.  They can help make your projects look professional.

How do you learn which stabilizers to use with what projects? 

Kerry:  Your local quilt shop should be able to help you select stabilizers for your projects.  Sometimes your local quilt shop with have classes or workshops dealing with stabilizers and you can also check YouTube for help.

What are your favorite things to embroider?

Kerry:  I enjoy making quilts with machine embroidery. 


What do you wish someone had told you when you first started with
machine embroidery? 

Kerry:  I wish someone had told me how addictive Machine Embroidery is. No, really, I wish I had been told how much you can do with your embroidery machine.  I am learning new techniques all the time. 

Is there a particular thread you like to use?

Kerry:   I mainly use polyester thread, especially Exquisite brand that is sold at Lone Star Quiltworks.

What is your favorite machine embroidery tool or accessory? 

Kerry:  There are way too many tools and accessories to name a favorite.

You and Lori teach the embroidery club each month.    What is your
teaching style? Memorable moments so far in your teaching career?
  

Kerry:  Since we have been doing the Kimberbell projects in Embroidery Club, their instructions are so well written and illustrated that I am really just a guide on the side.  I am there to answer questions and help with machine problems, etc.  This is especially true since we have begun doing Zoom classes.

Any advice for machine embroiderers? 

Kerry:  My advice for anyone interested in Machine Embroidery is to give it a try.  Ask your local quilt store to give you a demo and to let you try your hand at it.  Also, when purchasing a machine buy the one with the largest hoop that you can afford.  You will soon find that you want to embroider larger designs.

Summary

Takeaways:  purchase a machine with the largest hoop you can afford, buy local, try something new, take classes to learn new techniques, and never stop learning.

Lori and Kerry teach the Machine Embroidery classes at Lone Star Quiltworks on the 4th Sunday of each month from noon until 3 PM or the 4th Monday of each month from 9 AM until noon.  These classes are offered both in person in the shop or virtually via Zoom.  You can sign up for these classes online or in the shop.  Once the class is paid for, you will receive your class supply list. 

Check out the website for more information on all the classes that are offered at Lone Star Quiltworks!