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Interview with Jessica Skultety – Modern Quilt Instructor at the Quilt & Sewing Fest of New Jersey

The Quilt & Sewing Fest of New Jersey, held at the Garden Statejessica-skultety-head-shot Exhibit Center March 2 – 5, 2017, welcomes new instructor, Jessica Skultety. Jessica , local to northwestern New Jersey, is a teacher, lecturer, pattern designer and writer.  The former President of the Central New Jersey Modern Quilt Guild,  Jessica is a self-taught quilter whose quilts have been displayed in several national shows.  She will be teaching two workshops at The Quilt & Sewing Fest of New Jersey and will also have a one woman show of her works. Check our website for more information: Jessica Skultety’s Workshops.

We recently interviewed Jessica to get the inside story on how she started quilting and what inspires her.

How did you start quilting?

I have always been crafty, and I learned how to sew during high school in a required home economics class. A couple of years later, I decided to make a quilt out of all of my t-shirts instead of sending it out to be made with money I did not have. So, I borrowed my future mother-in-law’s sewing machine and I was quickly bitten by the quilting bug. I’m mostly self-taught from Google and blogs.

What are your favorite techniques? 

skultetywonkybI’m an obsessive domestic machine quilter. In six years, I’ve never sent a quilt out to be quilted; I revel in the chance to try new motifs and challenges. Now, I have the opportunity to teach free motion quilting, which is such an honor. I coined a name for my favorite piecing technique: brick-by-brick improvisation. I’ll be teaching this technique in the Orange Peels and Improv class at the Quilt Fest.


Why modern quilting?

Sometimes I’m a modern quilter and sometimes I’m not. My work sways towards modern quilting because of two reasons: bright, bold colors (that I love) and improvisation. Otherwise, I often tweak traditional blocks to create something new as a modern traditional quilter. I also found such a wonderful, accepting, talented bunch of quilters in the Central Jersey Modern Quilt Guild that meets in Pennington, NJ.

What do you look for in fabric?

I look mostly for tone-on-tone, like-solid, or two-color fabrics that will complement my fabric stash. Since I tend to make a lot of scrap and improvisational quilts, I use a lot of these fabrics. For me, it’s all about blending a bunch of fabrics to create color! My solid fabric stash has grown enormously over the past couple of years, too; there’s something about using solids among prints. I’ve started making all-solid quilts too.

What is your teaching style?

As a trained K-12 teacher, I’m formulaic but always ready to skultetyorangebimprovise. Also, I am always focused on fun. If you aren’t having fun sewing, why are you doing it, anyway? Students walk away with adding several new techniques to their belts and many tell me they feel relaxed afterwards. I aim to be approachable and relatable, because I also learned these techniques at some point, too! Finally, I open conversation and invite class members to share their own techniques, as I’m always learning, too! It creates a better experience for everyone. Meanwhile, I can go to my next class and share everything I’ve learned so that those students can decide what works best for them.

Memorable moments so far in your teaching career?

This is a silly one, but I’ll never forget when the ladies from a guild in Pine Bush, NY brought a whole bowl of Reese’s peanut butter cups to class, just because I had mentioned them on my blog! (P.S. Jessica loves Reese’s!)

What are your biggest challenges in your artwork?

My biggest and most exciting challenge is the actual quilting. I don’t like to make “easy” quilts – and if it’s quite easy to piece, I love creating a challenge with the quilting. My goal is always to a) add a new, unique layer to the final quilt and b) to have fun. If I know the quilt would look great with just straight lines, I think, okay, that will be tedious to quilt – how can I mix it up?

In addition, since I do all of my quilting on my domestic machine (a Janome Memory Craft 6300 named Elsa), the size of the quilt often adds to the challenge. On my blog, I’ve documented all kinds of ways I’ve accommodated quilts in my space (like this post, Top Ten Tips: Quilting Large Quilts on Your Home Machine).

What is the biggest accomplishment you’ve achieved so far?

My quilt, Home, was included as part of the Modern Quilt Guild’s exhibit at International Quilt Festival in 2015. It also went on to QuiltCon and PNQE, where it won a theme ribbon. My upcoming individual special exhibit at the Quilt and Sewing Fest of NJ is high up on the list, too.

How do you see your art progressing in the next five years? 

What a great question. Honestly, I only have a notion (no pun
intended). My work has changed so much from when I started 6 img_20160826_112057years ago. At first, I used lots of patterns; now I make up my own (for the most part). I used to favor large print, multicolored fabrics; now, not so much (though I love piecing them together on the back). Right now, I’m especially passionate about quilting words on quilts (like this quilt, which is based on a quote from the musical Hamilton). I plan to continue this exploration.

Also, I recently discovered an excitement for sashiko and hand stitching. I’ve just begun to accentuate my dense machine quilting with hand stitching. In fact, I have to give credit to Susan of Easy Piecing, who vends at your shows!

How does quilting make you feel?  What emotions come out of creating something beautiful?

Quilting is often therapeutic. In the past, I’ve used it to center myself in stressful situations. I’ve also recently quilted to express sadness and anger. I try to sew happiness to send to family and friends who are going through rough times. Whenever I create a quilt purely for the sake of making, the feeling can only be described as “joy.”

What do you think about being a young quilter in what is predominately an older woman’s art world?

It’s definitely a humbling place to be. I work with women who have been quilting for 20, 30, 40 or more years. They have so much knowledge to share. It excites me to think of how many quilts I might make throughout my life, since I started so young and make so much. I have the benefit of learning from others while crafting my own modern spin on techniques. My goal is to bring more young quilters into the fold, which I’ve already begun to do.

What do you do when you are not quilting or educating?

I work in a public school and tutor sewing privately. Otherwise, I love to read, watch Outlander, Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who and Parks and Recreation, and work out (my favorites are Zumba and spin classes). My husband and I also consider ourselves pizza connoisseurs, so there’s that.

You write as well – what made you start a blog?

When I started my blog, Quilty Habit, in 2010, it was right after I began quilting. I had already written two other blogs mostly for family and friends. Plus, I learned how to quilt from the internet (thank you Google and blog tutorials), and I dearly wanted to join the developing online community. Blogging is still a huge part of the quilting process for me; it’s not the same as writing a short caption on a finished quilt photo. I always tell people that my blog is my home base, despite how active I am on Instagram. I delve deep into the quilt process for the benefit of readers (and for myself – I look back at my writing all the time for help!). I tell the stories of my quilts and encourage others to do the same. If we don’t tell them, who will?

Now that you’re intrigued, check out Jessica’s Quilt & Sewing Fest of New Jersey workshops: Jessica Skultety’s Workshops.