Up Close Quilting with Claudia Pfeil
This year, the APQS Up Close Quilting series highlights APQS Quilt Artists who are also successful APQS dealers. These individuals are not only talented quilters in their own right, but have also established successful quilting businesses and dealerships.
Our final dealer of the year, Claudia Pfeil, became the first European APQS dealer in 2005. She owns Quilt & Co and runs the entire European APQS showroom in Krefeld, Germany. She’s been sewing and piecing since she was a teen, and soon after learning about longarm quilting, she became “addicted” to the craft. Thanks for talking with us Claudia!
Were there certain people in your life that introduced you to it, or did you just stumbled across it?
I was young when I started piecing – only 19 years old. I went to a creative show, and I saw a lady piecing. I was curious, so I told her, “Hey, that’s cool; what are you doing? Teach me please!”
Europe doesn’t have a rich history of patchwork or quilting, so we weren’t able to learn those skills from our mothers or grandmothers. So instead, I took a class.
What did the first quilt you made look like? Do you remember the colors and patterns?
I still have it and love it. And I still laugh about this quilt because everything I could do wrong, I did wrong. On the first quilt I made, the binding was awful. The colors were light blue and cream. There were limited fabric choices then, we didn’t have patchwork and all the basic techniques we use today, we didn’t know them. It was quite a challenge.
When did you purchase your first APQS longarm quilting machine?
I bought my first longarm machine, the Millennium, eight years ago, in 2005.
How long were you a quilter before you became a dealer? What prompted this move?
It was eight years ago in France when I met the APQS team at a quilting show. I was working at the booth next to the APQS booth. They had a longarm machine set up, and it was like a magnet pulling me, every day, every second, from the booth where I was supposed to be working. That was my beginning with longarm machines.
Then, Jim Langland, one of the owners of APQS, asked me, “What do you think about longarm quilting in Europe?” There was no other longarm company in Europe at this time, and I said if you want to do it, do it right away because people are getting more interested in quilting and piecing, and we need a longarm industry here. So APQS started the longarm industry here with me. I became the APQS rep, and my life completely changed.
How has your background in textile design and development impacted your quilting?
I went to a local university, studied textiles, and got more and more experience with weaving, doing embroidery with color, learning about color choices, and much more.
Then when my first son was born, I couldn’t work anymore, so I went to my local sewing shop to see what I could do while he was sleeping. They gave me a ruler, I bought it, went home and I was addicted to piecing again. Pretty soon I was teaching piecing classes at the sewing shop.
You’re known for your love of opulent quilting, such as using up to 50,000 Swarovski crystals in quilt designs. What attracts you to this style of quilting?
I am an opulent person. My whole life is about playing and decorating – it’s not very structured. My quilts are always growing and changing when I’m working on them.
I can compare it to shopping. I don’t go into town just to buy one t-shirt; I go in for a bunch of t-shirts. I can’t restrict myself, so when I have an idea; I continue and continue as it gets more and more opulent. It’s the same with crystals. I start with setting one crystal, and then I will find out on the next step, I have to add another crystal, so I have to repeat it.
What is it like running the entire APQS showroom in Krefeld, Germany? What have you enjoyed about it?
First of all, I enjoy using the APQS machines and feeling responsible for my 130 customers, who are not only German, but from all over Europe. I love teaching at the APQS showroom three times a year. There are open houses where I am teaching or I invite American teachers, so the open houses are an opportunity for our European customers to learn more.
Once a year we also have APQS technical support visit our store, which is a great benefit for my customers. This is tremendous commitment from APQS. No other company is doing that.
What is the most important thing people should keep in mind as new quilters?
I like to encourage people to be free on the longarm. There are no rules, really. If I would just tell them, they wouldn’t believe me. After taking the classes many students say, “Now I feel like I can do that and feel free to do that.” I’m teaching them, in little steps, to become free.
What is it like being a longarm quilter in Europe?
At the APQS European base we feel like a family. If I didn’t have a good team in the shop, I wouldn’t be able to do all the things I am doing right now. They take care of my shop while I am working for APQS and while I am teaching in the U.S., and for that I am very grateful.
Everything on a longarm is trial and error. To be successful in the states makes me proud as a European. It’s pretty cool.