Up Close Quilting with Marilyn Badger

July 5, 2012

We sat down with Marilyn Badger, a renowned quilting artist and teacher who has appeared on more than 50 PBS quilting shows with Fons and Porter and whose work has been featured in countless magazines.

Q: Thank you for joining us, Marilyn. Has quilting always been in your blood? How did you get started?

A: I think I made my first quilt in 1978. Hartley (Marilyn’s husband) and I lived on our boat in Marina Del Rey, CA, and I decided hand piecing a quilt was something I could do that didn’t require a lot of room and equipment.

I made a king-size Lone Star quilt not realizing it was probably one of the most difficult designs to accomplish, especially in the days when there were no rotary cutters, rulers or mats. Every piece had to be cut out individually, marked and sewed by hand.

Q: Why do you like to quilt? What are the things that keep you coming back for more?

A: Quilting is very good therapy. There’s always something new to try that keeps the interest level up. I love color and interesting designs – I’m not just in it for quilting. That’s why I enjoy working with Claudia Myers so much – she comes up with fabulous designs using wonderful color and fabric choices. It has always been my belief when a quilt calls for one fabric of a certain color, the quilt is going to be much more interesting if you use 20 or 30 different fabrics in that color.

Q: How did you transition from a hobby quilter to someone who quilts professionally?

A: I purchased my APQS quilting machine, the Ultimate I, in 1990, in order to start a business to help out with property taxes and provide a little money to support my fabric habit after my retirement. We had built our home on the North Umpqua River, and I needed something to do that was creative and where I could work in our home in relative solitude, since we lived 15 miles from town. Longarm quilting fit that bill to a tee.

Q: What tips do you have for people who are just getting started in quilting?

A: Be prepared to dedicate yourself to it. No one is going to start off being a terrific quilter – you have to practice. It is definitely not something that is automatic. Take classes with an open mind and work toward developing your own style.

Q: Many people feel overwhelmed by the large market for quilting tools. What are your must-have tools and why?

A: My most important tools, aside from the Freedom, are my Micro-Drive, Hartley Fence circle maker, base expander and various guides.

Without the base expander and Micro-Drive, I could not do the work I do today. My circle maker has been an important tool since 1996, when it first became available. I use it as much today as I did in 1996, and there aren’t any other accessories that have withstood that test of time.

 Q: You have demonstrated your quilting techniques on more than 50 PBS shows. How did you get into television?

A: In 1996, Jeff Jochims, the former owner of APQS, asked me to appear on a television series he was sponsoring featuring “two up-and-coming quilters by the name of Fons and Porter.” I think we all had a connection from that very first taping.

This September will be my 14th year. We’ve never covered the same topic twice so I guess that relates back to the question about what keeps me coming back for more – it’s never boring and things are changing every year.

Q: You taught longarm classes for many years all around the U.S., Canada, Australia and Japan. What did those experiences teach you about quilting across the world?

A: I had a terrific career teaching around the globe. I must give a huge thank you to APQS for sending me to Japan six times – those were the most memorable trips of all.

It doesn’t matter what country you’re in, quilters are the same – we all have that bond between us – we all speak the language of quilting no matter what nationality we are. I made some great friends along the way and enjoy seeing them at various quilt shows around the country.

Learn more about Marilyn’s favorite APQS Tool: Bliss

Bliss – It’s the only word we could find that could possibly describe that “floating on air” feeling you’ll get when you quilt with our exclusive new drive system.

The Bliss Drive System dramatically reduces friction and increases ease of movement. Combine this with an APQS Millennium or Freedom sewing head handcrafted from aircraft aluminum, and you’ll feel like you’re gliding across your quilt effortlessly.