Up Close Quilting with Robbi Joy Eklow

July 5, 2012

For our next Up Close Quilting series feature we sat down with quilting artist Robbi Joy Eklow.

Robbi is a talented longarm quilter who travels the nation teaching classes on free-motion quilting, fused appliqué and fabric dyeing.

She has exhibited her work at Quilt Festival in both Houston and Chicago, Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival, Pacific International Quilt Festival, Quilt National and many other national quilt shows.


Q: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us, Robbi. What sparked your interest in



A: I started playing with fabric when I was in kindergarten and I’ve never stopped loving it. I like the way the fabric feels. The colors, the texture.

Q: What did the first quilt you made look like? Do you remember the colors and patterns?

A: I do! The first quilt I finished was a baby quilt for my son, Josh. It was a “Trip Around the World,” and I used strip piecing, which I tied with yarn. The fabrics were all pastels, but they had elephants and other tiny cartoons that babies would like.

Last time I saw it, the binding was all shredded and it was in bad shape. It had been well used by Josh and his sister, Sam!

Q: What is your all-time favorite quilt?

A: That’s a really hard question. I don’t actually have an all-time favorite quilt. If I named one, I’d immediately think of another one that I like just as much.

I’ll say instead, that Caryl Bryer Fallert, Judy Mathieson, Nancy Pearson, Ruth McDowell and Paula Nadelstern all made remarkable quilts, and I know my favorite would be one of theirs. But which one, I don’t know. I wouldn’t even want to pick one from each.

Q: You have an engineering degree from Purdue University. Does your engineering backgroundArt Deco Gearsfull factor into your quilting at all?

A: Yes, my quilts look very mechanical, and I use Adobe Illustrator to design them. I would use AutoCad if it wasn’t so expensive. Autocad is really for architects and engineers.

Q: You are known for your free-motion quilting, fused appliqué and fabric dyeing. How did you develop your personal sense of quilting style?

I developed my personal style by simply making quilts that I like and not letting anyone tell me what I am supposed to do. By doing so, I have a palette I tend to explore, and methods of developing designs.

I like to dye my own fabrics, because it’s fun, it’s not expensive, and if I want purple, I can have a big chunk of it. Also, sometimes it’s faster to dye than to get dressed and go shopping.

I like to fuse my quilts, because I enjoy the immediacy of cutting out a shape and ironing it down. And I love free motion quilting because it’s like doodling on fabric, or dancing with thread.

Q:You travel the country teaching people about quilting. What is the most important thing people should keep in mind as new quilters?

A: I think the most important thing to remember is that there really are no official rules, no matter what anyone says. You should make whatever you think would make you happy and ignore anything that does not make you happy.

Mistakes in quilting do not tend to injure anyone or have permanent consequences. It’s an art form, not brain surgery.

Q: Do you have any tips for people who are about to purchase their own machine? What are the Fantasy Flowersmost important things to consider?

The most important thing people should ask themselves is if the results of the quilts look the way you want them to? Also, they should consider the proximity of the dealer, in case repairs are needed. If you like to be in charge of your machine, you should also determine if your dealer gives you the help you need to fix things yourself.

Q:What made you want to purchase an APQS longarm quilting machine?

A: I needed a machine that would give me the same density of quilting that I could get on my domestic machine. My Millennium can do that.

I didn’t want to use giant needles, as my quilts are fused so the holes are more visible. Jim Langland, one of the owners of APQS, said he’d work with me to use smaller needles, and together we were able to do that.

I was also happy with the way I could control the machine. All of the other brands started too fast for me and when I tried them at quilt shows, I ended up breaking threads instead of getting any quilting done.

I’ve been very happy with the Millennium, it has been very reliable and easy to maintain, it uses the threads I want to use, and it works smoothly.

Q: If you had to describe your quilts in one word, what would it be?

A: Saturated with color! Ok, that’s three words. One word: contemporary.