In this interview, we speak with Alice Ikenberry, a quilter from Washington State known for her intricate hand work and fondness for fussy cutting which is on full display on her Instagram page: View Alice on Instagram @homewithalice.
By Karen Tripp, TheDIYAddict
My name is Alice Ikenberry. I grew up in a small farm town in Iowa and have lived in southeastern Washington for over 30 years. I’m an United States Air Force veteran. I managed an Environmental organization for a National Laboratory, and retired 10 years ago.
I have a BS in Environmental Studies and a MA in Organizational Leadership. I was an avid mountaineer for many years where I did everything from sleeping while hanging from ropes on a vast rock wall to sleeping in snow caves (ok, very little sleeping actually occurred).
After a lifetime of travel for both business and pleasure, I am very happy to be mostly at home now after retiring 10 years ago. Hence my Instagram name, @homewithalice.
How long have you been quilting and who taught you?
I guess, technically, I’ve been quilting since I was 8 years old. That was when my grandmother taught me to hand piece a small block while on my summer visit to their farm in Afton, Iowa. Later, my other grandmother would take me to her quilting bees in the basement of her Cromwell, Iowa church. The ladies would let me hand quilt with them, and I’m pretty sure my stitches were removed later. I only became obsessively active in quilting after I retired 10 years ago.
Do you gift most of your quilts or hang on to them?
I did make quilts while still working for my family and gave them all away usually for special occasions. Now, I have found that I’m keeping most the quilts I make because I just can’t seem to part with them.
Is there a quilt on your bed? What does it look like?
I do have a quilt on my bed, but it is folded at the end of the bed. It’s called La Tarantella by Willyne Hammerstein. And there is one on my guest bed as well, an oversized La Passicaglia, again by Willyne Hammerstein and the fabrics are mostly Tula Pink. I have a few quilts hung around the house, but most are either on ladders or folded on a bench. We live in an old traditional house which we’ve completely renovated. My entire house is done in neutrals specifically so I can decorate with any quilts I want to add.
What five tools or notions are your favorite?
My favorite tools and notions are glue sticks (these things changed my English Paper Piecing (EPP) for life, a stiletto for removing papers, a mini iron and wool pressing mat which is on a table by my sewing machine, and a design wall. The only thread I use for hand sewing and appliqué is Wonderfil, Invisafil cottonized poly, 100wt.
What techniques do you love? What techniques would you like to try or get better at?
There are 2 quilt designers I’d love to take classes from. Willyne Hammerstein and Jen Kingwell. I’d like to learn how to better hand stitch quilts and learn about their fabric placements.
What do you do for inspiration ? Do you see a fabric and expand on that?
I find inspiration for my quilts through many ways. I used to make them based upon one I saw and really liked. Then I would go find fabrics as close to what the maker used as possible.
Now for my inspiration, it most often comes directly from a fabric and fabric lines. When I see something I like, I buy it, mostly without any real plan for using it. When I’m ready to begin a new quilt, I search my stash, find a few that will work, then I purchase more as I go.
As far as which patterns I want to make, I am inspired daily through my Instagram (IG). The IG quilting community is absolutely the most wonderful group I’ve ever been a part of. With each quilt, I try to make it completely different from any I’ve made. Even with similar patterns, I change up the fabric and color choices. This keeps me interested and excited about each new one. I find inspiration for my quilts through many ways. I used to make them based upon one I saw and really liked. Then I would go find fabrics as close to what the maker used as possible.
What techniques do you love?
For the past 3 years, I’ve been completely immersed with EPP and have completed 10 quilts. I love the precision that EPP results in and the intricate designs that are possible with it. The more tiny pieces, the better.
What techniques would you like to try or get better at?
I would like to improve on my running stitch so I can make hand stitched quilts as well. I also have a sit down long arm machine that I need to use more.
Why do you think you quilt?
People ask me why I quilt so much. Well, there isn’t just one answer. First, I just simply adore quilts and want to be surrounded by them. Second, it makes me so happy to be carrying on a very old tradition from my family. And thirdly, I love making them. It is my true passion and a real obsession. I do sew many hours most days, but sometimes I just let my projects sit for a while. I really have to be focused on what I’m doing and when I find myself making mistakes, I just put them down. Then I’ll be found in the kitchen doing my second love, cooking.
When you bind a quilt are you hand or machine?
My quilts are always bound by hand. In fact, hand sewing on the binding is my favorite part of quilting. I think it is because it’s the very last step and I know I’ll have a finished quilt very soon.
Do you tend to work with the same color palette?
I always used to struggle with fabrics and colors. This past year, I seem to have developed my confidence enough that I am now able to step out of that box, and design my own themes. I’m not sure when that happened but am glad it has. I feel so much more liberated. Now, to make it clear, I do not design patterns. And it’s pretty clear to me that I won’t be doing that in the future. I’m just so very thankful for all the amazing designers out there who create beautiful patterns.
How would you describe you style of quilting?
My style of quilting used to be very traditional in both design and fabrics. These past few years I’ve been overwhelmed with so many new fabrics and patterns. If I had to choose a style it would most likely be modern. But the patterns I love the most still have an old world style. I love the mix.
What is the one quilt that you want to make but haven't? Why?
The one quilt that I can’t get out of my head is Edyta Sitar’s, Star Upon Stars. I have the pattern, the reproduction Dutch Heritage fabrics and the stamp set. I also just purchased the templates for making this quilt using EPP. I would like to hand stitch it, but if I can get the papers made, I’ll most likely do that.
How do you stay organized?
I’m a fairly organized person, but when I’m in the middle of a quilt, you’d never know that. Since I make scrap quilts, my studio is an absolute mess as one is in progress I also don’t enjoy folding and organizing my fabrics. I’d rather be making something. I am so fortunate have a wonderful daughter who folds and organizes everything for me as I finish a quilt. A favorite thing for me is to walk into a tidy studio to begin a new one.
Do you enter your quilts in shows for competition?
This last year I entered some of my quilts into shows. I hadn’t ever thought to do that but friends encouraged me so I did. I have been amazed to win numerous ribbons and even have one of them accepted into the Road To California quilt show. I never expected to win anything, but it sure does make me happy (and pleasantly surprised) that others like my work.
Where do you see the quilting world going in the future?
I look at the quilting world today and am amazed at where it has gone, just in my lifetime. When I first began down this path, there were so few fabric and design options. Today, it is such a vibrant and creative world and I’m so proud to be part of it. We have designers who appeal to the new quilters with simple and basic patterns which result in more people being able to make a quilt. And, an astounding number of people designing detailed patterns and fabrics. I always say, every quilt is beautiful.
Thank you so much Alice for the insightful interview. Always a joy to see how other quilters work :)
Follow Alice on her instagram @homewithalice for daily English Paper Piecing inspiration.
The Swinging Old Lady Pattern can be found in Millefiori Quilts 4 by Willyne Hammerstein and Alice's Swinging Old Lady Quilt Kit can be found by clicking the below link: