Take one math whiz with a passion for color, design and a modern take on quilting. Add fabric and a handy pair of CraftOptics and watch the fun begin! Meet this month’s creator, Elizabeth Ray.
I love how tactile quilting is—touching the fabric, cutting the pieces, sewing them together. That you actually get to interface with your medium. As a math major, I love playing with the geometric elements of design. I like the shapes and lines and fitting everything together. I also enjoy the interplay of colors.
When I’m in the process of creating, it’s very peaceful, almost meditative. I don’t usually play music or listen to a podcast; I just have the ambient sounds of the room. As I’ve done more of my own designs, instead of making other people’s, I find I’m in a different brain space.
My projects are what’s known as “modern quilting.” It’s a more contemporary style of quilting and I use a lot of bold colors and lines; I’m very geometric.
I started quilting in 2014 when I ran across the Missouri Star Quilt Company. I’m a very technical person—I work in the tech industry—but I’m also very crafty. Their quilts had a lot of repeating patterns and included what’s known as a half-square triangle or HST. This is a very common quilting component that you can arrange in lots of different ways. I also discovered Leah Day and between the two of them, I was ready to try quilting and soon became hooked. One thing I really liked about Leah’s work was that she showed quilters how they could finish their own quilts on their regular sewing machine—that you didn’t need a fancy long arm.
Later, I discovered all the quilters on Instagram and the Modern Quilt Guild, or MQG, and the social media video platform, Periscope (their app has since shut down but information about past public broadcasts can be found here). In October 2015 A group of quilters led by Kitty Wilkin, cultivated a quilting community through their #HonestCraftRoomies “Scope Hops.” This was an hour of live quilting once a week, divided into 10-minute segments, where individual quilters would live stream from their home studios on different topics. Here I learned so much, including the existence of quilt guilds and the MQG. So, I watched online, I then found and joined my local groups and I just soaked up all the information!
In 2018, I had my first quilt juried into and attended my first QuiltCon. Before this time, I was mostly making other people’s quilt designs or arranging HSTs, but I really needed my own original design to get a quilt juried into QuiltCon and that prompted me to dive into designing.
Over time I’ve continued to learn and connect. The quilting community has been such a positive, supportive environment and my favorite part of quilting now.
I especially like quilts that integrate stripes or words and have done quite a few of them.
My “Enough” quilt plays with negative space, which appeals to my mathematic-oriented brain! And my “Renew Anew” and “Vote” quilts are two other favorites.
I often play with the interaction of color. At first glance, my “Renew Anew” quilt looks like there’s a lot of grey but it’s actually a mix of many colors if you look closely. I also do a lot of grid quilting, which is kind of my signature and incorporates a modern aesthetic layer of texture.
A few last favorites are the pieces I designed and made for the Pantone “Color of the Year” quilt challenges. These were hosted online by various quilters in the community, including Rebecca Bryan @bryanhousequilts & Sarah Elizabeth Sharp @nohatsquilts. I participated a few times, and it was a lot of fun and generated my best original designs. This year I am the co-host of the challenge with fellow quilt designer Sarah Ruiz @saroy via our Instagrams and her blog: https://saroy.net/?s=pantone
I won my CraftOptics in a contest a few years ago. The Great Wisconsin Quilt Show has something they call the “Modern Mini Challenge.” I got first place 2021 and my prize was a pair of CraftOptics.
I actually didn’t know that I needed the CraftOptics until I tried them.
With the CraftOptics I can see more clearly and closely—my sewing is more precise, and I can sew more quickly. I often use them for hand sewing my quilt bindings and quilt sleeves (the pocket on the back of a quilt where you slide a rod for hanging a quilt). The stitches need to be invisible, and you can’t use a machine to achieve that. The CraftOptics are a perfect choice especially when using black fabric and black thread!
I also find my posture is a lot better with my CraftOptics. If I accidentally start a project without them, I quickly realize, “Wait! I need my CraftOptics!”
I love how portable it is. I take the DreamBeam to my kids’ sports practices. And I can use it in the car without distracting the driver. The case it comes in is so handy—I just throw it into my quilting supplies bag and go.
Whenever I’m at one of my quilting groups and I pull out my CraftOptics I get so many questions from my fellow quilters.
My patterns are for sale at https://shop.quiltpatternmart.com/collections/elizabeth-k-ray
The Pantone Quilt Challenge I co-hosted with my friend Sarah Ruiz via Instagram is on her blog: https://saroy.net/?s=pantone