Welcome back to "The Best Of ... ! " where our designers share a bit about themselves and why they do what they do.

This month Marybeth O'Halloran is sharing her "best of"!

Marybeth O'Halloran Pic

Best quilting tool:  I have two favorites, one for patchwork, and one for quilting:

For patchwork, I just love my seam ripper/stiletto combination.  The two ends can be turned around into the hand-turned base, making them safe to store or travel with.  Plus, the ends are replaceable, so when the ripper is dull, I just pop a new one into the base.  The stiletto is so wonderful for curved piecing and pointy patchwork, when you want to control that last bit of a seam.
For quilting, I love my simple long-arm ruler.  Gadget Girls makes short and long versions in that splashy neon yellow-green acrylic, marked in 1/4” intervals.  They are my go-to for simple cross-hatching and stitch-in-ditch.
Best inspiration:  One of my all-time favorite things to look at (and hold, if you’re lucky) is vintage quilts.  I’m so inspired by the art of making do with what’s at hand to create functional works of art, and it’s simply amazing to touch quilts that were made decades ago — like your hands are connecting to the maker’s across time.
Best time to quilt:  For me, longarming is a job I do every day, pretty much during working hours.  But the earlier in the day I’m able to get a project done, the better!  Before anything else can happen.
Best project ever:  I’ve had the opportunity to finish projects that families couldn’t — the maker passed away.  The sweating-bullet difficulties of matching the character of hand-quilting with longarming fall away when the family picks up the quilt and wraps themselves in it, tears overflowing.  I think this is why I quilt.  I can’t lift that family's burdens but I can ease them.  What we wrap ourselves in and sleep under at night is what brings us the deepest comfort and I am grateful to be able to do this for myself and others.
Best day off:  One of my favorite things to do outside of the studio is to play with acrylic paint pouring.  I love to venture into other media — you always learn something you can bring back to fabric and the textile arts.
Best advice you ever received:  When I started my longarm business, the advice I was given was to buy thread slowly, from several sources, in the colors that I love to work in.  That was great advice because the more I worked with my machine, the more threads I tried, the more I sorted out what suited the machine — and the type of project.
Best advice you’ve ever given:  I like repeating elements in patchwork and quilting, because I feel like it lends unity, a sense of harmonious whole to a piece.  I’m aware this is counter-advice to what a lot of people suggest, which is contrast in your quilting pattern (curves over straight lines, geometric over organic shapes etc.)  But it does make me happier to look at, to see similar things at different scales in the same piece, and it seems to make my clients happy too.  But of course, satisfy your own aesthetics when it comes to pattern choice!  That’s probably the best advice of all.
Best road trip:  A few years ago, I drove with a friend to California to help her clean out her family house.  It was going to be a tough emotional journey, so we stopped at every fabric and yarn store we could find along the way.  We came home with a stash of fabrics in completely different colors than either of us usually work in and did original quilt compositions in that palette as a sort of stack of postcards from our trip. (Mine still isn’t done but hush!)
Best thing about quilting:  I have to say I’m fairly obsessed with pattern and design.  It’s probably what keeps me up late at night and gets me up in the morning.  There’s something so soothing about the way geometry fits together, and the process of constructing it in fabric, that calms the chaos of my thoughts and puts my reality back in order. I also love the camaraderie of quilting, of finding like-minded people who similarly obsess, no explanations needed.
Best place to visit:  Sigh ... I was going to say Fabric Depot, a destination for the whole West Coast, but sadly, it met its demise last fall, so unfortunately it’s no longer available. But instead I’ll say go to your local fabric stores as often as possible.  Do them and yourselves a favor and try to help keep their doors open. And if you’re in the Puget Sound area, go on out to Port Gamble and the magnificent store Quilted Strait!  It’s one of my local shops and I am so grateful to be able to teach classes there on occasion.  The owner and her staff are friendly and knowledgeable, and there’s a huge selection of fabrics, notions, and tools, and of course, lots of beautiful samples to enjoy.

Marybeth is an award-winning longarm quilter whose work has appeared on the cover of Modern Patchwork magazine, on pattern covers for Beach Garden Quilts, and in the book French Braid with a Twist, among other publications.  She is also a quilting pattern designer for Urban Elementz, and an organizer for the local American Hero project, which provides quilts for wounded soldiers and their families.  She started her career in engineering, and then studied and taught spinning, weaving, dyeing, and knitting, which informs her structural — and sometimes unconventional but definitely colorful — approach to the art of quilting.  Commercial clients include McKenna Ryan, Jane Hardy Miller, Susan Wiggs, and Beach Garden Quilts, and two of her clients’ quilts have won Grand Champion at the Washington State Fair.  Her three best selling pantographs are Harbour Wave, Nautilus and Stacked Snailz.