Written by: Dana Goyer
Have you seen the beautiful quilts that have the seemingly impossible piecing of star points and arcs? I’m sure you’ve thought to yourself, “I could never do that?”
Well, thanks for a family owned business called Quiltworx, the measuring and precision piecing is all done for you and all you have to do follow the directions and sew on the line!!
Judy Niemeyer is behind Quiltworx which is located in Kalispell, Montana.
It has been a family owned and operated business since 1996. They first created patterns to assist Judy in teaching a new technique in her quilting classes. This technique is commonly referred to as paper piecing.
By using her technique, even quilters with minimal piecing experience can create intricate and complex heirloom quilts.
While the company is basically a pattern company, the roots of the company are still focused on the process that Judy wanted to teach her students.
Every effort made by their company is focused on supporting this process. This support begins in the basic design of each of their patterns, the development and/or refining of the basic techniques used to complete the projects, and the development of an international network of certified instructors and shops that have the ability and understanding to teach the overall process.
I had the opportunity to communicate with Judel Niemeyer (Judy’s daughter) and ask her some questions about the Company and how they come up with new techniques, ideas, and patterns. Here is just a little bit about what I learned about this fascinating company and product.
How many designers do you have on staff at Quiltworx?
"Judy and Bradley Niemeyer (my brother and Judy's son) team up on the design for patterns.
He creates the designs in Autocad that you receive on the newsprint and she provides feedback on assembly or possibly what she is interested in seeing to give him an idea to get started.
She has also been the one to provide technique improvements, labeling, define the markings that she thinks would be helpful to see on the patterns. Judy and Judel primarily write the patterns, occasionally enlisting help from Quiltworx Staff.
We have a Technical Graphics Designer and a Creative Graphics Designer, named Carolyn Kreps and Ilyse Sheppard, respectively, who assist with various stages of the publication process as well. Judel Niemeyer (me) primarily provides color design for the patterns, although Judy does sometimes select the fabrics and colorways. And, Judel occasionally helps with choosing general themes or pattern ideas as well.
Judy, Judel, and Brad contribute to the Fabric Designs. Many of the current prints and chops for Batiks have been created by Bradley, with Judel identifying color palettes and Judy sorting and organizing the collections. It's really a team effort as all of these people on our staff touch each project at some stage in the design."
What are the steps involved in becoming a certified instructor and a certified quilt store?
"To become a Certified Shop requires attending a Certification Retreat which lasts one week.
For Certified Instructors, there are two workshops spaced approximately one year apart which we refer to as Phase 1 and Phase 2 Training.
These are onsite retreats, meaning they are held in our retreat center and your lodging is included in the price. However, both Shops and Instructors must complete some program pre-requisites before being accepted into the program.
These pre-requisites have been developed over the years to help increase the quality of Shop and Instructors coming from the program, but mostly, to help prospective Instructors and Shops get to know our company, our product, and our expectations, and for us to get to know them as well.
For Shops, we require one workshop in Montana before you can enter the program. We also require that you work with us on a trunk show program, that you have an online shopping cart or are willing to create one through the Quiltster Marketplace, that you have and maintain a Quiltster account, and that you have made at least 2 quilts and have them hanging in your Quilt Shop.
This helps assure that you have started the program with an understanding of how to use the product, how to kit the product, and also that you want to show your customers that you are a dedicated shop to our products, which is very important to customers looking for a resource for Quiltworx patterns.
For instructors, it is more rigorous.
We expect instructors to have teaching experience with our patterns. It is a common misconception that you can't teach a Quiltworx design until you are Certified. However, we actually require this before you can even get into the program.
We want to know that first, you enjoy teaching, and second, that you are already poised to have a following of students that are excited to take classes from you when you become Certified. Instructors also have to have been to Montana for Retreats with Judy at least two times, have taken a workshop from another Certified Instructor, and they must complete 5 quilts, including quilting and binding.
Once they get into the program, they complete a Phase 1, then have lots of homework, a number of tasks to complete before they come to Phase 2, and then they come back for their final training.
Once trained, both Shops and Instructors must come back for re-certification retreats. Instructors also have an annual fee that they pay to remain Certified.
We also require that Instructors teach a minimum of 12 days a year and complete at least 2 new quilt each year as well. The program involves accountability and also continued commitment, but we feel that over the years, these types of program requirements have led to a group of Quilt Shops and Instructors that are incredibly knowledgeable, customer satisfaction driven, professional, and incredibly creative and fun to work with.
We are proud of our program affiliations, which have now extended world-wide with Shops and Instructors literally around the globe. The pace of program growth has slowed some over the last 5 years, but the most dedicated, ambitious, and competitive instructors and shops are still with us, some for over 10 years!"
Why are your paper piecing patterns and projects consider the “Top of the Line”?
"I think our patterns are so loved by our students because first, we include all of the papers pre-printed in every pattern.
Additionally, they are incredibly organized. So, once a quilter learns how to read them and organize the designs, they are confident that they can pick up any of our patterns and get through them.
We have incorporated so many features into them as well over the years. Floating points assure that every point is crisp and perfect. Cutting Templates allow for speed cutting, where you stack and cut many blocks at once.
Everything is pre-labeled and matches from unit to cutting template to instructions. We incorporate smart corners for perfect matches during assembly that eliminate dog ears. We use Transition/Registration Points and Lines, on complicated assembly curves and long straight lines to help you fit and match your fabric as you sew.
We calculate yardage and base it all on strip sizes for easy calculation. We also create our instructions on the block level so that if you want to change up the color concept, you can do so easily and recalculate yardage.
The instructions are detailed and we provide detailed pressing instructions on every pattern, which really helps quilters get a nice, flat quilt when they are finished. And, we go above and beyond with a number of other items like cutting notions, using Quiltster to customize the colorway for your project, digitized quilting designs, compatible fabric packages such as our Quiltworx Strip Sets, and we also work across the entire quilting industry. If we make mistakes, we post the corrections on our website as well.
Mostly, we back up our product. We have a vast social networking following with Groups on Facebook, Instagram, our main business page, Pinterest, and a quickly growing YouTube channel. With the Certified Shop and Instructors, we have a huge teaching network where quilters that are new to the process can get help and learn quickly. But, above all, I think when quilters finish their first project and they start receiving compliments because the designs just look intricate and complicated, we receive customers for life."
Do you sell any products or tools that no other company sells?
"Well, not many other companies sell paper pieced patterns the way that we do. There are a few, but Quiltworx is somewhat unique in this manner.
The one product, however, that no one else really sells, which we market for fabric companies is the Quiltworx Strip Sets.
I say this, because the 2-1/2" strips come in packages of 48, and have been pre-selected and sorted by Quiltworx.com. The main issue here, is that we don't direct sell these strip sets on an industry-wide basis. We market them for Timeless Treasures, the fabric company that manufactures them.
We also have a few Creative Grids Rulers, which are similar in nature to the Strip Sets, but they are sold and manufactured by Creative Grids and Checker Distributors. Our Technique of the Month patterns are also unique to Quiltworx.com.
But again, we license these patterns to our Certified Shops and Instructors and they sell direct to consumer. While some of our patterns utilize basic block concepts like flying geese or wedding ring arcs or New York beauties, each of our patterns are unique and exclusively designed for Quiltworx customers. I also think that Quiltster, which again, is not a Quiltworx company, but a collaboration by a software development firm and Quiltworx because we saw a need for a tool in the Quilting Industry, is incredibly unique.
The fact that you can test run fabric and color concepts to see what your quilt will look like before it is made, is not a service that many other designers offer (except those that have projects in Quiltster! That list is growing!!!)."
As you can see, Quiltworx is a leader in the paper piecing technique. So the next time you are in your local quilt shop or at Stitchin' Heaven and see a beautiful Wedding Star or Fire Island Hosta, just know that even an advanced beginner quilter can accomplish these beautiful quilts. Does picking out fabric for these projects overwhelm you? Check and see if your local quilt store offers kits to help you complete the quilt of your dreams.
Have you read our other blog on Judy Neimeyer and Quiltworxs? If not, check it out here.
Visit our website to view all our Quiltworx's and Judy Neimeyer products (click here)