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Meet the quilter: Jo Avery

This week we welcome another special guest to the Shropshire Quilters' blog: quilt and embroidery designer, teacher and entrepreneur Jo Avery.


Jo is a regular contributor to a number of quilt and embroidery publications and the author of New Patchwork and Quilting Basics published by Stash Books. As part of The Thread House, Jo organises both physical and virtual quilting retreats and hosts an annual BOM club alongside her friends Karen Lewis and Lynne Goldsworthy. She is inspired by nature and our craft heritage and has an eclectic style that blends both modern and traditional aesthetics. Jo is an Aurifilosopher with three Aurifil collections to her name and her second book will be published next October.


Multi-talented Jo is as well known for her embroidery as her quilting


How long have you been quilting and do you still have your first quilt?


I spent a lot of my childhood sewing with my big sister Jane, especially soft toys. When I was ten years old Jane showed me how to sew hexagons together (what we would now call EPP). Much later when I started living with my husband, I remembered how much I had enjoyed stitching those hexagons and so I bought some templates and fabric and started making my first quilt. 30 years ago, when we moved from London to Scotland, I joined a local quilt group, the Abbey Quilters. They taught me what to do once I’d finished my quilt top and introduced me to rotary cutters and mats. This was the start of a lifelong obsession. But I never actually finished hand quilting that quilt and yes, I still have it at the top of my wardrobe!


Do you have a favourite fabric style or colour?


I choose colour in a completely instinctive, emotional way. I look through my stash and the right fabric calls out to me. This will be the right fabric on a particular day and perhaps won’t be the right fabric a few weeks later when my mood is different. I sometimes feel the fabric is choosing me rather than the other way around. This makes it sound like a magical, mystical experience but I do feel that colour is a magical thing and that my relationship with it is very special. I do prefer modern fabrics on the whole as I love bright colours, but I also like a pretty vintage style print and my stash is a big mixture of all sorts of fabric.


Folk Dance Jo's subscription Block of the Month quilt for The Thread House Club


What's your essential notion or tool?


I think I’d have to say seam ripper! I have about 10 of these dotted around the house as the idea of not being able to find one when I need it (often!) is terrifying. I feel I should frame one on the wall and put a ‘break glass in emergency’ sign on it! I also love my Clover leather thimble and my Clover applique pins.


And your favourite snack (or tipple)?


Jut a cup of Darjeeling alongside my sewing machine. I also love a glass of white wine while hand sewing on the sofa in the evenings (not every night!). I don’t snack at all so no food in the sewing room!


Jo's distinctive free motion quilting on her Wedding Bells quilt


Do you listen to anything while you quilt?


I listen to the radio all the time switching between Radio 2, 4 and 6 depending on the time of day. I sometimes listen to podcasts or catch up on Radio 4 programmes I have missed through the Sounds app. I’ve just got a bluetooth speaker for my sewing room so now I also listen to my music library too.


Can you share a top tip/online resource?


When you have cut all the components for quilt blocks use paper plates to store them. You can then stack the plates neatly by your side, processing units and putting back on plates until all blocks are finished, and you can even write on the paper plates with notes of instructions. This was given to me by a student and is a great way to stay organised while making a quilt.

Jo signing copies of her book New Patchwork and Quilting at Quiltcon earlier this year


Can you recommend a book?


I don’t read a lot of quilting books in fact I can only think of 2 off the top of my head but I loved them both so happy to recommend them. The first is The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier and the other is The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville.


Have you had any quilting disasters?


Last year I was making a very special quilt to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Quilters Guild. I had been chosen by my Region to make the quilt for the Spotlight at 40 gallery at the Festival of Quilts. I had to follow all sorts of strict rules and regulations including the maximum size it had to be and I had this firmly in my head as I worked on the quilt. When it was all finished I went back to the regulations to check on hanging sleeve instructions prior to sending it (right up to deadline of course) and discovered to my horror that the width I had been working to was a minimum size restriction not a maximum and my quilt was now 2 inches too small!! If you want to know how I got through this dilemma and what happened next you can read my blog post here (it’s rollercoaster ride of a story!)


Jo's quilt for the Spotlight at 40 gallery, now part of the Guild's permanent collection


Do you have a favourite quilt block?


New York Beauty or anything with curves or spikes, or like NYB, both!


Where can we find you online?


Instagram: @joaverystitch

Facebook: Jo Avery Stitch

Website: The Stitch Gathering where you can buy my book, patterns, thread collections and kits (with new ones coming soon) and sign up to my newsletter.

The Thread House where you can join our Club and BOM, find out about Retreats and purchase our patterns and new Aurifil thread collection box.


Thank you Jo, its been lovely to get to know you!


And we'd really LOVE to get to know our talented membership too: if you'd like to share your quilting story please send an email to info@shropshirequilters.org for the Q&A sheet.


Visit again next Friday to meet another quilter...


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